What a Billionaire’s Tax Means Depends Upon the Currency

The UN’s latest idea for funding itself:

The United Nations on Thursday called for a tax on billionaires to help raise more than $400 billion a year for poor countries.

An annual lump sum payment by the super-rich is one of a host of measures including a tax on carbon dioxide emissions, currency exchanges or financial transactions proposed in a UN report that accuses wealthy nations of breaking promises to step up aid for the less fortunate.

When an American refers to a millionaire or billionaire, he or she is generally referring to US Dollars.  (Sometimes it’s not clear in our current sad state whether he or she is referring to annual income or net worth; traditionally it’s been the latter, but in this credit crazy society of ours the former gets invoked from time to time).

But what does this mean when an international body calls someone a “billionaire”?  Is it in US Dollars?  The hapless Euro?  Japanese Yen?  A Fistful of Yuan?  Each of these would result in a different threshold of wealth.

And, as I discovered in post-Soviet collapse Russia, a hyperinflated currency can make many millionaires and billionaires in a hurry:

Socialist states love to trumpet their own successes, real or just propaganda. The collapse of the rouble left just about everyone in the Russian Federation with more than a million roubles (about US$770 in early 1994) of net worth. So I declared to my representative, “Seventy years of socialism, and everyone’s a millionaire!”

His response: “It was their greatest achievement!”

Once current socialism comes to its greatest achievement, and everyone is a millionaire or billionaire, this once esoteric tax can become everyone’s problem.  Which is, for many internationalists, the goal…

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