together NYC

populyst is launching a new initiative, together NYC, to crowd-source and to map sentiment across New York City. It is an invitation to users to mark on a map their sentiment at a given location and point in time. There is a menu of eleven preset sentiments and one that is user defined (see Legend in map below). A user can sign in as a guest, or can create an account if he/she wishes to track or review their own sentiments over time. Click on this image to open the page.

Home page of together NYC

Since this is a first effort, it is a beta test of sorts and will evolve significantly over time. Sentiments as of now are fairly basic and reflect a personal need or a change in personal circumstances, such as “I am hungry” or “I am getting married”. Over time, we will be adding other sentiments and perhaps editing some out where participation is low. The learning curve will lead us to a place where users respond to the proposed menu of sentiments and will participate in growing numbers.

Our purpose is to maximize participation because the relevance of this effort depends on a high level of participation. The fact that an individual user is experiencing a certain feeling or going through a life change is important information mainly to his family, friends and colleagues.

But the fact that a large number of people are experiencing the same sentiments or life changes at the same location is of relevance to all of us in at least three ways: one, it raises awareness of sentiments within the community and anchors those sentiments in specific locations; two, it may stimulate better understanding, a change of attitude or a response from the community; three, it allows us to see how various communities are faring in comparison to others, first within Manhattan and adjoining areas and later vs. other cities around the country or world. Of course, we are cognizant that the outcome may be biased by the type of person who participates, and we will have to work around that.

Based on the success of this effort and feedback that we receive, we envisage taking the same effort to other cities in the US and abroad.

We will post more as this project evolves but this is it for now. Thank you for your support and participation. Here is the just launched map. Click on it to access.

How to Tax a Billionaire (or Not)

Our institutions created centibillionaires and are now trying to contain them.

In Ayn Rand’s novel Atlas Shrugged, a group of high-achieving industrialists have had enough with being exploited (in their view) by “parasitic” collectivists and “second-handers”. They withdraw to a perfect community Galt’s Gulch aka Atlantis where they can live in peace and prosperity with each other, far away from the do-nothing (in their view) populace and according to their own laws and beliefs.

Because Rand mercifully never wrote a sequel (the original has more words than either War and Peace or Les Misérables), it is not clear whether these supermen and women lived happily ever after or whether, after enjoying the initial high of sticking it to humanity, their infinite egos led them to devour each other to oblivion and Galt’s Gulch disappeared Roanoke-like with no explanation left for posterity. That is, no explanation other than the obvious which is that a healthy society requires a fuller range of social strata and cultures, not only a super-stratum and a monoculture, in order to survive and to prosper.

No escape to Galt’s Gulch is currently offered to today’s billionaires who have so far opted to remain in the real world though they contend daily with insults and attacks from many quarters. It is necessary to say “so far” because some have been toying with otherworldly escapes, be they monetary via cryptocurrencies or interplanetary via emigration to planet Mars. Cryptos would free them from the gravity of central banks. And space from the gravity of Earth. After all, in our culture, “to leave it all behind” is nearly synonymous with high quality living. And to disrupt, to reject the dominant paradigm, are seen as ways to create new wealth.

Bernie vs. Billionaires

While still among us on earth however, even the ultra rich deserve… empathy. Or at least some recognition for their achievements. Their defining characteristic, shorn of all social and economic artifice, remains their humanity, not their wealth. Yet it is assumed by the angry-egalitarian political complex that it is fine to insult and harass a billionaire, as if their humanity was inversely proportional to their wealth. Starting with Bernie Sanders for example, some members of Congress have stated plainly that “billionaires should not exist”.

Because there are among the people mob inciters who amplify their message through social media, this slogan could be interpreted as incendiary, or as unsafely ambiguous. Does ‘billionaires should not exist’ mean that we should tax them until they are no longer billionaires? That would entail taking away 99% of some billionaires’ wealth. Or does it mean that we should limit their growth plans when their wealth hits the $999 million mark? Or force them to give away their wealth to charity? Or something else?

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