@fo I don't think immoral and rational are mutually exclusive. But it's an interesting question: is working more to earn more money than you need to make you truly happy (if we accept that threshold for the sake of argument) rational? From an economic perspective it is, because rationality is defined as maximizing individual advantage. The conversation I hope we can get to out of all this is whether that is a good measure of how human beings should order their affairs.
@fo You;re right that there are very few - they are the proverbial 1% (or 5%, depending on where we draw the line). But in that group, most of the people have WAY more than they need ("more than you can spend" is probably not the best way to put it, I'll admit, given the existence of so much fancy stuff, and real estate), and most of those people, as noted in the article I link to above, give a pretty small portion of their wealth to charity.
Guys! I'm not proposing a workable model for progressive taxation (I'm sitting on that gem until the first presidential debate). I'm asking whether people who have appreciably more than they need have a moral obligation to devote their surplus to bettering the lives of others.
Given the general tone of this post, I think you should add, under "BENEFITS," the probably unquantifiable pleasure of doing what you loved, and the ongoing pleasure of knowing that you have done what you loved, for a full year. And, presumably, a lot more time with your child than you might otherwise have had, which is equally valuable and unquantifiable.
@dotcommie Your comment raises two interesting points. The first is one I must reiterate: we're talking here about somewhat abstract conceptions of morality, not effective tax rates. I'm not proposing a system that people can game, unless they actually care that much about my opprobrium (I want to meet the rich person who wants my blessing!). That said, the person who earns right up to the limit and stops expressly to avoid some imagined charitable obligation IS IMMORAL. The second question, which is probably something worth another post or ten or a long, seldom-read discursion by a philosophy professor at Princeton, is how we understand the connection between work and money, and how we define our value based on the money we earn. That's why I like the whole happiness-income measure - it captures the idea that at some point, the returns start to diminish. I will admit that I don't really understand the people for whom this is not true: why work harder when you have more money than you can spend? You suggest it is prestige, and there, too, we could explore whether there's a way to channel the desire for prestige toward other, more socially beneficial avenues. As far as incentives to work, I honestly don't think we need to worry about them. The vast majority of people in the world are incentivized to work by hunger and the possibility of loss of shelter. It seems like folly to me to suppose that essential work would not get done or important inventions wouldn't get invented if people couldn't earn more than $140,000/year (in Hawaii!).
Added benefit: whenever you write your home address, you can add an extra line at the top with a made-up street name, like "One Michtom Plaza."
@theballgirl County-based is great. I'm sticking with double the max. And as far as whether it's OK for the wealthy to donate to (or create)causes that help themselves, I think that's OK if, as with all the folks I discuss, they also yield real benefit to the world at large.
We need a "sad trombone" tag.
@siege91 Your questions are all sensible and practical and I don't want to get to them yet. As you intimate, I don't even want to get to the matter of moral equivalency among my sick kid, your sick kid, and a sick kid in Mississippi or Hawaii or India. Let's start with the threshold question: can we agree that there is some point, income-wise, where morality demands charity? We'll work out the details later.