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As a millennial, I’m not in the slightest worried about someone building their fantasy mansion out in the sticks. Good for them. If you build a house outside of the city, it’s easier for me to ignore.

My class anxiety is caused by the real estate prices and zoning laws that keep rents high and real estate prices unaffordable in the metro areas that have decent jobs. Canada has long had millionaires to look down on us from the British Proprieties, Westmount, and wherever Toronto’s millionaires live. I’m far more in favour of a comprehensive reform on the taxation and land use in our major cities than I am of my sort of sumptuary tax.

After all, these days, many people are drinking fancy coffee because the idea that saving a few dollars a week will somehow let them save up for a house is seems laughable. Let them drink coffee.

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I was surprised to read that "sumptuary laws", as economists call them, are some kind of news. They have a long history. Economics professor Robert Frank of Cornell has written multiple books about income inequality, titles like "Luxury Fever".

Dr. Frank first points out that these discriminating characteristics seem to be a deep human need, that we probably shouldn't get in the way of. People love having bling, admiring others, comparing bling.

But sumptuary laws do try. You ever see a costume drama where the characters have big poofy cuffs around their wrists, coming out of their jackets? Sumptuary law in Venice, a place of huge income inequality because of rich traders, forbade expensive-looking clothing. So people would have the required dour clothing, but brightly-coloured silk linings you couldn't see...but they'd open the coat constantly to reach their wallet or whatever, showing it off in stores and bars. Then they started pulling out a bit of lining, around the wrists, so it could be seen all the time.

Dr. Frank's other one is "The Darwin Economy" and both will change the way you look at inequality. Dr. Frank's presciption - that we should tax consumption and let money-invested be tax-free - strikes me as insane for various reasons. But his supporting data will make you think.

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I think we need some new terms. There is no longer a real definition of working class. It meant totally different things in the past. I'm not an expert on class, by any means, but as I've learned more about the history of economic (& political) class, I realize that we've never updated these terms. We also really need to acknowledge that there are far more class/castes than impoverished/working/middle/upper. If we can't name them, how do we help them?

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While I strongly support the notion of a luxury good sales tax, I can't help but find sumptuary taxes a little silly. They sound difficult to administer and ripe for abuse. If we're going to tax wealth, land taxes are far better since they encourage development.

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