One book every Canadian should read

The writings of Linda McQuaig never fail to inspire.

The writings of Linda McQuaig never fail to inspire.

By Henry McRandall

Toronto author Linda McQuaig – one of the most prolific and pertinent non-fiction writers North America has to offer – has come out with another blockbuster with her current bestseller.
The Trouble with Billionaires explains in very-well-researched detail how little of the private wealth amassed by the super-rich rightly belongs to them and how much of it rightly belongs to society at large.
The book also makes quite evident the fact that no one should ever be allowed to amass a fortune of a billion dollars or more.
The extreme and still-growing gap between rich and poor in advanced western industrial societies is bringing the middle class and the working class to their knees – alongside the already poor – in both North America and Europe.
McQuaig argues that the world’s billionaires and mega-millionaires actually deserve very little of their great fortunes because , for the most part, they have all merely hitchhiked on the coattails of those who have gone before them.
None of the amazing technology that exists today could ever be regarded as the product of a single genius or evenb a small group of genii. Every amazing new gadget is merely a minor addition to the decades – even the centuries, even the millennia – of scientific and technological research that has preceded them.
Moreover, the skills that produced their vast fortunes were large obtained at the expense of society as a whole rather than that one individual. Whether it is public school, university subsidies or government-subsidized research that has gone before, it is primaril responsible for that latest gadget.
Thus the great wealth that is created by a new technology rightly belongs much less to the individual patent-holder and much, much more to society at large than the market distribution of rewards acknowledges.
But how much less should be going to the entrepreneur of record? How much more of this new wealth properly belongs to society as a whole?
If there is one single major flaw with Linda McQuaig’s tome is that she has been much too cautious and conservative in the prescriptions she proposes.
McQuaig correctly proposes using the tax system to achieve a much more equitable redistribution of wealth. But she does not go far enough.
In the area of income tax, McQuaig proposes a marginal tax rate of 60 percent for income over $500,000 a year and 70 percent for income over $2.5 million per year. Those rates should be 65 and 75 percent and there should be an additional marginal rate of 95 percent for income above $10 million.
The author also proposes a variety of other tax reforms, a closing down of loopholes and a crackdown on wealthy tax evaders. All of these goals are laudable but they must generate enough additional government income to not only better finance higher education but to also better finance health care and social programs.
In conclusion, Linda McQuaig has proposed an admirable first necessary step in a drastic redistribution of wealth, income and power, but she needs to go much further with her proposals, hopefully in a future book.
In the meantime, I strongly urge our readers to read The Twouble with Billionaires.
If you can afford to, buy it. If you can’t afford to buy it, borrow it from your local public library even if it means having to go on a waiting list. And if your local public library does not already have the book, petition it to buy it.

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