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Wednesday 24th August 2016
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Wealth Tax

Posted by James O'Brien on August 29, 2012 at 14:16PM

There may well be some compelling and convincing reasons why sacking soldiers is an 'economic necessity' while taxing society's richest more is the 'politics of envy' but I haven't heard any.

What I have heard is a succession of self-serving and spurious suggestions which don't stand up to scrutiny and, tragically, get swallowed wholesale by many people who mistakenly believe they are beneficiaries of the status quo rather than victims.

For example, the super-rich will emigrate if we ask them to pay more tax. Really? I know a few. They are no more likely to hand over more cash to the public purse voluntarily than anyone else but it's horribly unfair to suppose that the majority of them value their family or their friends or their country or their home or their culture markedly less than people with less money. To be temporarily downgraded from stupid rich to silly rich won't be warmly welcomed, obviously, but neither will it prompt anyone to turn their backs on all they hold dear. Unless, of course, they hold nothing but money dear in which case we should probably let them go.

Similarly, these are the people who, we are told, generate wealth so if they are really feeling the pinch let them generate a little more! Using, presumably, people whose education has been paid for through taxes, who will get to and from work using transport infrastructure paid for by taxes, treated when ill by a health service funded through taxes and all in a country protected and served by emergency and armed services paid for with taxes.

Having seen that fox shot easily by anyone with a brain, eyes and social conscience, your 'politics of envy' promoter will probably reach next for the benefits bill. While few - but by no means none - of them will be deceitful enough to bandy about the total numbers without revealing that the huge bulk goes to pensioners, most will encourage us to rail against the injustice of (wait for it) 'feckless, workshy layabouts with plasma screen TV's' who expect us to subsidise their lifestyles. And they will be succesful because we're more likely to know someone swinging said lead than we are to know an accountant architect or businessman benficiary of epic 'legal' tax avoidance. The problem is closer to home, but it's nowhere near as big. So even to mention it in the context of a wealth tax is not only emotionally dangerous - it encourages nastiness, discrimnation and abuse, just ask a disabled person how their life has changed since the scrounging rhetoric stepped up a gear last year - but also economically stupid. The national equivalent of moaning about the price and ineffeciency of windscreen wash while there's an enormous hole in your petrol tank.

So if we can't blame the poor or the unemployed or those damned 'public sector' workers with the audacity to teach our children, treat our ill, put out our fires, catch our criminals etc. who can we blame?

Easy! Foreigners. Especially poor or sick ones or those unlucky enough to live under rancid regimes in abject poverty. Get angry about how much we give to them in 'aid' and you won't have the energy or inclination left to get angry about the country's top earners getting a tax cut in the last budget or the countless billions siphoned away from the public purse by the very rich people who will, remember, take ALL their money ABROAD to FOREIGNERS if their taxes are raised. This is the most potent and the most fraudulent weapon in the 'politics of envy' arsenal but it boils down, in essence, to this: why should we take more money from Richard Branson when there's a starving Ethiopian child over there who just got fed with food we paid for?

Which leaves us - or rather them - with only the purest form of 'politics of envy' rhetoric left. The apparently sincere belief that it is somehow significant to note that the people most outraged by an unfair system are the people most damaged by it! Funny how none of the people in favour of a wealth tax would have to pay it, they might say if they were being particularly myopic. This is not only palpably false but the intellectual equivalent of questioning why victims of burglary don't like burglars. The equation of wealth with 'success' is the inevitable and frequently-voiced upshot of such a position and really closes the debate down conclusively. Replace the word succesful with valuable or useful and all becomes clear. People who are not wealthy are often extremely valuable and/or useful, really wealthy people are for the most part useful or valuable to society only in so far as their money trickles down so you actually make 'succesful' wealthy people more 'valuable' by taking more of their money away from them. They should say thank you.

If you can think of any other reasons why we are so broke we have to sack soldiers but not broke enough to redistribute money that will never, ever be needed by its current owners do get in touch.