What would be the effect of a private property limit (PPL)?

Note: This thread has first been posted on the old Social Future Forum by me. I hope the discussion will continue over here :smile:

I just had the idea that it might make a lot of sense to limit the private property that a person can own to about 10 million $-US. This might make more sense than an income limit, or even some kind of very progressive tax on very high incomes.

With a private property limit (PPL) your income could still be essentially unlimited. You just had to give away some of your property to someone else before you hit the limit. You could still earn, say 120 million $-US a year, but you had to give away 10 $-US away per month!

Who could you give that money or other property to?

  • Charities
  • Non profit organisations
  • Crowd funding projects
  • Political partiesFriends
  • A voluntary basic income fund

Note that it always has to be a donation. If you lend out a credit, that would actually count as your property!

Why would it be a good idea to introduce a PPL?
It counteracts extreme wealth inequality. Too extreme concentrations of wealth are harmful for the economy, because they decrease the circulation rate of money. AFAIK the circulation rate of money is in direct proportion to economic metrics like the GDP. A higher circulation rate would have the effect of increasing economic growth.

The necessity to give away money or property if you are over the PPL means that the circulation rate of money would increase significantly.

Also, it would curb excessive luxury spending. Super-yachts and jets could still exist, but they would necessarily be shared property belonging to a group of people. This might create an incentive to invest money into goods that have a higher usefulness per dollar.

What would be problems with a PPL?
The idea requires states to check the net value of many individuals. This is not only connected with intrusive bureaucratic acts, but may not be fully possible. People could hide a large fraction of their wealth in hidden bank accounts or anonymous cryptocurrencies (Bitcoin is not really anonymous, but some altcoins go further towards being fully anonymous).

Also, private companies would have to become shared property in one way or another if their net worth rises above the PPL! This might be highly problematic in some cases.

How would a PPL be justified?

  • By its supposed economic benefits
  • It could be argued that a PPL is a requirement for real democracy, because a real democracy needs to control power democratically. Money and property represent a lot of power, so they would also have to be controlled democratically, at least to some degree.
  • Some ethicists argue that there is a moral obligation to help those in need. Withholding excess wealth that could be used to help others might be interpreted as failure to render assistance.

What would be the actual effects if a PPL was introduced?
There would certainly be a huge amount of efforts of the rich to hide their wealth somehow. Massive intrusions into their privacy might be required to prevent them from being largely successful with their hiding attempts.

People should not feel any significant disincentives to increase their income, because there is no income limitation!

The real effects on the economy are hard to estimate. Economic inequality should decrease, which should be beneficial for consumption, and should boost economy. On the other hand, the influence of visionary individuals previously owning large shares of companies would decrease, which might hurt some of the best companies out there.

With less economic inequality, social problems should decrease significantly.

What have I missed?

I’ll copy the replies to this topic from the old SFF in here:

Charles Derr wrote:

I think I’m with you in spirit, but my reaction is still that this probably wouldn’t be a good idea. There’d be too many rich folk trying to evade the limit in various ways (how would one enforce this?) both explicitly (by “hiding” their stuff) and implicitly (by trying to pretend that what they own is worth less than t actually is). Kudos for thinking outside the box though.


Zanthia replied:

I think I’m with you in spirit, but my reaction is still that this probably wouldn’t be a good idea. There’d be too many rich folk trying to evade the limit in various ways (how would one enforce this?) both explicitly (by “hiding” their stuff) and implicitly (by trying to pretend that what they own is worth less than t actually is).

this is a good point in general. i think that every rule and every regulation from outside motivate people to cheat. and in a way it always creates two contradictory sides, that struggle with one another. a better approach would be, to show people as a role model, that it is not beneficial to hoard especially for themselves and that nobody gain happiness with hoarding. …i am aware that this sounds naive and idealistic, but everybody could try the experiment, how great it feels to get rid of unnecessary “wealth” and to give it to others like in the givebox-project in germany or


Afterwards I (Radivis) replied:

First of all, welcome to the Social Future Forum, Charles, and thanks for posting!

I think I’m with you in spirit, but my reaction is still that this probably wouldn’t be a good idea. There’d be too many rich folk trying to evade the limit in various ways (how would one enforce this?) both explicitly (by “hiding” their stuff) and implicitly (by trying to pretend that what they own is worth less than t actually is). Kudos for thinking outside the box though.


Yes, you are certainly addressing a valid and important point there. The more governments want from people, the more they are trying to evade the power of the government. This is a point that has been stressed repeatedly in a discussion I had about the same topic in the Zero State Facebook group. It’s one of the strongest arguments against an PPL scheme, but at the same time you already have exactly the same problems with the current taxing schemes: Rich people have the resources and skills to evade a large part of justified taxation. Effectively, this decreases the tax rate for the rich, and less wealthy persons cannot evade to pay their “fair” share.

Now the question is: Does one take this problem as argument to abolish all taxing schemes altogether? I actually have thought about systems without taxation in which people pay for social projects voluntarily. In practice, you would need to provide strong incentives to move the majority of wealthy persons to donate a fair share of their wealth. (There are a couple of wealthy individuals who recognize the need to share, but they are in the minority, unfortunately.) With a fully developed reputation economy this incentive might be that people start thinking that you are obliged to share your wealth. If you do, your reputation increases, but if you don’t your reputation will suffer, and with your reputation, your wealth will also decrease – possibly more than if you actually went out of your way to share and donate a significant fraction of it.

Nevertheless, these “voluntary” schemes are only a kind of ideal long-term solution. For the short and medium term, you still need to work with some kind of taxation. A PPL might be problematic, but maybe it could just work under the right circumstances.

During the discussion in the Zero State group there was also the argument that a PPL would have to be introduced globally, because if one country introduces it on its own, it will have the following disadvantage: Corporations abroad will have more power, because they are not affected by the PPL policy, while local companies have to deal with the PPL system. Such a county would run the serious risk to be dominated by outside economic forces.

We would first have to develop better systems of global governance to even turn the introduction of a PPL into a feasible project.

Anyway, I have not encountered a total show stopper for the PPL. It might be hard to introduce and even harder to enforce properly, but if we could actually do just that, it might work pretty fine. In any case, the economy would adapt in rather interesting ways. Perhaps it might be worth to play though a thought experiment in which the world has actually introduced a PPL to see how different actors would react to that change.

Quote from: zanthia

a better approach would be, to show people as a role model, that it is not beneficial to hoard especially forthemselves and that nobody gain happiness with hoarding. …i am aware that this sounds naive and idealistic, but everybody could try the experiment, how great it feels to get rid of unnecessary “wealth” and to give it to others like in the givebox-project in germany or http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Give-away_shop .

It actually has been scientifically proven that giving money or goods away to others makes people happier than keeping it for yourself and your private consumption. This message still needs to be popularized much more, however.

And about the givebox-project: Sure, it’s a great idea, but how would you scale that up to property exceeding the $-US 100.000.000 limit? Rich people won’t just give away their private jets in large public boxes, or will they?

Next comes the conversation between Maximo Ramallo and me. Here’s how he started:

Hello, lets get to the facts.

When experimenting with new policies one has to see what has been done, and currently in south america there has been implementations near the UBI concept and the results were ever positive, as eye openers

Of course tax evasion is a problem, but we can not deny this is a problem with or without the UBI or related. Plus much of the source from new tax evasion have their consequences, for lets say if there is an implementation of a basic income on a particular group in society, lets say that targets individuals with disabilities, a tax evasion that clearly takes jump from this new tax, is an act of discrimination, and thus, can be, and I remark, it can be penalized.

Now, one must see the benefits of this and prior experiences shows that boosts the economy at levels unforeseen. It is not just a social justice issue anymore.

To that i’ve replied:

Thanks for your contribution, Maximo. I’ve focused on my idea of a private property limit in this thread, and not a universal basic income. Both ideas are quite different, even though they could be combined quite well. Your points would fit quite well in the Basic Income board here on the forum.

I do agree with you that tax evasion is always a problem and that a UBI would in fact generate some overall economic benefits. Your idea about coupling tax evasion to discrimination is an idea that sounds intriguing :grinning: While it’s true that tax evasion can be punished anyway already, the moral outrage against tax evasion can be amplified by pointing out that minorities will suffer from the consequences of not paying for a UBI or some other social security system.

Nevertheless, I am curious what you think about my PPL idea from the initial post, Maximo.

Maximo Ramallo:

I saw an opportunity to speak about tax evasion on the reason the PPL has this, mixed with influence dynamics. I’ve explained tax evasion, and now about influence dynamics is what one could say the power of the wealth of someone gives to that person. By either owning their wealth under several laws (not just one), or by paying other people to enforce this belief (police, private police, etc.). It can not like us, but still is how the current system operates.
Those were on the implementation part people disagrees more, and now here is what I think. I think one has to calculate over what percentage of the wealth is actually usable, what percentage is actually self originated, and what is the equilibrium to sustain the whole system (“human kind”). Any PPL must adequate variables to achieve results that are economical, ethical as well mathematically correct.One part (of many) from the puzzle to solve this is that idea you and I have in common, and youcalled “quantified prestige”.
That is my opinion.


Quote from: Maximo Ramallo

I think one has to calculate over what percentage of the wealth is actually usable, what percentage is actually self originated, and what is the equilibrium to sustain the whole system (“human kind”).

Those are interesting thoughts. But they require to elaborate on what it actually means for wealth to be “usable”. Usable by whom for what? A general economic problem is if money is hoarded and not used for consumption or investments. Temporary saving for larger consumption or investment is fine, but keeping money away from the actual economy for too long is rather harmful.

How do you measure whether wealth is “self originated”? Is that everything that is not inherited? What about wages? I guess those can be called “self originated”. What about company profits? Seems a bit less clear. Who is responsible for creating company profits? Everyone who works at that company? Or even the investors? And what about interest on money? Not self originated?

The equilibrium to sustain the whole system seems to be a really important thought. It doesn’t make much sense to let people starve or be so poor, sick and uneducated that they cannot contribute to the economy in a meaningful way (apart from the fact that it’s ethically unacceptable). A conceptually easy way to get to that equilibrium is to introduce a universal basic income. And adjust its height to get to an optimal equilibrium. But how do you compute that equilibrium in the first place? Sounds like a tough job for economists.

Maximo Ramallo:

I will speak generally but the raw work is deeper of course, each part needs to be detailed separately.
Usability is the mean over an individual can take its wealth and convert it into actionable, personal goods, or further means.
Speaking aside, one must think on the insurance of goodwill of usage does not relies on the person itself, but on the structure where its wealth its preserved. this impersonal approach derives on having the person of interest separate physically from the wealth, or such a person must save a designated location, or by a designated system. What I mean is that even if this individual has its wealth in a bank, such a wealth is still under watch.
Now, keeping on how we calculate the usability of the wealth holder, we can not split its usability without other individuals. Think on a well, if a town shares a well, does the water is overall owned by the first who take it, even if others are left thirst? We simply can not split this calculation.
Self origination is supposed to be more complex, thus we must think in subdivision of origins. On one side we have the individual’s physical means to achieve such a wealth, and this is today subject of current study for many investigators on tax evasion and money laundry. On the other hand we have the historical records of work from organizations, which must be taken into account because one can have unfair wages lifting the head of the corporation’s own gain. Then again the entirety of one corporation could be taken as an individual, also we could take into account investors, and inherited wealth, but this overlaps another subject over enterprises and more concepts, and this reply is already long, too sparse.
The “equilibrium of humanity” is in part what I’ve said before, but even so I do not know to have solved completely because it gives different outcome depending on the existence of wealth. One could say that nowadays there is no scarcity, and this makes things easier to save the surplus as benefits and bonus for entrepreneurs and first standers. Of course, after giving what one could call UBI (which is not the concept
that better approaches the model I sustain).
Thinking a bit on economists by the way, one must have an approach which not relies solely on an unhealthy view of “competition” for not falling onto the “social darwinism” mistaken view. Then we can say its easier to see what function an economist must handle.

NOTE: I would not focus solely on my views on this, and that is why my first goal is becoming a reality the software needed for automatic check for these theories, which I stated on another post.

Ok, interesting answer. It shows that things get quite complicated when one wants to actually break down and define all relevant terms.

Let’s me try to ask a different question: If we already have a global UBI (hypothetic future scenario), would a PPL still make sense? In that situation, income would have a lower limit and property would have an upper limit. If the PPL could be enforced globally, by some kind of bureaucratic institution or network that is able to measure wealth correctly, in some sense, would that be a good thing?

Maximo Ramallo:

What is the limit of power? If we state that the limit of power, is the power over another individual, then we can not deny there is a limit. This particular “post-scarcity” question I plan to extend on a sci-fi novel for its fruitful implications, and I would just love to show this on a story.
Think on a parallel situation, even if its a bit far. A current situation would be geopolitics than, took even in a partial way, is not just competing on limited resources, but actually trying to level the situation of the adversary from having so much power the situation leads to over-rule. This is another equilibrium and you could see its general, finding it in many cases from board games to physical sates.
And lets do not think this means an innate nature of competition, but indeed this shows us there are actors in play who “could try” to compete, by domination. One can call them as pleased, this kind of individuals have the goals of dominate not just raw resources, but actual people. And the resources are just means to dominate people.
Speaking of which, its like our current times are dominated by such individuals, if one has the data at hand than the resources today are enough to sustain the whole population, even if not equally distributed. And I do know of some reports fro the UN this shows some truth, but that is another story.

Phew, I’ve copied the conversation to the new forum and now I can answer to you @Maximo_Ramallo:

  1. I like your principled approach in which you want to set the power over other individuals as “natural” limit to power.
  • The idea to exemplify thoughts with science fiction novels seems to be relatively popular among visionaries :slight_smile: I plan on writing such novels, too. But there’s just so much else to do … :man_with_gua_pi_mao:
  • You seem to be intent on establishing some kind of equilibrium of power between different states, or let me call them “geo-factions”. This reminds me of an online version of the board game Risk in which the most stable configuration was between three players in which both weaker players cooperated in order to keep the strongest player in check. Such games could go on virtually forever without any party really getting a decisive upper hand.
  • I really like that you think about models for preventing even the outbreak of harmful competition. That’s a really proactive / preventive stance.
  • Also, it’s good that you point out the motive of some people to dominate others. And that as primary objective even above the motive to dominate resources. The resources are just a tool to dominate other persons.
  • Sure, if we could redistribute the resources we have in some kind of fair manner, everyone would have a bearable living standard. But getting there is extraordinarily difficult. What is your favourite strategy for actually getting there?

I am replying to the post, not the topic, let me see if I am doing wrong by doing it this way.

Now, yes, the “getting there”. In my view, we have bad news. In my opinion the problem is not to create some policy that adequate to the needs of the world, but the problem is people not willing to do it, people with power.

Defending my opinion is than the results of every policy implemented would be visible to people “in charge”, and they would fix what must be. Now comes the depth of the problem. Who are the people in power? Because on these days nobody can deny the power in the hands of politicians but also financial entities. And one could argue they are struggling to get to an agreement, but even so, this means some of the individuals from the groups involved are not willing to let go their power.

Having this question solved, now one can understand the need for climbing to positions in power to achieve change, even if this change implies the share of power. In other words, to get into politics and into the financial (and resource) systems of the world. To play by the rules until we manage to have the power to redistribute power.

Now, it does not ends here. We need to consider other things, like how to keep in power, and how to achieve consensus on how to systematically deliver power to others. Questions of their own which, I insist, have the answer of a dedicated software for a modern “agora”.

Your method of replying is just right, Maximo. :smile:

There is a problem with dividing people who have power and those who don’t is that this is not really accurate. Let’s say, those who are “in charge” are those with active power, but all the others still have “potential” power, in the sense that they could grab and use power, if they were really willing to do so. They could become rich and influential, or get into politics, or do direct actions to change things, or demonstrate, or rebel, or assassinate tyrants.

It would not be completely correct to put all the blame on those with active power. After all, if those with active power fail to implement policies beneficial for all, then one might argue that those with potential power need to activate their power in order to enforce changes.

One possibility for this is what you call “climbing to positions in power”. Which is actually a good idea, if you do have a good plan about what to do with your power. If the plan is bad, then you only switch the tyrant, but the overall situation doesn’t really improve. This is why it’s so important to have strong principles to which you need to subscribe to if you want to change the world really positively.

Staying in power is important, but one has to be careful not to do that with methods that violate one’s principles. If you protect your power ruthlessly, then you may well be less able to have the positive impact that you want to have.

Systematically “delivering” power to others is an intersting thought. It looks like you are in favour of some kind of universal empowerment. I certainly am. And, it seems like you want to do that with the help of software for improved virtual direct democracy. Comparing it to an “agora” is quite instructive. Everyone needs to have a voice and be heard. The first step are forums like this one.

For democratic decision making, there is this concept of liquid democracy which can be at least partially implemented with software (the German Pirate Party has experimented with that):

Human potential, how to measure it? I will not discuss it in its entirety, just the parts mostly relevant to this discussion for the moment.

Lets start with the limits being imposed by an external force. As in my previous post I point to the principle of having a another individual or group actively restraining their adversary by impeding this from actionable power. The tyranny of restricting resources for someone to use their potential is in part this, but there are other ways of impeding human action, like having misdirected management of resources and, the worst I can think of, get divided the collective efforts and to sponsor internal conflicts.

My guess the debate on the existence of powerful people actively seeking to impeding others from gain and using power is a subject to discuss right away, but for another topic. As well the debate on the degrees of blame.

Now, the situation of being in positions of power has a complexity ever changing according to the actors and the positions implied. Not always in the way one could think. Not just a matter of principles, also a matter of adaptation and having secured the means to maintain power while doing the real job one was delegated with to do.

This is why having an agora to discuss actions and to report the situation from the power is very important. As an example think on people selecting a delegate, is very important to keep the people informed and well prepared (academically) to actually cooperate on decisions, and to avoid misunderstandings and the risk of tyranny. As this is just an example, is not the detailed exposition of my idea of how could be best.

Just checked those links to wikipedia you gave, I have to admit I was vaguely informed on it. It looks good, an important improvement to representative democracy, mostly on the concept of “specialists”. The german version (according to google translate) says it is a hybrid between representative and direct democracy, I do not think it is. To achieve a hybrid, which is an ideal (at least in my view), one must do it in a per-case basis. I focused my work on leaving aside the voting as an action of adding “points” and got the idea of placing the individual’s connections and degrees of agreement instead. Another very long discussion.

This discussion seems to have strayed far from the original topic of a PPL.

My suggestion is to split up the topics you mentioned last into different threads. Here are some suggestions:

  • Cyber Agora”: How you think that a “cyber agora” for “democracy 2.0” could work out.
  • Liquid Democracy”: How this potential hydrid between representative and direct democracy might be designed in the best way.
  • Power Mechanics and Corruption”: How to attain power, maintain, and share that power without falling into the trappings of corruption.
  • Does blaming the powerful make sense?”: After all, I could argue that there are certain “natural” psychological and systemic mechanisms that cause the powerful nearly inevitable to act in the way they actually act. It may be worth to analyze this in detail.

Feel free to create any of these topics (all of which would fit into the “Society” category).

Or you could actually go ahead and write some more throughts about this PPL thought experiment.

I would put the first two in one topic and the second two in another single topic. For the sake of the debate just starting.
So it could be:
- Social Systems. Defining the need and challenges for new social models.
- Power struggle. Defining the actors in the economical and the political arena.
Thou I need some time, my schedule is becoming cumbersome today.

On a side note, some so called “euro style board games” seem to represent analogies on property limit dynamics. I have been reading some research on these board games. We should definitely look into that for its fruitful allegories.
I mention this after checking your answer in the old forum.

That sounds quite interesting. I haven’t even heard the term “euro style board games” before even though I know about some of these games:

Anyway, one of my probability theory professors actually did some publicly announced research project about the game Carcassonne. I haven’t asked about details however.

Which board games do implement analogies of the private property limit? Examples?


If the PPL could be enforced globally,
by some kind of bureaucratic institution or network that is able to
measure wealth correctly, in some sense, would that be a good thing?

i think the measurement itself could be
a good thing, but how to measure wealth correctly? if it feels
arbitrary for people, there will be rage and resistance. there are
many approaches to find something out, from the other side, e.g. the
living wage, basic needs or minimum wage. but it seems to me much
more difficult, to tell people what they "don´t have to need"
than to tell them what they need. is there a way to find a PPL that
is plausible in its amount and could be justified and understand as
beneficial ?

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Interesting thoughts. Framing a PPL as beneficial for the superrich might be a winning strategy. In this case, it may even be more helpful to state the PPL as “societal recommendation” instead of trying to enforce it by law (which as we have all acknowledged would be very problematic). Maybe studies could be cited that an “overabundance” of wealth can cause certain problems and makes people overall less happy. Remedies would be suggested, i.e. recommended strategies for identifying and distributing excess wealth.

If enough superrich people follow these recommendation, there would be social pressure for others to do the same. Even though it probably won’t affect everyone, the overall benefit might still be very large.

I have a pragmatic approach for this. Measurement tools changes constantly, like the adjust over investigative reports which reveals new ways of wealth (intellectual capital its a recent variable). Trust towards specialists is more stable. So its key to have people cooperating and agreeing on the fittest answer.

The need in its definition has the right to be solved. But we can tell what a human doesn’t need by the way of its waste. If we think what a human doesn’t use, and pretty much hoards, then its clear to society (and the individual itself) what it doesn’t need. But what if for some people, the “need” in their heads is a harmful behaviour? Just like compulsive hoarding.

But what if also, this people hoards not because the need for individual well being, but for some obscure end like discrimination? This exists, despite some people don’t want to speak about it.

These studies do exists, too much wealth often leads to sociopathic behaviour and heavy discrimination. Fortunately attractive treatments exists, like the one offered on the 2014 TED talk by Bobby Sager “be selfish, go help someone”.

Speaking on the property limit, I strongly defend the stand for evaluating the property on the frame of social impact, not only resulting in scarcity of the peers, but also on discrimination and violent “austerity”.

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this is
great wisdom from 15:00 to 16:00 in the clip. “the more you
serve yourself, the more you will serve others.” and it is a
great shift in the meaning of selfishness. it is totally true but not
so easy to conceive and to convey.

your idea
with the harmful aspect of hoarding is important. i would like to add
the motive to possess something for the primary purpose to impress others
instead of using it and enjoying its function. …in a way your term " discrimination"
implies that, too, but if we look deeper we could find out that
people use their belongings to compensate for emptiness they feel in
their soul and their life. and if they use their belongings to gain
the illusion to have a more valuable personality with their stuff,
they would suffer from inferiority complexes if a PPL would take it
away from them. so for both motives : compulsive hoarding and
inferiority complexes… it seems to me a better idea to look for
methods to change the consciousness (e.g. with the unconditional
basic income, or the give- away-shops) than to coerce people.

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Yes, the “peacock effect” of ostentation is one motor for discrimination. Discrimination by emotional emptiness can have solutions considering its being researched on the scientific community. Or at least I hope there is enough research on the subject.

why not doing research on our own? i am very experienced in emotional emptiness… :no_mouth:

Well I do plan to research from the biological perspective these issues, after all we have ethology which is the branch of biology that resembles psychology. I may take your word sometime in the future :+1: