A while ago, I pointed you, dear reader to Giles' blog, Swing Voter. He's a centrish type and I am interested in what he thinks, especially as he appears to have a genuinely open mind about which party he's going to mark his X against. In his most recent post he makes the assertion that
The left are honest. They want high taxes because they want to hurt the rich. They are envious and spiteful and don't mind showing it, because it plays well with the grockles in their constituencies, who really don't care that tax is like glue in the machinery of the economy - which, being either employees of the state or unemployed, doesn't really affect them.
The centre doesn't want to upset the aspirational, but thinks that some redistribution makes society better. I agree, up to a point. Redistribution beyond a safety net to prevent absolute poverty however, means the state actively subsidises catastrophic lifestyle choices to everyone's harm. The welfare state is a disaster for its "beneficiaries" who lose aspiration and self-respect and everyone else, who pays for it. Not just because of its cost, which is vast, but because of the opportunity costs of paying people to do nothing. That's before I make the assertion that much anti social crime is because of boredom by nihilistic unemployed people.
The welfare state makes the UK absolutely poorer, but uses sophistry to sell it to the population. Income inequality as defined by academics and the Labour party is not perceived as a problem by most of the population, who assume that poverty is defined as
"not having enough to buy basics like food and clothing"or
"having to struggle to survive each and every day"rather than
"having a lot less than everyone else"The report cited polled in Canada, but I would be very surprised if the numbers were wildly different in the UK - just 1.8% opted for the relative measure of poverty.I am not against public services, but Everything the state does, it does badly and expensively. The exception is the Military, but they have had 450 years of continuous warfare and they either get it right or get a sucking chest wound. Incentives, you see. The state is at once malign and incompetent because everything it does is replete with monopolistic producer interest - the incentives in the system are counter productive to good, efficient public services.
Economics is the study of incentives and the search for maximum utility with scarce resources. I have no problem with taxpayer funded services like health and education, indeed I think in health particularly, the poorest need the most and would therefore have the highest premiums in an insurance based system, which is unfair; it is the monolithic nature of the NHS that is the problem. Break it up, and let the tax-money follow the patient. I also advocate a tax-payer funded voucher system for schools. Let those with the most at stake guide the flow of money. It's called the market and it works.
Which brings us back to the original problem: Tax as a moral issue. Funding of the public services is not the problem, especially after a decade of fire-hosing money at them - this is an issue more of delivery, which is shit. This is what most centrists use as an argument for higher tax: so that there can be "investment" (don't get me started) in the public services. What high taxes are actually being used for is to pay public servants over the odds and to create a client state of welfare recipients which includes more or less anyone with a family, to Labour's electoral advantage. Is this moral?
This huge sum of money is taken off poor people at source, swilled around several hundred thousand civil servants and some of it given back to them. Is this "fairer" than raising the threshold at which you pay tax, when someone working full time on the minimum wage faces 90% marginal tax and tax as a percentage of income equalling that of the higher rate taxpayer? (because the rich pay accountants to drop their rate and the poor spend more on petrol, booze and fags as a proportion of their income) Why take it off them in the first place?
I do not think high tax is immoral - wrong, inefficient and stupid certainly but taxes' utility is a debate worth having. What I have a problem with is sophilistic argument, smugness and general cuntishness of the Blair/Brown project, in particular the dishonesty of the Gordon Brown tax regime. If you're convinced that high taxes are the way forward, vote lib-dem. The Tories will cut taxes when and if they can, because it increases utility from scarce resources, whether or not it increases revenues. But I urge you not to consider it as a moral issue.