Economic power corrupts, and absolute economic power corrupts absolutely.
emerged in American politics, one that holds concentrated wealth, and perhaps American capitalism itself, as inimical to the democratic society we want to build.
The basic idea holds capitalism as at best an uneasy partner with our democratic values. At worst, it erodes them completely, undermining the social and material basis of republican citizenship as envisioned by the American revolutionaries.
Since the start of the new year, this thinking has become especially prominent. Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Democrat of New York, came out in favor of high marginal tax rates on the rich, arguing last week that “a system that allows billionaires to exist” while others live in extreme poverty is “wrong.”
This thinking is also present in a new proposal from Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts to tax the nation’s largest fortunes. The plan, which would impose an annual 2 percent wealth tax on fortunes greater than $50 million and a 3 percent tax on ones greater than $1 billion, is geared as much toward protecting democracy as it is toward raising revenue. It’s an attempt to arrest the many types of economic inequality that threaten political equality — the ability of everyone to have something like an equal say in the democratic process.