Just to prove I have at least one Republican friend outside my family

Below is a link to a blog from a solid conservative friend (I think he'd agree with that characterization) who has been active on Capitol Hill off and on for years. Some fresh food for thought to be found here, and not completely off the reservation.

We would all do well to stay open to new perspectives on old problems, regardless of the source of the insights.



extension of friendship

I gladly accept the friendship of Mr. Protzman.

We all have a stake in talking across old ossified party lines and figuring out if we want to continue fighting over things in North Carolina or work together to find some common solutions and yes, 'compromise' to help North Carolina be as great as we all know it can be.

Feel free to take a full swing at anything I have written on my blog Telemachus and tell me where I am wrong and completely out to lunch. The only caveat or 'warning' I care to issue is please be prepared to engage in conversation based on 'facts' supported by things, well...like the actual federal budget, all 2400+ pages of it and auxiliary supportive independent agencies such as CBO.

We can keep grinding each others gears down until there is nothing left. Look at where that has gotten us over the past 10 years...from unified government on both sides of the political spectrum.

there has to be a better way (36% of the registered voters in NC have abandoned both sides and registered 'independent/unaffiliated' (as I have done) so maybe that will be the 'majority party' going forward)

Think about it

thanks, James. I'll post any of your views on Telemachus anytime you want me to.

Mr. Jefferson would love this interchange of ideas.

that is way above my pay

that is way above my pay grade, Mr. Protzman.

I will let you and the Univac on 'The Jetsons' figure out the P and NP conundrum

I'll post it here, for now

This might look fair, but it's not:

4.Transition to a consumption tax to replace, not augment, the current failed income/corporate/payroll/estate and excise tax system starting in 2016. (no income tax/no tax loopholes or deductions to protect. Pay taxes on what you buy and consume/No hindrance to saving and investing)

This will have folks in the lower q dedicating 25%-30% of their income in taxes, while those at the top might end up paying 3%-4% of their income towards taxes, if they're extravagant.

forget the percentage of

forget the percentage of income they pay...think about the magnitude of their payments

suppose Joe Gazillionaire, aka 'LeBron James' or 'Tiger Woods' or 'Michael Jordan', decides to buy a $100 Million mansion for all to see on the top of a hill somewhere.

right off the bat!, they will pay $20 million at closing in consumption taxes to the federal government! Bingo! right at the beginning.

they would get: 1) no tax deduction for mortgage interest paid; no tax credits for anything, even if they are solar-powered and 3) it is $20 million, for goodness sakes!

same with joining 20 country clubs/golf clubs/exclusive spas at say, $100k per initiation dues at a minimum. That would be $2 million of fees taxed at 20% and voila! $400,000 paid in consumption taxes to the federal government.

think of it...no income tax code/no tax deductions, which only the wealthy can truly use to the max. No deductions/no lobbyists to defend them. No lobbyists/No PACS to 'corrupt' the system.

The progressive tax code based solely on the 'percentages of income paid' misses the fact that the wealthy can manipulate the system and the not-so-wealthy can not.

a straight-up consumption tax would correct that.

One would think...

...that if that were such a good deal for the wealthy, it would have become the law of the land decades ago.

The fact is that those who pay the piper are perfectly satisfied with the status quo, and use bumper-sticker slogans like "FLAT TAX" or "FAIR TAX" only to rile up the right wing lower-middle class voter.


The measure of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much; it is whether we provide enough for those who have too little. - FDR

There are other ways to correct that

The progressive tax code based solely on the 'percentages of income paid' misses the fact that the wealthy can manipulate the system and the not-so-wealthy can not.

The manipulation is the problem, not the progressive nature of the code. I'd be in favor of eliminating all deductions of any kind, including home mortgage.

Those are nice examples,

but they're also presumptive in nature. For one thing, a lot of these uber-rich folks don't actually buy such properties, they lease them. Now, if your "consumption tax" also includes monies spent for rent (as opposed to purchase), that means those in the lower bracket end up paying 20% more for the roof over their heads as well.

You simply can't ignore percentages. Here's another issue, dealing directly with consumption: the poorest Americans spend 12% of their income on food, while the wealthier 20% of the population spends only 6% of their income on food. And the top 2% spend less than 1% of their income on food. Inject your consumption tax into that, and you have a system so regressive it can hardly be contemplated.

You want to simplify our tax system, you won't find much dispute from people like me. The code should be such that it could be read from front to back in a few hours' time (if not less). But shifting (massively) the share of tax burden onto the shoulders of the poor, which is what your proposed system will do, is more fitting for a third-world autocracy than a first-world democracy.

I am not sure I understand

I am not sure I understand the point about wealthy people 'leasing' their expensive properties.

I seriously doubt LeBron James or Michael Jordan or Tiger Woods or Bill Gates leases anything from anybody.

They made their fortunes and they like to control their destinies so they buy Lamborghinis and expensive 100,000 sq ft mansions. 'Conspicuous Consumption' and all that.

right now, when they buy expensive real estate, they get to write off all sorts of deductions and exemptions and as far as their expensive lawyers and accountants can figure it out, they deduct all that interest paid on massive mortgages as long as it is not consumed by the AMT.

They also have a lot

of divorces, too. Think about it.

divorces don't seem to be

divorces don't seem to be limited to income level, race or creed. Not sure what this has to do with the consumption tax to be honest about it.

It's about shielding assets

If you lease a second home in Martha's Vineyard (or wherever) you don't have to worry about losing it in a settlement.

I am still not following

I am still not following you.

Wealthy people like to buy expensive things like cars, boats and mansions to show off how successful and smart they are. Even if they only 'lease' a home in the Hamptons, their spouse will get half of their cash they are sitting on at their other 10 homes

appreciate all the thoughtful

appreciate all the thoughtful comments....how sad it is that we have to notice when people are actually 'civil' to each other in reasoned exchange of ideas as opposed to barking and biting like German Shepherds on talk-radio or cable.

here's what I need help in understanding....just 'why' and 'how' did the percentage of one's income become chiseled into stone as being the 'right and only' way to tax people and make it 'fair'?

Maybe it made sense back in 1913 when honestly and truly only the wealthy had any wealth to tax. (check out the tax brackets back then...dozens of them) But now that we have a millions of people who still own stocks in their portfolios, albeit not worth as much as in 2007, and a far wider middle-to-higher income cohort in America in 2010 versus that of 1913, perhaps it is time to rethink what is the best way to tax people so that they can not monkey around with the tax code at all and pay the tax at the consumption end line, i.e. the cashier's scanner.

Think of this: Every time a person buys something, let's say a Weed-Eater, it would be scanned and the bill would pop out with the following information on it: "Poulan Weed-Eater: $49.99; Federal Consumption Tax at 20%= $10; State Tax=$2.50; Total=$62.49'

Of Your Federal Tax Payment of $10: $2 goes to Social Security payments for current retirees; $2 goes to Medicare Payments for current retirees; $1.50 goes to Medicaid; $1.50 goes to interest payments on this (enormous) debt we have rung up; $1.50 goes to defense and $1.50 goes to everything else"

that would help the average American clearly see what their tax dollars are being spent on each and every transaction they make every day.

Just being able to see clearly the connection between their tax dollar payments and where it actually goes would be an enormous help in getting people to see what we are dealing with nowadays in real-time instead of being fed distorted information from both sides merely and purely for tactical political gain and advantage.

and the next t-shirt you can buy from Wal-Mart would be for your kids that said:

'My Boomer Parents Got Everything They Wanted and All We Got Was This Enormous $24 Trillion National Debt to Pay For! (For the Rest of Our Natural Born Days!'

I think they call it tithing

here's what I need help in understanding....just 'why' and 'how' did the percentage of one's income become chiseled into stone as being the 'right and only' way to tax people and make it 'fair'?

and it's been around a long time.

I really can't imagine more of a chill on buying goods and services?(I presume) in the way your model lays it out. People would find a way to barter around a system that weighs them down like that.

Chicken anyone?

that is precisely my

that is precisely my point!

'Tithing' is a religious term and issued by Almighty God!

'Government' at any level should not, and can not, be our God in a free representative democracy. As soon as we devolve all decision-making 'to the government, by the government and for the government', what is left for individuals to decide on a daily basis?

a consumption tax only (and not piled on top of an archaic and broken income tax system that doesn't work very well any more anyways) would be a boon to consumers. Why? Because they would have a lot more discretionary income to spend...no income taxes withheld, no payroll taxes to pay, no estate taxes to work around (and pay accountants and lawyers)

it is the cleanest taxation system around and even the Founders used it. In fact, if you read the very first debate on the floor of the US Congress in 1789, guess what it was about? 'Levying of import duties to fund the new republic'

That was, and still is, a 'consumption tax'

You might not personally

You might not personally 'wake up every morning wondering how you are going to run the country today.....'

but I can assure you, there are thousands of elected and appointed officials in Washington and in the state and local legislatures and councils who do.

Every single day...

the 'tithe' is not a

the 'tithe' is not a tax....they are two different things entirely. One is giving out of the gratefulness and faith of a person's heart and the other is coerced out of their pockets under threat of imprisonment by the State.

But if you want to go there, I will take a 10% consumption fee based on the example of the tithe right now and then work with you to whittle down the scope of the federal government to spending 10% of GDP instead of the enormous 25% of GDP it is spending today

Why consumption?

I don't get it. What is the logic of a system that links public spending to a measure of private consumption? Have you gone there just because it's easy to administer ... or because it makes some kind of moral or cultural sense? I don't see it.

the only way to get rid of

the only way to get rid of all the 'dirty' tax breaks enjoyed by corporations/rich people/mulitnational corporations/lobbyists/PACs...you name it, is to go to a clean break and adopt a full consumption tax in lieu of the current convoluted and (relatively) easy-to-manipulate income tax code.

there is a table I can get for you detailing the 'tax expenditure' or the revenue foregone by each part of the tax code step-by-step...and the annual loss of revenue is in the hundreds and hundreds of billions of dollars

Not to mention the revenue foregone by the 'black market'...the consumption tax would even pick up various stages of that process as well...annual loss of revenue to 'black market' activities has been estimated at anywhere between $100-300 billion annually.

there is no logic behind tying a progressive tax percentage to people's income either. it was 'just adopted' by Congress.

Congress can 'repeal' the income tax code tomorrow and adopt a consumption tax in its stead just as easily.

There is no 'magical' rate or percentage of income out there like the Holy Grail. Plus the other thing is that the 'effective' rate paid by most billionaires or millionaires is far lower than the stated 'marginal' rates anyway. I am willing to bet Warren Buffett's effective tax rate is below that of yours or mine.

and the real beauty of the consumption tax approach is that it truly is 'progressive' in the sense that wealthier people consume more expensive products. Ergo, they will by definition pay far, far more in real dollars and in percentage of income in consumption taxes.

and if they don't, there would be a more magnificent pile of cash available for investment and new job creation going forward.

It is a 'win-win' situation for everyone...EXCEPT lobbyists and tax lawyers and accountants

The only way?

the only way to get rid of all the 'dirty' tax breaks enjoyed by corporations/rich people/multinational corporations/lobbyists/PACs ... you name it, is to go to a clean break and adopt a full consumption tax in lieu of the current convoluted and (relatively) easy-to-manipulate income tax code.

It sounds as though you're answering my question by pointing out that the solution you envision is practical, not necessarily optimum, moral, ideal, or even desirable. Just to say it, whenever someone suggests that this or that is the "only way" to do something, I get suspicious. The current system is easy to manipulate, for sure. It's hard to imagine that a consumption tax wouldn't be as well. I know lots of people who are already operating in the gray market (trading vs. buying) as a way to skirt sales tax.

My suggestion is to start with fresh thinking about the ideal model, not the most convenient model of paying for public services, and work from there. Again, I don't see anything resembling a natural connection between consumption taxation and delivery of public services.

I could more easily make a case for progressive taxation of net worth or real property than I could a consumption tax.

here's what most people don't

here's what most people don't really know or care about:

The reason why there is a 'Ways and Means' Committee in the first place is because the First Congress had to find the 'ways' and the 'means' to raise funds in the form of taxes (all excise and import taxes back then) to pay for the new Republic they had just set up.

There is no other reason to have a tax code in the first place other than to pay for what we obligate the nation to honor and support in terms of legislation 50%+1 of both Houses of Congress approves of and the President signs into law.

it is totally non-judgmental and has no values attached to it other than 'money in' versus 'money out'

The current income/corporate/payroll/excise/estate tax system is broken and inefficient and has been for decades due to millions of provisions and tax loopholes. It just doesn't work very well and the more anyone tries to push on the very wet string to 'make it work better!', millions of tax payers find ways to avoid it.

an end-of-the-line consumption tax would at least narrow the opportunities for corruption and distortion down by at least 95%. Why? Because there is only one and one only point of taxation: the check out counter or point of sale. Very mechanical; easy to track with electronic data management.

I think Progressives err on the side of making the 'moral' argument of 'making the rich pay more in taxes!' when in fact and in truth, they already pay far more in taxes than any other cohort in America

Supply-siders fall into the trap of 'cutting taxes will lead to extraordinary growth rates so we can out-grow all of these spending commitments, including in SS and Medicare!'....and that has been proven not to be the case over these past 30 years.

so 'value judgments' need to be set aside when dealing with how to pay for the federal government's expenses and we need to focus just on the brass tacks of how to raise the funds to pay for all this stuff that is the full responsibility of the Boomers now that they have helped pass it and will consume it all.

I have a very troubling budget report I will post for all to see called the 'Plausible' Budget Outcome from the Concord Coalition.

it will curl your hair, nails and toes....and almost make the argument for the consumption tax to be passed sooner rather than later because of its relative 'inflexibility' in raising funds.

The terrible CBO Baseline Budget looks good compared to this....

This is how our budget deficit problem is 'most likely' going to play out once Congress and the President signs into law extensions of the Bush tax cuts; indexes the AMT; and overrides the Medicare physician payment reductions in the next couple of weeks.


This should raise alarm bells in the heads of every Progressive, libertarian, fiscal conservative, what-have-you cause it is simply a train wreck we have to deal with today, not tomorrow or make your poor kids even poorer having to pay for our recklessness.

Still not buying it Frank

Thanks for the history lesson, but just because the early approaches to "Ways and Means" were fucked up doesn't mean we should perpetuate their mistakes.

Having read more this morning about consumption taxes than I ever imagined I would slog through, I have a few broad reactions.

First, it won't happen. If the political will to refine and simplify the current tax code isn't there, the idea that we'd upend everything for this alternative simply isn't in the cards.

Second, even it it were, no one has yet proposed a viable solution to the problem of transition costs. Hardest hit would be the elderly, and anything that hits the elderly hard won't happen, witness the problems we're having with adjusting Medicare and Social Security.

Third, there are few reliable models to predict the likely the rise of black markets and informal economies, but there is no disagreement that would happen. To circumvent that reality, some have called for a system whereby citizens annually report income minus savings. I can see it now, tax authorities rifling through your personal accounts and under your mattress to validate how much money you didn't spend.

There's more to discuss, much more, but from what I can see, this is mostly a hail Mary pass designed to avoid doing the hard work of wise governing. If there's one thing I've learned in my years in business, it is this: there are no silver bullets.

Why not pour your energy into systematically eradicating the current system of deductions that complicate and undermine our tax policy? That's no more or less likely to happen than your flat tax.

I think I know the answer. Your primary goal is to reduce the overall level of taxation, not to institute a more equitable policy.

James: With all due respect,


With all due respect, we don't know each other well enough (yet) for either you to assume you 'know the answer' to what my primary goal is on really any public policy issue from budget to taxes, any more than I know what your ultimate goal is other than to say this:

"I want it all to work a helluva lot better than it is now. Cause right now, our current tax system and currently elected leaders from both sides in Washington are doing perhaps the poorest job of managing the public fisc since the days of the Revolution and certainly since 1841 or so"

I happen to believe after 4 years of working on the House Budget Committee and sitting in perhaps thousands? of budget/tax/health care/entitlement hearings, meeting and markups over my time in Washington and around the nation from time to time that the current income tax system is incapable of being 'fixed', whatever that means.

it will always yield a sub-optimal delivery of taxes as long as there are massive exemptions to be handed out on a favoritism basis, by both of the major parties, to be completely bi-partisan about it, and as long as there is any effort to be confiscatory about it based on someone else's determination as to what is fair or unfair about the level of tax payments someone 'should pay' or not.

it is just human nature to rebel against such a determination and apparently, Americans are still rebellious enough to not pay any more taxes than they can legally find a way out of not paying.

I am not even going to ask you to read through 157 postings I have on my blog site anymore than I am going to read all of your postings made over the past 4 years on NC Blue.

Let's suffice it to say that I think we want things to work better than they do right now. You might have a higher level of government spending in mind than I do but regardless of that, it is in all of our best interests to balance these budgets and not hand off a time bomb of debt to our children and grandchildren.

that is truly unconscionable...on anyone's part.


Not NC Blue.

Frank, I have read almost all of your 157 postings, which is why I made the comment I made. While you give some nods in the direction of higher levels of taxation, the vast majority of your posts argue for smaller levels, reduced government spending, and more privatization, all wrapped with a healthy dose of wishful thinking.

People who support President Obama and the Democrats should demand they raise the taxes necessary to pay for all this government spending. They want more government: they should propose ways to pay for it.

People who support Republicans or the Tea Party should demand they reduce spending dramatically if they really want smaller government with more limited reach into our daily lives and checkbooks and banking accounts.

If they won't do even those basic things as political figures, why do we vote them into office anyways? To mystify and amaze us on a daily basis like a ventriloquist who never really 'says' what he believes in his heart?

Beyond that, I get the distinct impression that you think the rich in America are getting a raw deal ... and you see nothing progressive about a progressive tax structure. And while you quote lots of historical data to support your claims, I didn't find anything that acknowledges that the most profound impact of Republican economic "leadership" has a fundamental transfer of wealth away from the poor and middle class to the elite oligarchy that is calling the shots these days.

This didn't happen by accident. It happened as the result of calculated tax policy designed to accomplish exactly what it did accomplish.

well, the full and free and

well, the full and free and fair exchange of ideas is what Mr. Jefferson had in mind in the beginning so all of what you say is 'fair dinkum' at least as they say in Australia.

Here's what I think the tax code AND spending code AND entitlement program code of America should be....just to be absolutely clear about it:

1) I think people who can not help themselves through some sort of infirmity or economic circumstance need help from the public fisc. I wish churches and men and women of faith could do it all, and over history, faith-centered people have put up tons of hospitals and schools to do just that and we should be thankful for that. But they can't or won't do it all in today's world, so there should be a public safety net out there to help.

2) I do NOT think the wealthy, however loosely defined, should be entitled to one red cent from any entitlement payment under Social Security or Medicare. Period. The Founders would be aghast at the notion that Bill Gates or Warren Buffett or people you know and like and associate with who have the means to support themselves in retirement ever take anything from the government.

that is a 'reverse transfer of wealth' of Biblical proportions that Progressives/Independents/Conservatives/Libertarians should join hands on right now and sing 'Kumbaya!' and overturn immediately.

The AVERAGE federal subsidy for the current Medicare Part B program ALONE is between $12,000-$15,000/year/senior. That does not count Part A,D or any of the new subchapters under ObamaCare.

Bill Gates and Warren Buffett do not need $12,000/year coming from the working men and women of this nation to supplement their mandatory enrollment in Part B. They can buy their own hospitals and doctors to treat them.

so let them.

3) Your perpetual support of a failed, broken and relatively easy-to-manipulate income tax system under the guise of it being 'progressive' is only allowing those with the means and resources to be able to avoid paying the very taxes you want them to pay.

Tax Avoidance runs into the hundreds of billions of dollars per year and is a national pastime in America that rivals only baseball for entertainment value for the people who can afford to do it.

I used to have people come into the congressional or senate offices almost laughing their heads off at how the confusing income tax system now in place actually played right into their hands when it came to making clever investments that made them richer and avoided federal income taxes forever.

The best and most efficient way to get more tax revenues out of wealthy people, if that is your goal, is to drop the byzantine income and corporate income tax system and tax them at the point of sale or purchase or closing.

It is very hard to be manipulative of a system that is easily monitored through the electronic scanning systems now in retail or through effective reporting of large transactions such as Lamborghini purchases or McMansion sales.

Wealthy people pay what they want to pay in taxes every year, Mr. Protzman. They have the money and the resources to manage their affairs so they can do whatever they want.

the rest of us don't. Consumption taxes would equalize and level the playing field and the wealthy would still pay far more in taxes simply because they buy more expensive stuff.

The current income tax system reminds me of an alcoholic, drug-addicted abuser of a husband who for some reason, people just can't get away from just yet.

I am not so sure why anyone still is enamored with it.

Thanks for the platform to discuss ideas. I will offer to post anything you want to discuss on Telemachus if you want to air your ideas out with those readers as well.

Read further, James

Having read more this morning about consumption taxes than I ever imagined I would slog through, I have a few broad reactions.

Unless your are stuck believing that the current IRS progressive tax structure is all we can achieve and is best for our country because you're stuck in that paradigm of thought, read more on the "Fair Tax".


Of course, if you are unable to believe that nothing can be better than government taking from those that achieve to take care of those that are not interested in achieving, no amount of education can help change your mind regardless of what the merit is in what is presented to you.

Please do not argue this with showing us where there are people in our country that need government help and that there are those that cannot take care of themselves. Few people are unaware of this and few people are against government intervening on those people's behalf. So, fairness and equality is what the "Fair Tax" is all about. Those that make more and spend more, pay more taxes. And, there is far more involved in this "Fair Tax" initiative than just the consumption tax. Read about the money given back to people for basic necessities, for example.

There is nothing more detrimental to an individual than a closed mind.

This isn't the first time I've looked at the issue

I'll be 60 this year and I've spent half my life reading about public policy, economics, taxes, liberty, etc., etc., etc. I've been down the "fair tax" trail with Libertarians many times and find the following.

  1. I know you mean well.
  2. Neal Boortz is a revisionist historian at best, and a liar at worst. Like many Libertarians, he bridges the disconnect between reality and utopia with wishful thinking masquerading as fact.
  3. No one argues that the rich shouldn't pay more, the only question is how much more. I'm in favor of disproportionately higher taxes on wealthy individuals, in other words, progressive taxation. I am happy to declare my socialist leanings.

Thanks for the suggestion to read more by Mr. Boortz, but I'll pass. I doubt it'll be any different than when I picked up the book five years ago.


There's an old saying if you want to implement a new idea it should be as simple as possible, but not so simple as to miss the point. Fair/flat tax suffers from the latter condition.

One idea I've been intrigued with for years is the X-tax, which never got much play since it wasn't proffered by an egomaniac celebrity.

I will read further on this "X" tax

I would like to read more about the "X" tax you've suggested here. I will necessarily need to scrub my mind first after reading the initial parts of this because this has been part of what Europe has been doing and I am very aware of the dilemna Europe is in financially. Also, I am going to have to ignore your depiction of Boortz and I am sure you feel the same way about John Linder and Rob Woodall as well. You are a progressive and these men are conservative and in some ways libertarians although neither tag is totally representative of these people's leanings. Suffice to say they are absolutely not progressive or liberal, though, so I can see you not trusting them and presenting them in the light you've presented them here on your blog.

I do agree that the wealthier should pay more into our government coffers than the less fortunate financially. The "Fair Tax" does that, if you take an honest look at its structure. But, again, you will have to look outside that paradigm that we've been led to believe is the most fair and most efficient and have lived with for so many decades in our tax system. I would still like for you to read the book I suggested, James. You seem to be reasonably intelligent and willing to at least look at new suggestions. I know you said you have seen things like the "Fair Tax" for many years, but the truth is, James, this is a fairly new offering and by saying it is wrong because it is presented by egomaniacs and by libertarians who you disagree with in many ways (not in all ways as you have said) then you are doing yourself a disservice.

I'll look at it again

with, as you suggest, the most open mind I can bring. There are plenty of Fair Tax defenders besides Boortz, so I'll look elsewhere for something more academic in terms of analysis. If you have suggestions, I'd appreciate them.

No cognitive dissonance?


Like many Libertarians, he bridges the disconnect between reality and utopia with wishful thinking masquerading as fact.

followed by

I am happy to declare my socialist leanings.

yields no cognitive dissonance?

What is more utopian than what basically amounts to a command economy? Also, most libertarians do not claim that an open market is going to solve every single one of our ills, only that it is the most honest, transparent and least coercive method for people to acquire wealth.

Also, I would only support the fair tax if it we COMPLETELY rid ourselves of the income tax first, and sunset the fair tax after, say, 5-10 years with NO option to extend it. Republicans don't seem to realize that the fair tax, much like the national id card, sets the stage for massive abuse at the whim of some corrupt politicians.

I am also happy to acknowledge

that cognitive dissonance is the natural state of full-functioning human beings who try to rationalize the reality of life in the 21st century with their own personal philosophies.

I suppose if "acquiring wealth" were the be-all-end-all of human existence, you might have a point. And for some, perhaps that's the case.