[MUD-Dev] re: Curtailing the 'Super-Rich Effect'

Bob McFakename bobmcfakename at hotmail.com
Tue Apr 17 18:12:22 New Zealand Standard Time 2001

From: "Matt Mihaly" <the_logos at achaea.com>
> On Tue, 10 Apr 2001, Lynx wrote:

>>>> 1) I'm a realist and I like to see an /appearance/ of reality -

>>> although yeah, 'real' reality is impossible - in MUDs.

No, Lynx didn't write that. I did. I think you're mixing up the >>>s,
because half of this email is adressed to what i've said, and half is
adressed to someone else.

> So you want most of your playerbase in poverty then?

If you're trying to say, 'well, it needs to be pointed out that in
medieval economies, the vast majority of people lived as virtual
slaves with few rights and meagre posessions, but most mudders don't
want to play members of that class', then thank you for pointing out
something that's easily enough forgot.

>>> On the other hand, there are few super-rich in RL, certainly fewer
>>> per capita than in MUDs. I would guess that the reason is simple
>>> enough: RL, it costs a lot to be rich.

>>> Think about it. Rich people have to guard their wealth. They have
>>> to hire staff to clean their mansions and take care of minor
>>> affairs.  As a general rule, they have to be generous and give
>>> money to this and that foundation for sick puppy dogs. They have
>>> to throw elaborate parties to maintain the impression of being
>>> rich. Hell, in many societies, all the costs of being rich have
>>> driven the rich into debt and poverty (Victorian europe, Tokugawa
>>> Japan are two examples I can think of... but in Tokugawa Japan,
>>> the samurai could always kill the moneylenders. (More often they
>>> just unilaterally declared their debts to be gone.))

> I think you've seen too many movies. What is this "guard your
> wealth" nonsense?

Sorry, guv, but what do you think people built castles for?

(i'm oversimplifying a bit, obviously - castles had millitary purposes
as well.)

> If you wish to be rich and virtually eliminate your risk of losing
> your money, invest in the safest investment in the world: US
> Treasuries.

Thanks for the advice. How does it apply to a medieval economy?

> The only money-related hassles that mega-rich people experience are
> self-inflicted.

> And as for all this about throwing parties etc etc, I have to say,
> bollocks. I know a couple families/individuals worth well over 100
> million (one 5th generation family worth half a billion), and they
> would laugh at what you're saying.

That's wonderful, it really is, because I wasn't talking about them.
Obviously, rich people in modern society face different problems and
situations then the rich did in Tokugawa Japan, or 17th century
Europe, or Victorian England, or wherever.

> They don't throw big parties, and they are some of the most lovely,
> down-to-earth people I know. Being ultra-rich is not a burden to
> them, I assure you.

If I insinuated it was, I apologize. Perhaps I wasn't clear enough. I
was not trying to be a Marxist, generally slam the rich, or spout off
some dumb misconceptions and stereotypes. I was talking about the
differences in MUD and RL (albiet historical) economies, specifically
how they pertain to the rich.

>> The problem there is that MUD living expenses generally take one of
>> two forms:

>> 1) Taxes. If flat rate, players that *don't* money farm are slammed
>> hard, whereas those that do are still richer...it's just now
>> instead of being 1000 gold to 10,000, it's 100 to 1000. Still
>> unpleasant. % based taxes, on the other hand, hit everyone equally,
>> however if you have 10000 gold, you still have more after the taxes
>> than the person with 1000 gold; in effect, you just amass wealth x%
>> slower.

> What?...[snip]...imposed barriers to transferring money out of the
> country.

I'm no economist, nor did I write that confusing morass two paragraphs
above. So hey, don't look at me.

> In any case, you have to quantify what you're taxing, and how you're
> going to tax it. In the physical world, there are various categories
> of income, all taxed potentially differently, and generally there
> was, at least originally, a reason for it (I'm not sure you can
> reasonably say that a tax system with as many laws as the USs is
> that logically organized on systemic principles anymore, but
> luckily, we aren't dealing with environments anywhere near as
> complex as a real economy with 280 million people). For instance,
> you've got earned income, which is things like wages from a
> job. Unearned income, which could be flow-through profits from a
> partnership. Capital gains (possibly a form of unearned income, I'm
> not actually sure, but taxed at a different rate), which are
> generally triggered as a taxable event upon sale of the asset, are a
> tax on capital appreciation of an asset (selling stocks at a profit
> for instance).

This is all very interesting (and basic to anyone with a grasp of the
modern economy -- even a bright 10th grader.) Since you seem to have
some kind of formal schooling in economics (as well as working for
Achaea, in what capacity i'm not sure) I should ask you - what can you
tell me about historical economies and how their methods of taxation,
etc differ from ours?

> You can place taxes on transactions...[snip]

> In any case, my point is that there are innumerable ways to tailor a
> tax system to do what you want. For instance, in Achaea, we have
> property taxes on player-run shops. The tax is defined by the city
> government, and they appraise the value of each shop. The tax is a
> yearly tax on the value of the shop,

Yearly? Seems to me like that might open up some opportunities,
intentional or otherwise, for getting around the tax.

> ie a property tax. Shop revenues are not taken into account. The
> reason we tax the property rather than the revenue, is because a) We
> didn't wish to drive trade underground, ie player to player instead
> of player-shop-player, and b) The stockrooms of shops prevent most
> items from decaying. We wanted to make sure that people who were
> just using shops as storage (ie generating no revenue) had to pay
> something for it.

They don't pay rent?

> In the future, we'll also let cities benefit (without revenue
> taxation) somehow from the trade conducted in their player shops, to
> create an incentive for cities to evict owners who aren't actually
> conducting business from their shops.

The city owns all the properties, then? Heh. For that matter, who is
the city? Is it a democratic government, some kind of buerecracy? Or
just a set of rules coded in to the computer? (both?)

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