This semester I taught Xenophon’s neglected treatise The Education of Cyrus, which many observers have compared to Machiavelli’s Prince. Seems now we could use a modern-day financial Xenophon to update it as The Education of Cyprus, where, according to news out within the hour, there is going to be a four-day “bank holiday” to prevent a total run. We keep being reassured that this is a one-off event; that surely no other government would take this step against its citizens’ bank deposits. Besides, the Cypriot Haircut is really just going after Russian oligarchs, who are even less worthy of respect than the guilty 1 percenters of Mitt Romney’s America. (By the way, I second Roger Kimball’s question: just why, exactly, do we persist in calling Russian gangsters “oligarchs”? “Oily-garchs,” maybe. . .)
Surely our government would never imitate the Europeans in such a Machiavellian maneuver? Hmmm. A few weeks back I wondered why the Left hasn’t (yet) called for a straight-up wealth tax to capture some of the value of the immense fortunes (Buffett, Gates, Googlepeeps, Facebookies, etc) that have accumulated largely tax-free over the last generation.
Actually there have been persistent rumors for a while now that “Progressives” are casting a greedy eye toward 401K assets. Byron York reported on this last fall:
The other goal for the safety net is to radically remake the retirement system. Social Security would remain in place, but progressives are frustrated that 401(k) plans are used mostly by higher-income workers. So they want the government, in Konzcal’s words, to “provide a universal IRA with an automatic enrollment to all Americans, as well as shifting 401(k)s over to a public-private, defined-benefit plan.” Such a scheme would not only involve massive new federal spending, but would also create a vast new pool of previously private money under the government’s control.
Tar, feathers, pitchforks, and guns.