14 February 2014

Tom Perkins: Idiot of the Year?

It's only February but Tom Perkins has already told us that criticism of the "1%" could lead to a "progressive Kristallnacht," and now, asked in a public forum for a "sixty-second idea to change the world," the octogenarian venture capitalist argues for the replacement of democracy with plutocracy. Specifically, Perkins turns the old revolutionary formula on its ear. No representation without taxation is his cry; unless you pay taxes, you shouldn't be able to vote. The problem with democracy, he says, is that people are voting who don't pay taxes. On one level it's the old "stake in society" argument that justified property qualifications for voting. On another, it's just plain resentment of citizens being able to make some pay without having to pay themselves. But Perkins isn't done. Adopting the view (shared selectively by people on the left) that taxpayers should decide what's done with taxes, the old gentleman believes that the more you pay in taxes, the more votes you should have. He may also think that this way you can limit your future taxation. What's clear is that Perkins has a big problem not just with "progressive" politics, or with the redistribution of wealth, but with the very idea of democratic republicanism that has come to define this country. While property qualifications did prevail in many states at first, the inexorable trend has been toward universal suffrage, on the premise that everyone who lives in a country, and not just the property owners, has a stake in society -- that society is synonymous with people, not property. In Perkins's America, there are the "successful," -- the 1% and beyond -- and a bunch of parasites who want to live off them, or kill them in a kristall mood. His folly is the notion that taking the vote from these people will put them in their place. Maybe the real reason he's so concerned about eruptions of progressive violence is a guilty assumption that if they knew what he really thought of them... And now that age has loosened his tongue, I guess we'll find out one way or the other.

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