Ritchie in the Labour Left book

This is actually rather fun.

By that I mean Labour needs to begin talking about taxes as if they are a good thing
 because that is true. Tax is what pays for so many things in life that we too easily takefor granted but which are essential to us all, like the NHS, education, pensions, socialwelfare, social housing, law and order, job creation, the fire service, defence and somuch more. These are things to celebrate. And in that case we should celebrate the taxthat pays for them and make clear that Labour does not apologise for tax: it thinks it isa good thing.
It\’s just so strange that an accountant cannot get costs and benefits right.
Sure, (some) of the things we get from the spending of taxes are just lovely to have. But the taxes that have to be charged are clearly a cost.
There is always thus a tension between the cost of the taxers that have to be raised and the benefits of the things that we get from the spending of the taxes that have been raised. Stating that tax, in and of itself, is a good thing is to ignore this really rather important distinction. A distinction that you\’d expect an accountant to really rather grasp.
Another way of putting it is that everyone, including Ritchie, agrees that some things that tax money are spent on are not worth the pain of the taxes raised to provide the money to spend. Take profits to people building PFI schemes for example: Ritchie is spitting with rage about that. He doesn\’t think that that what we get from such PFI profits is worth the cash being handed over. That is, that the costs of collecting the tax are not worth the benefits we get from the tax being spent.
I think the same about subsidies to luvvies: no doubt you\’ve your own pet hates as well.
But this is just a lovely typo:
That might seem like a statement of the obvious, but it is a philosophy very different from that promoted by thinking over the last thirty or so years.
All those people who have been thinking for 30 years. Obviously wrong, the lot of them. What he means of course is \”promoted by the thinking of the last thrity years\” (ie, the bastard neo-liberals) but that\’s not actually quite what he says.

26 thoughts on “Ritchie in the Labour Left book”

  1. given that Brown was ever so carfeful to make sure he took more in tax whilst claiming to be taking less then this would be an interesting change in direction. And I guess all those focus groups would confirm it would be an electorally disasterous policy. At least the murph does not claim to be a Labour supporter!!!

  2. One would imagine that he keeps a guide to UK taxes & a box of tissues by his bed.
    Amazing what gets some aroused.

  3. I actually agree with him that ideally people would feel better about paying taxes because they’d feel they are getting good things in return. Nordic citizens allegedly feel better about paying their very high taxes because they think they get a lot in return – not necessarily personally, but collectively. I gladly pay for beer, for instance, and would be happy to “talk about paying for beer as if it’s a good thing” – this is not because I cannot differentiate between costs and benefits. I am surprised that governments do not do more to persuade people that tax revenues buy good things for us all. You don’t need to tell me about the examples of waste, but I think there are more positive examples that we could be told more about.

  4. A suggestion that sometimes does the rounds is feting big tax contributors like the philanthropists of yore. By their funding of social services, pensions, infrastructure etc they should be celebrated as heroes and maybe even given some extra perks (to encourage others not to avoid or evade, or even to make extra voluntary contributions like those old appeals whereby middle-class women would sell off their silverware to help pay off the national debt). Plaques on houses, maybe even the right to use a dedicated lane on the motorway. A bizarre idea and unsurprisingly it has never taken off, but I can see and appreciate the logic.

  5. sorry, I somehow misread “a suggestion doing the rounds” as “my suggestion is …”

    bad speed reading

  6. My job is good. Without it I would not be able to pay my mortgage but less hours and the same wage would be better.

    The same for taxes.

    Actually some government spending is bad for me – paying for some one else’s home so I can’t live there is not good for me. (I don’t want anyone to live in the street but I don’t want them to live in state subsidised luxury housing and compared to me it often is luxury housing.)

  7. There is an entire category of articles on his site called “the Joy of Tax” – look on the categories listing bottom right.

  8. Alastair Harris

    RM is not only a Labour supporter, he is a member of the Labour party and spoke at the party conferency this year.

  9. “I wonder if that allusion to the Joy of Sex is deliberate or not.”

    But are there any articles there concerning anal rape?
    More to the point, are there any there that aren’t?

  10. Tax is at best a necessary evil, and often an unnecessary one. It is theft.

    For an accountant to declare that they think theft is “a good thing” should result in his disqualification.

    The PROBLEM we have, I believe, stems, in no small part, from this mutton-headed delusion that tax is a “good”.

  11. Roger

    I refer you to my comment on a previous post on this site:

    “I think RM’s viewpoint might be somewhat different. I remember an exchange of tweets with my brother in which RM argued that income was a “conditional property right”. In other words, income is not yours until the taxman has taken what he considers you owe. If you look at RM’s statement through this prism, it makes some sort of sense: if the taxman says you owe money, you do – because if he says your income isn’t actually yours, it isn’t. The burden of proving that you don’t owe that money, and therefore the income is yours, falls on you.”

    If I have understood that tweet exchange correctly, RM does not regard taxation as theft – he regards the AVOIDANCE of taxation as theft.

  12. Oh ho ho

    “[tax] is theft.”

    Ooh Hoo, and Worstall’s got a social conscience!

    Believing a single pixel on this site is like believing in Father fucking Christmas.

    Take a step back from your adolescent imaginations and look at the real world.

    Education, care, roads, fucking everything you take for granted does not happen our of some profit driven choice. It’s ther because it needs to be there.

    There is no evidence to support that buses and trains (secondary necessities) are providing better services than a commited state spend. Before you cocks all go off on one; the services were driven into the ground by numbskull ideologues, the premise for their existence remains.

    Primarily, the NHS, where it has unequivably been proved a broad success, yet all i read is this poisonous bile, mostly from idiots that have no contact with it, or else from sociopaths that don’t know how to communicate complaint to achieve positive outcomes.

    Tax is not theft when democratically mandated.

    For most English citizens, it has provided the platform for them to spout the shit you spout.

    There is no successful tax free, government-lite jurisdiction.

    Fucking grow the fuck up and stop messing up evolution.

  13. Oh Arnald, you know you shouldn’t be reading comics like the Guardian.

    A quick look at the OECD site proves the obvious conclusion that the big G has taken a ermm..very ‘partial’ reading of the report. Here is Page 1 of the OECDs data:

    Although survival rates for different cancers are improving in the UK, most other OECD countries achieve higher rates. The UK does well in avoiding hospital admissions for people with uncontrolled diabetes, but could improve the treatment of people with asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.
    ? The 5-year relative survival rate for breast cancer during 2004-2009 was 81%, up from 75% during 1997-2002, but still lower than the OECD average of 84%. For cervical cancer, it was 59%, also lower than the OECD average of 66%. And for colorectal cancer, the 5-year relative survival rate in the UK during 2004-2009 was 54% for females and 53% for males, compared with an OECD average of 62% for females and 60% for males.
    ? Avoidable hospital admissions for asthma complications and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease are higher in the UK than the OECD average. For asthma admissions, the rate was 74 per 100 000 adults in 2009, compared to an OECD average of 52. For COPD it was 213 (OECD average 198). On the other hand, admissions for uncontrolled diabetes in the United Kingdom are less than half the OECD average (24 vs. 50 admissions per 100 000 population).”

    You cannot possible read the OECD report and conclude the NHS is the envy of the world. You just cannot.


  14. Arnald
    Drove home last week along a three lane highway that spent half it’s time in tunnels or crossing suspension bridges. 500 miles in just over six hours without breaking the speed limit once. Got anything like that in the UK? Taxes paid for a road like that? That’s a toll road son. Built for profit.

  15. Education, care, roads, fucking everything you take for granted does not happen our of some profit driven choice

    So if the government starts paying teachers, care assistants, road workers, etc, less than the market wage for their skills, you maintain that this would have no impact on the provision of said services?

  16. If people feel so positive about tax, as L Enrique rather unconvincingly claims (even in the Nordics), perhaps he can explain why these enthusiastic taxpayers in the frozen north don’t voluntarily pay them.

    Why not?

  17. Arnauld, I don’t normally bother responding to your vile outbursts (I would not dignify them as rational arguments), but this is worth a response:

    “Education, care, roads, fucking everything you take for granted does not happen our of some profit driven choice. It’s ther because it needs to be there.”

    It may be a mystery to those who cannot remember a world before the modern, social democratic welfare state, but the fact is that millions of people, even in late Victorian Britain, for instance, had created Friendly Societies, unions, co-operatives, etc, to fund schools and medical care. Some roads were paid for by local parishes; some by tolls (the old Turnpike system), etc. Of course, for the very poor, there is a need for some collective provision, hence taxes. But it is nonsense to claim that none of these real or alleged “public goods” cannot operate without tax, or at least the sort of heavy taxes we have now.

    Go back under your rock.

  18. On thinking about it didn’t Labour try RM’s recommended approach in the 1980s, in its election manifesto described as “the longest suicide note in history”?

  19. Arnald:
    “Tax is not theft when democratically mandated.”
    So if 51% of the punters voted to enslave the other 49% it wouldn’t actually be slavery because it was democratically mandated?

  20. “So if 51% of the punters voted to enslave the other 49% it wouldn’t actually be slavery because it was democratically mandated?”

    Good question. This is something that needs to be understood: theft is still theft even if a majority votes for it. If you cannot understand that, you cannot understand that there are important limits on government power that trump the wishes of a majority of voters at any one point in time. That is why there are things like Bills of Rights, courts, checks and balances, etc.

    That said, we can argue that some things are so important for freedoms to endure – such as property rights, external defence, courts, and so on – that we need to collectively provide for them, and as it is not always possible to rely on voluntary funding, we need taxes. But in a constitutional republic (not the same as unrestrained majoritarianism), there must be constraints on such a tax-raising power.

    What is clear, when I read the comments of Richard Murphy, is that he sees no need for restraint on such powers at all. In his eyes, all wealth is a collective thing and the state allows us to retain some of it on sufferance.

  21. Bloke in Spain,

    Arnald can’t really answer that. He doesn’t live in the UK. If I recall correctly he lived in the Channel Islands and used to work in the compliance department of a finance company.

  22. Thanks to Luis Enrique – that’s indeed where I got the idea from, albeit had forgotten the source!

    Genuine question for Arnald, if he wishes to engage. There’s clearly a feasible case you’re making out for state investment in education, healthcare, infrastructure (though I think you’re wrong to be so sure it’s the ONLY feasible case). But how do you decide WHICH of these things gets what investment? They’re all competing for capital, labour etc. Again there’s a feasible case that ‘numbskulls’ misallocated resources in the past. So how do intend non-numbskulls to run the country in perpetuity? (Pretty much everyone agrees that democratic elections fail at this, even if we disagree who the numbskulls are. But so-called ‘technocracy’ doesn’t look much healthier.) And on what basis should they make decisions on competing calls for resources? What’s ‘enough’ for healthcare, ‘enough’ for railways, ‘enough’ for power and water utilities?

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