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

Matt Mihaly the_logos at achaea.com
Wed Apr 18 07:31:24 New Zealand Standard Time 2001

On Tue, 17 Apr 2001, Bob McFakename wrote:
> From: "Matt Mihaly" <the_logos at achaea.com>
>> 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.

You keep bringing up medieval economies throughout this post. I'm not
sure why. What I was trying to point out is that you (or whoever I was
replying to) was talking about having a realistic economy. I am
pointing out that a realistic economy requires the vast majority of
people to live in poverty. It doesn't matter what historical time
period you pick. Perhaps in some future economy everybody will be
well-off. As it stands, they're not.

>> 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.)

I'm not sure what relevance castles have to economic systems
generally, but ok. It should also be pointed out that the castle
itself and the land it was on was generally worth WAY more than
anything inside the castle if you don't count the people (and
oftentimes if you do count the people). I think maybe we talked past
each other here somewhere.

>> 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?

I have no idea. Again, I wasn't aware that we were talking about
medieval economies specifically.

>> 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?

I don't have any formal schooling in economics aside from Econ 101 and
102 in university, few classes of which I actually attended. As you
say, it's pretty basic stuff. I've also a licensed stockbroker, though
I haven't worked as a broker in years.  (Btw, in terms of Achaea, I'm
the CEO/lead designer.)

Historically, and I am not an expert in historical taxation methods,
sad to say, I believe that governments were generally restricted in
the taxation methods they could employ by the information available to
them. An income tax would have meant nothing as many if not most
people didn't have an income. They lived hand to mouth. So, what was
generally taxed was property, whether land or physical property. It
was quite a game to try and hide your stuff when the tax man came
around so that he'd assess you less taxes.

>> 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.

Ahh, sorry, I was thinking in-role. An Achaean year is 12.5 rl days.

>> 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?

No, the players own the shops. They pay property tax.

>> 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?)

Asking who owns the property is a difficult question, because
ownership isn't a thing. It's a matter of perception. You can say you
own a piece of property, but I can just as easily say I own it. How
does it get decided? Whoever has the most guns on his side wins. In
the case of, say, the US, the US government has way more guns on its
side than I do, so if I came out of nowhere and tried to use your
house as if it were 'mine', I would lose. In the sense that people
with a lot of power are willing to recognize a house as yours, it is
yours. There's no actual attachment between you and the house
though. Nothing about the house is intimately tied to you. Ownership
is just a piece of paper in a government office somewhere or, in the
case of something like an apple, it's often largely a matter of
possession being 90% of the law.

Why did I bring this up? Because it's necessary to answer your
question. Does the city own all the properties? Well, I dunno. Depends
on how you define ownership. It has the power to do with them as it
will. But then, the US government has the power to do whatever it
wants with any property in its border. Does it own the entire US? I
dunno. Perspective question I'd say.

In any case, the cities would, I'd imagine, simply raise the property
tax on a non-producing property so that the owner had to pay up an
equivalent amount to what he/she would be contributing if he/she had a
productive shop.

In answer to your "What is a city?" question: A city is a democratic
government with power over a geographical area. There is a bureacracy
attached to it with various powers, etc.


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