Tag Archives: inequality

Spending more on international aid

Politicians recently voted in favour of a commitment to spend 0.7% of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) on international aid, despite opposition from some MPs. I would argue that when it comes to giving aid to those who are worse off than us, national borders are arbitrary, and we should be just as concerned with global poverty as with poverty within our own country. Looking at it that way, 0.7% actually seems a very small amount.

The UK, by several measures, has the sixth biggest economy in the world. Even if we look at GDP per person, the UK is generally ranked from 24th to 28th, which is still well above average. It is worth explicitly stating that for those of us who are born in a rich country such as the UK, it has not been through merit. Much is made of inequality in the UK and how it’s not right that those born in poorer families have far fewer opportunities in life than those born in rich families. But the same logic applies for those born in poorer countries. And this is why we should not begrudge money sent to other countries in the same way that we should not begrudge the welfare state within our own country.

International aid is not simply about sending money abroad. Many of those who leave poorer countries are the better qualified people, such as doctors, and this can lead to a “brain drain” leaving these countries in a worse state than before. Richer countries are often keen to take the “brightest and best” from poorer countries, without considering the effects on the countries that are being left behind. This is not to say that people should be prevented from leaving their home countries for a better life elsewhere, but the richer countries should not be actively trying to poach these people, and we can counteract this in any case by sending people qualified in the relevant areas (with the necessary financial incentives) to help provide the essential services and build up the infrastructure of poorer countries.

By helping other countries approach the level of wealth that this country enjoys, we would also be helping ourselves. Where there isn’t a wealth disparity, the freedom to travel from one country to another is seen as an equal and mutually beneficial arrangement between the countries involved. So the more we help the poorer countries to become richer and reach our own standard, the less resentment and fear (whether warranted or not) there would be about immigration. It is bound to be a slow process for many countries, but the sooner we start and the more effort we make, the better for everyone.

Sending aid at the right time to countries that need it can also save us money. When there are natural disasters such as the 2004 Boxing Day tsunami, the 2010 Haiti earthquake, or Typhoon Haiyan in 2013, a lot of money is sent to the affected countries in aid. But if these countries had previously been helped to build more secure infrastructures to protect against such devastation in the first place, it would have saved a lot more in the long run, in both human and economic terms.

As a comparison, the UK spends about 2.3% of GDP on its military, which puts the 0.7% spent on international aid into context. For developed countries to spend 0.7% of GDP on international aid was a target of the UN Millennium Project. But this is supposed to be a minimum, and while the recent vote in the Commons was a step in the right direction, I would push for more. Given the levels of military spending and the levels of global poverty, I don’t think spending 2% of GDP on international aid would be excessive.

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Nationalising housing rental

I argued in my last post that we should have a Citizen’s Income to guarantee a minimum amount for everyone in the drive to eliminate poverty. On top of that, the essentials for living need to be affordable. For example, I have previously argued that we should nationalise energy. Essential utilities should be publicly owned and provided by the state to ensure that they will always be affordable and profits won’t be siphoned off by for-profit companies.

Another basic requirement for living that needs to be reasonably priced to help rid ourselves of the poverty scandal is housing. Everyone needs somewhere affordable to live, but those who rent often do so at the whims of private landlords, who can charge what they like, and evict people for spurious reasons. For example, landlords can legally discriminate against those on benefits even if there have been no problems with their payments.

I also said in my last post that most people do not work in jobs that are directly related to making produce that is essential for our survival; we are a country that can easily produce above and beyond the survival essentials, and yet we still lack in these areas. More houses need to be built, and the government needs to commit money to spend on it. We need to concentrate on essentials before luxuries.

In some ways, the case for nationalising housing rental is stronger than the case for nationalising utilities such as gas, electricity and water. Making money simply by owning property is a perfect example of what is wrong in our society. Landlords make more wealth for themselves simply by passively having wealth in the first place. This creates a bigger gap between the wealthy and everyone else, fuelling inequality and poverty. We need to break this vicious circle. Not only that but they are subsidised by the state! They are also the biggest beneficiaries of housing benefit, so it is the public’s money – our money – being used to create a bigger gap between rich and poor.

Setting strict limits on what rent can be charged, as happens in some countries such as Germany and Canada, would be a good start, but nationalisation of housing rental should be the ultimate goal. Housing is a basic essential that should be provided by the state.

Of course, an outright ban on private tenancy might seem an extreme move. If someone has a spare room in their own house, it doesn’t seem unreasonable for them to have a paying lodger. And I wouldn’t be looking to stop this. It is houses that are purely owned for renting that I am concerned with. To start, the government needs to start building more houses and set its own rate for renting. This way, rent limit or not, landlords who charge high prices would simply be priced out of the market. But in the long term, houses that are owned purely for renting purposes could be compulsorily purchased by the government, and then let out by the government. Compulsory purchase orders are nothing new. They are often used to evict people from their own homes that they actually live in, for roads or other developments. Compulsory purchase of landlord’s rental houses is very minor in comparison as it would not force anyone out of their own home.

Is this illiberal? I would argue not. Land ownership more than any other sort of property ownership intrudes on the freedom of others. If I own some item, say a bike, then yes, it uses some the Earth’s natural resources (the material it is made of), but in the general scheme of things this is negligible, and it does not really mean that there is less stuff for other people. But land ownership is different. Land is limited in a much more obvious way, and I also think that there is on an intuitive level less of a right to claim ownership of it – to privately own part of the country. Often it has just been passed down through the generations, having initially been acquired through arguably dubious means. And the land ownership inequality we have in this country is enormous. According this article, 69% of the land in Britain is owned by 0.6% of the population. According to this article, 432 people own half the private rural land in Scotland. And according to this article, a third of the country still belongs to the aristocracy.

In any case, I’m not suggesting an outright ban on private land ownership. People who own houses that they live in would have nothing to worry about under my proposals. But people who own part of our country for no other reason than to passively make money from it should not be allowed to do so.

Introducing a Citizen’s Income

It is the Green Party’s policy to have a Citizen’s Income – an unconditional set allowance for all citizens. This is a policy that I agree with, and while I am standing against Paul Jeater from the Green Party in the General Election in May of this year, I think it is right for rival politicians to work together when they have similar views and not simply disagree for the sake of it. To quote from the Green Party’s website:

“Citizens’ Income

EC730 A Citizen’s Income sufficient to cover an individual’s basic needs will be introduced, which will replace tax-free allowances and most social security benefits (see EC711). A Citizen’s Income is an unconditional, non-withdrawable income payable to each individual as a right of citizenship. It will not be subject to means testing and there will be no requirement to be either working or actively seeking work.

EC731 The Citizens’ Income will eliminate the unemployment and poverty traps, as well as acting as a safety net to enable people to choose their own types and patterns of work (See EC400). The Citizens’ Income scheme will thus enable the welfare state to develop towards a welfare community, engaging people in personally satisfying and socially useful work.

EC732 When the Citizens’ Income is introduced it is intended that nobody will be in a position that they will receive less through the scheme than they were entitled to under the previous benefits system. Children will be entitled to a reduced amount which will be payable to a parent or legal guardian. People with disabilities or special needs, and single parents will receive a supplement.

EC733 Initially, the housing benefit system will remain in place alongside the Citizens’ Income and will be extended to cover contributions towards mortgage repayments (see HO602). This will subsequently be reviewed to establish how housing benefit could be incorporated into the Citizen’s Income, taking into account the differences in housing costs between different parts of the country and different types of housing.”

This Citizen’s Income would obviously go to the very rich as well as those who really need it, but readjusting the income tax brackets accordingly would effectively cancel this out. This would be simpler than means testing, and because everyone would receive it regardless of their personal circumstances, there would not be any stigma attached to receiving it.

But wouldn’t this encourage people not to work? I don’t think it would. People out of work do in most cases receive money from the state anyway, and the Citizen’s Income simply guarantees this and removes any uncertainty. More importantly, most people out of work do want a job, and not just because it means they wouldn’t have to make regular trips to the job centre. The lecturer in this video discusses and rebuts the potential problems such as the possibility that people might decide not to work. In summary, he says that most people are worried that other people would give up work, but that this worry is misplaced because very few would want to give up work themselves.

Since humans took up agriculture thousands of years ago and settled in permanent locations, we have been able to produce goods more effectively and haven’t all had to spend our lives simply hunting or foraging for food and making sure we have some sort of shelter for the night. This is why nowadays most people have jobs that seem to have no connection to making things that are essential to our survival. Given this excess, we should all be able to live with a certain amount of comfort and without every person having to be in work at any given time. And yet, many people still live in poverty.

On top of this, we’re told that people have been getting exponentially wealthier, so why is it then that people still have to work the same number of hours just to have enough to get by? Well, even if the average wealth per person has gone up, inequality has been increasing, so this means that many people haven’t seen any increase in their own personal wealth, while those at the top have taken more than their fair share.

The Citizen’s Income should go some way to addressing this by providing everyone with this basic minimum allowance. By having a Citizen’s Income, people would be able to pick where to work without being forced into undesirable and exploitative jobs through necessity, and they would be freer to choose their own paths in life. There is enough wealth in the country to allow for this, but it is currently very poorly distributed. It is time for this to change.

Press coverage of my campaign to become Braintree MP

In the past few days, my campaign to become MP for Braintree has increased its profile! There have been articles about my candidacy in the Braintree and Witham Times, Essex Chronicle and Colchester Gazette. In addition to these articles, I have also made a Facebook campaign page, which I invite and encourage you to “like” if you are on Facebook.

The newspaper articles highlight electoral reform, wealth inequality, public transport nationalisation and green energy as policy areas of mine. These and many other issues are discussed on this blog, so if you’ve not already done so, feel free to have a look around. All the posts are linked to down the left-hand side, as well as on the “About” page.

The Essex Chronicle article quoted me as saying that the idea that MPs are elected on local issues is outdated. This is a slight misrepresentation of my views. I think that people should be able to vote on any issue or issues they want. This includes, among much else, local issues, but in particular I don’t think that people should be limited to voting for whichever candidates happen to be standing in their geographical constituency. It should be a national election. As I discussed here, people’s voting power varies wildly from constituency to constituency, partly because of safe seats, and also in terms of the selection of candidates standing. On this latter point, traditionally the main parties do not field a candidate against the Speaker of the House (currently John Bercow). Presumably they see the loss of democratic options for the Speaker’s constituents as collateral damage.

I discussed here various possible ways of holding a simple proportional election that would enable voters to vote for any candidate in the country. I did not at the time commit to any one of these. However, having given the matter further thought, I will shortly write another post to clarify exactly which system I am advocating.

The problems of devolution

The Scottish independence referendum is looming, so after all this waiting, the result will soon be known. Personally I’d prefer the UK not to be split up, but that’s not what I’m here to post about today. I’m here to discuss the devolution of powers to the separate nations within the UK, including the Scottish parliament, which may have further powers devolved to it even with a “no” vote.

Why do we need the separate devolved parliament in Scotland, and assemblies in Wales and Northern Ireland? One argument is the cultural differences that these nations have. However, it’s not as if people in different parts of the UK have fundamentally different needs as a result of this. We all need money to be spent on the same basic things – a health service, education, transport etc. We’d all like not to have to pay university tuition fees or prescription charges; it has nothing to do with cultural differences. There are also cultural differences within these nations and also within England, and most of England is far from Westminster, but that doesn’t mean that you need a further proliferation of parliaments or assemblies to take all this into account.

The problem is that the devolved powers create an extra bureaucratic layer, and can create arbitrary and unfair differences and inequalities between nations within the UK, when there is already such a problem with inequality in the UK. And yet we have a system that seems specifically designed to increase the levels of both bureaucracy and inequality with no obvious advantages.

We have the arguably arbitrary Barnett Formula, which is used to determine how funds are split between England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. However, funds should go where they are needed in the UK at a finer level than this, so the borders between England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland should not have any particular relevance. For these purposes, the UK does not need to be divided into four regions in such a blunt manner.

This crude allocation of money makes it more likely to make a difference where you live – more of a “postcode lottery” if you like. For example, there are no prescription charges in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, and no university fees for Scottish students, as well as extra financial support for Welsh students. This makes a mockery of any drive towards equality. But also, because England doesn’t have its own devolved parliament, decisions affecting England are voted for by the whole UK parliament, meaning that Scottish MPs can vote for tuition fee rises in England knowing that Scotland will be unaffected. You might have deduced from my posts that the Daily Mail isn’t my favourite newspaper but this is still quite an interesting article on the subject.

Same sex marriage was legalised in England and Wales in March 2014, but it won’t be introduced in Scotland until the autumn. And there are no plans to introduce it in Northern Ireland at all. The whole UK Parliament voted it through, but only for England and Wales. The Scottish parliament had to then vote separately for Scotland. It’s interesting that despite the existence of the devolved Welsh assembly, the UK parliament voted it through for both England and Wales, whereas Scotland and Northern Ireland are both treated separately for this. So what counts as a devolved issue seems rather arbitrary and inconsistent.

Not much was made in the media (at least as far as I could see) of the fact that it was only in England and Wales that same sex marriage had become legal, considering this and other significant legal differences that we now have within one country.

I don’t think it makes much sense to have a country that has such inequality in law in different places. Every time there is the need for change in an area that’s arbitrarily been deemed to be devolved, it has to go to a vote in all these separate parliaments and assemblies to make it law across the whole of the UK. This clearly just makes the whole process more bureaucratic and cumbersome.

We actually had three different legal systems in the UK before devolution: English law (applicable in England and Wales), Scots law and Northern Ireland law, because these systems existed before the union was created. However, this is something that should have been addressed by the UK parliament, gradually equalising the laws between these nations, taking the best bits from all of them, and should have been completed years ago. It’s not something that should be used to create further legal inequality and complexity across the UK. We shouldn’t be expected to have to learn new laws and remember what is applicable where when travelling from one part of the United Kingdom to another. It’s time that the UK came together with one parliament and one system of law to ensure greater equality, fairness and simplicity. If Scotland votes for independence, then clearly it’s another matter for them, but whatever remains of the UK would be better with one parliament working for everyone.

Reducing inequality and poverty

I stated in my last blog post that we need to tackle inequality in the UK. I suggested that we could start by increasing income tax for higher earners. There is a lot of disagreement as to whether this is the best way to raise funds without it backfiring in other ways, and there are other suggestions that could be worth considering such as a tax on land value along with a decrease in income tax and other taxes. Empirical research and comparisons between different countries is always required, rather than mere guesswork of course. There are two distinct problems: what we want to achieve, and how best to achieve it. What we need to achieve remains the same: reduce poverty and inequality. How best to achieve it is an open question, but my proposal last time was fairly conservative in that respect: a gradual increase in income tax for higher earners, starting with a 50% top rate on earnings over £150,000 a year, which we had until 2013 anyway. If this doesn’t have the desired effect, then of course we would have to look elsewhere. This isn’t about ideological policies; we need policies to achieve what they have been put in place for.

In any case, there is much more to reducing inequality than higher taxes for those on high income. We can start with an increase in the minimum wage. It has long been said that the minimum wage is not enough to live on. The minimum wage is currently £6.31 an hour for those aged 21 and over, £5.03 for those aged 18 to 20, £3.72 for those under 18 and £2.68 for an apprentice under 19 in the first year of level 2 or 3 apprenticeships. According to the Living Wage Foundation, the living wage is £8.80 an hour in London and £7.65 an hour for the rest of the UK. The minimum wage seems not to have kept up with increases in the cost of living. It should also be the same for everyone, regardless of age. Ageism is no more a valid prejudice than any other.

Obviously those on the minimum wage need enough to live on. If those on it can’t afford to live properly, they still have to claim benefits from the government. But rather than seeing these people as a burden on the state, arguably a more appropriate interpretation is that tight-fisted employers are effectively claiming off the state to subsidise the wages they have to pay. An increase in the minimum wage will go some way to prevent this. Those out of work also need enough to live on. I would argue that anyone out of work should automatically have the opportunity to work for at least the minimum wage by doing work in the community, which could include litter picking or visiting and helping elderly people who live on their own.

I would also look at a maximum ratio between the top and bottom earners in a company. Switzerland had a vote on a 12 to 1 ratio last year, and while it was rejected, I think it is a good idea in principle. It would root CEOs’ salaries in something meaningful. Instead of awarding themselves whatever they like, they would only be able to award themselves a certain percentage rise if the company could afford that percentage rise overall. This is something that could be written into legislation, although the exact ratio would need to be carefully considered. The wage ratio between those at the top of companies and typical workers has increased dramatically over the last few decades. According to a report by Bloomberg, the average ratio has gone from 20 to 1 in 1950 to 204 to 1 today. Wagemark is a not-for-profit organisation that certifies companies that have an 8:1 ratio or lower between the highest earners and the average earnings of the lowest 10%. This and the suggested Swiss 12 to 1 ratio are fairly close together and would probably be around the right ballpark to be looking at.

Increasing the wages at the lower end of the scale would reduce the need for the state to provide benefits. But there are also other ways. By providing housing benefits, the state is effectively paying money directly into the pockets of private landlords. This is why we need more state-owned accommodation, and/or proper enforceable pricing brackets for landlords based on considerations such as size of property and the facilities it has. This would save money in the long term. Furthermore, landlords can and do currently discriminate against those on benefits, whereas it could be made unlawful to do this.

We need proper government targets on poverty and inequality – targets that will be met.  And this means that politicians and the media would have a responsibility to report statistics relevant to these. Since the economic crisis started in about 2008, two of the main economic statistics we have about from politicians and the media ever since are the government spending deficit and economic growth. I’m going to briefly talk about these statistics.

The term “deficit” was not in everyday use by ordinary people in 2008, and most people probably didn’t know what it meant. It was never introduced to us properly, and politicians and the media bandied it about like we should know what they were talking about. The deficit is the annual shortfall between income and spending. This is distinct from the national debt, which is the overall amount that the government owes. So when the government says that it has halved the deficit, this doesn’t mean that things have improved. It just means that they are getting worse at a lower rate. It’s indicative of the obsession with rate of change of a thing rather than the thing itself.

This brings us nicely to the size of the economy. It rarely gets talked about in absolute terms; it’s all about whether it’s growing or shrinking. If it’s shrinking (specifically if it has shrunk for two consecutive three-month periods), then we’re in recession and apparently that’s a really bad thing. Intuitively, the absolute size would be more important. The economy could grow for ten consecutive years, and we’d be hearing about how great everything is. Then it might shrink to the level that it was after nine years (so one year previously) and we’d be in recession. But we’d be in the same position (by the seemingly relevant measure) as we were at a time when everything was considered to be really good. Of course, I am simplifying matters, but merely stating that these are the important statistics without any explanation is, to my mind, irresponsible and lazy.

In any case, I’m not saying that we should never hear about these statistics, but more important to us is surely wealth of individual citizens and households. Statistics such as median and mean wealth and how these have changed over the years (both the thing and rate of change of the thing) would be a good start. But I’m here to talk about poverty and inequality. So we need statistics relevant to these, and these statistics need to be as well publicised as the deficit and economic growth. It doesn’t help if the economy is growing if the extra wealth is just going to those who are already rich, further fuelling inequality.

We could use the average wealth of the poorest 5% as a figure for poverty. For inequality, I think it’s slightly more complex. There is the distribution of wealth by Gini coefficient, but we could also look at simple ratios such as average wealth of the richest 5% compared against average wealth of the bottom 5%. But whatever statistics are used, they need to be official government statistics with official targets, and they need as much coverage in the media and by politicians as economic growth and the deficit.

Meeting these targets would not simply be a case of handing out massive benefits to the poorest and leaving it at that. Doing this could encourage others to give up work on the basis that they too will get these massive benefits. And the less work that gets done, the less wealth there will be, which could ultimately lead to a reduction in the wealth of the bottom 5%. It would need to be a sustainable system. There would be long-term targets to stop self-defeating policies. We can’t know exactly what will work without experimentation, but the suggestions I have made here seem a reasonable start. We also need to be scientific and see what actually works. We can start by looking at inequality in other countries and what policies seem to reduce it. This is not just about wealth; people’s health is at stake.

Inequality and taxing higher earners

Today I’m going to write about the wealth inequality in the UK. Before I start, I should point out that there is inequality and poverty across the world that is worse and more pressing, and the UK is in a very good position compared to a lot of countries, but I intend to address that issue separately.

Here are some statistics for you showing how unequal the UK is and how this has deteriorated over time. And here is a page of countries by income inequality. If you look at the OECD countries, the UK is in the top half of income equality before tax and transfers but near the bottom after tax and transfers. This is to say that our wages, while still unacceptably unequal, don’t compare too badly to other countries, but our tax system compares very badly on equality. Here is a very interesting video. As you can see the top 20% of the population of the UK have 60% of the wealth, whereas the bottom 20% have 0.6%.

However, where there is a government shortfall, the government continue to look at making savings by cutting welfare, therefore increasing inequality further. This is something that urgently needs to stop. So what do we do to reduce the government deficit (the annual shortfall between government spending and income) and ultimately the national debt? Obviously there are many things to do. One thing we need to do is make greater steps towards stopping tax avoidance schemes from large companies such as Amazon, Google and Starbucks. This will require international cooperation but hopefully this is something that will happen eventually.

But we also need to look at the amount of tax that individuals pay and ask whether it is fair. And that is the main subject of this post. Given the inequality that exists, the national debt, the deficit and the importance of keeping public services functioning at a reasonable level, of course it is right that the rich pay more tax.

Labour have announced that they would reintroduce the 50% tax rate for earnings over £150,000. While the Conservatives and a lot of other people are against this, the people it will adversely affect are already in a very privileged position in society. It is also only what they earn over £150,000 that is affected, so they would need to already be earning quite a lot more than this for it to have a significant impact. It might be an annoyance to them, but at the other end of the scale, cuts in welfare are not a mere annoyance – they can ruin lives. This isn’t a game; this is people’s lives, so when it comes to taxing the rich a bit more, I find it impossible to feel any sympathy for them. Personally I would suggest going even further, perhaps bringing in the 50% rate on anything over £100,000 and having a higher rate over £150,000, maybe 60%.

Of course, there is a lot of speculation that tax rises for the rich would drive talented people out of the country and so would backfire. However, it is quite clear that finding the best-paid jobs is as much about opportunity as it is about talent. If people in the best-paid jobs left the country, there would be plenty of other people to take their place. Also people earning over £150,000 per year would still be very well off by anyone’s standards, so I do not believe that too many of them would go through the upheaval of leaving the country and taking their family with them, arguably out of spite.

Anything more than Labour’s proposed reintroduction of the 50% rate should probably be introduced gradually, however, just in case there were any unintended consequences. But it is something that should be tested empirically; we shouldn’t assume that it wouldn’t work in advance. Another idea worth considering is the “mansion tax” supported by Labour and the Liberal Democrats.

Then there is the argument that the highest earners already contribute the most, so it is wrong to make them contribute more. However, money is a very good invention for hiding how much people contribute and how much people take. It obscures what contribution and wealth really are. Wealth isn’t the coins you have in your pocket or the numbers on your bank statement. Wealth is far more real than that. Wealth is essentially resources and access to resources. It’s the stuff we need to live. And when someone has more than their fair share, they are depriving other people and denying them their right to a comfortable life. When people are taxed, it is not “theft” of some material possession they have, such as the coins in their pocket. The coins are just tokens indicating the amount of resources in the world that they can claim for themselves. And these resources don’t intrinsically belong to anyone.

Those that pay more in income tax do so because they take more of a wage in the first place. Although it’s not necessarily from the government (it is if they work in the public sector, however), those that pay more in income tax do so because they take more financially from society as a whole in the first place. So purely in monetary terms and looking at society as a whole (not just directly concerning the government), they are taking more wealth overall (wage minus tax) than people who pay less tax.

Obviously you can then argue that they earn more money because they contribute more through their work than people who earn less. But there’s clearly not a direct correlation here. Bankers are the obvious example but there are many others. Also at the other end of the scale, some people do incredibly worthwhile voluntary work so contribute no tax through this, but they are clearly contributing a lot to society. Financial contribution and contribution direct to the government are not the only forms of contribution that someone in society can make.

If someone works hard in a low-paid job, then they may require extra benefits from the government to provide for themselves and their family. They might then be seen as a net taker from society. Someone else might earn a lot more money or have inherited a lot of wealth, pay a lot of tax, and be seen as a net giver. But the money you earn from your job is wealth that you are taking. Someone on a low wage may still need benefits from the government, but that’s only because they’re taking such a small amount from their employer, despite possibly working as hard as anyone else. Wages are often arbitrary, and earning a lower wage doesn’t mean your job contributes less to society than a higher paid job. So if someone’s total wage plus benefits from the government is still less than another person’s wage, then they are still gaining less from society while contributing the same number of hours’ work. They may take more specifically from the government, but they are taking less wealth from the country as a whole. So overall they are arguably contributing more to society. The direct contribution someone makes is through the work they do, not through the money that goes to the government in the form of taxes. The tax someone pays is merely a by-product of what they are taking.

I’m not saying that the amount that everyone earns is completely arbitrary, of course. There are specialist skills that take years to acquire (e.g. those of medical professionals, scientists and many more), and if there was no financial benefit in acquiring these skills over taking a job that requires no qualifications, then arguably not so many people would make the effort. So I’m not arguing for a levelling out of all wealth and wages. I’m merely pointing out that those who have to pay more income tax have nothing to complain about in the grand scheme of things. And it’s not simply that we need to raise the tax rates for higher earners – we need a culture shift regarding the sense of entitlement that people have to their wealth. If you happen to be of above average wealth then lucky you, but don’t assume that those who are less well off are somehow less deserving of a reasonable life.

Reducing tax avoidance and increasing tax for higher earners are two things that can be done to raise money, but what we do with it is important. We need specific policies aimed at reducing inequality. But I think I have covered enough for one post and will address this shortly, with a discussion of the minimum wage among other things, in another post.