“Art is useless” — Oscar Wilde

I like Letters of Note (www.lettersofnote.com), and often read the Random Letters.

Saw this (from 1890) today and it seems relevant to this blog:

16, TITE STREET,

CHELSEA. S.W.

My dear Sir

Art is useless because its aim is simply to create a mood. It is not meant to instruct, or to influence action in any way. It is superbly sterile, and the note of its pleasure is sterility. If the contemplation of a work of art is followed by activity of any kind, the work is either of a very second-rate order, or the spectator has failed to realise the complete artistic impression.

A work of art is useless as a flower is useless. A flower blossoms for its own joy. We gain a moment of joy by looking at it. That is all that is to be said about our relations to flowers. Of course man may sell the flower, and so make it useful to him, but this has nothing to do with the flower. It is not part of its essence. It is accidental. It is a misuse. All this is I fear very obscure. But the subject is a long one.

Truly yours,

Oscar Wilde

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Quotation #2

Laurie Fendrich is a painter who teaches at Hofstra University and I regularly read her blog which unfortunately seems to be on hiatus since last August. 

Art is not the icing on the cake of civilization. Art is one of the bases of civilization. In the beginning were cave paintings, not cave hedge funds, or cave economic texts, or departments of “Cave Studies.” And after the rise and fall of any particular civilization, who (other than historians) still thinks about its economic system, or even its military might? What mostly lives on for people in succeeding civilizations are art and ideas. Those civilizations which made no art, or spurned philosophy (think Sparta) quickly turn to dust and become only the stuff of legend.

Laurie Fendrich

Happy Sequestration!

I’m reposting THE LUCKY TAX with a little amendment:

If you question the wealth of the rich, folks will often say that they got there through “hard work.” Probably true.

But they are also lucky.

They might be lucky enough to be 6’8″ tall and athletic.

Lucky to interested in software programming instead of the craft of buggy whip manufacturing.

Blessed with smart caring parents instead of abusive slobs.

Or maybe they guessed right in the casino of the stock market.

Or maybe they have a high IQ.

Mainly it is being in the right place at the right time with the right ability (and I’m proposing that abilities are fundamentally based in luck).

Let’s check out the remuneration for simple “hard work.” The national minimum wage is $7.25 per hour. Let’s say minimum wage workers don’t work very hard (which of course we know is untrue, but for the sake of the argument).

Let’s say our rich person works a hundred times as hard (not possible, but for the argument). So they should make $725 per hour.

Now the minimum wage worker is working 40 hours per week (but may need more than one job to survive“…roughly one-third of the estimated 20,000 homeless people in Santa Clara County [the heart of Silicon Valley] had full-time jobs.” Richard Florida).

However the rich person works really hard, twice as long: 80 hours per week. 80 hours x $725 per hour = $58,000 per week for that extra hard, extra long work.

52 weeks x $58,000 = $3,016,000.

So, with this calculation, if one makes more than $3,016,000 per year it can’t be just through hard work — it is a result of luck.

Proposal: Any income above that point should be subject to a special “Lucky Tax” because it wasn’t gained through hard work, but through luck.

I am not begrudging luck, just saying that if we value hard work more we should tax it less — and tax luck more.

Amendment: So of course it is impossible for one person to work 100 times as hard as another, so if we say they work just 50 times harder the Lucky Tax would be levied at $1,508,000. Someone who makes $1,000,000 per year, needs to work 33 times as hard (and 80 hours per week) to earn the million just through hard work

So when President Obama suggests raising taxes by closing loopholes for “millionaire and billionaires,”  he’s supporting the Lucky Tax.