Matthew Parris

Tax avoidance and the wisdom of pitchfork-waving crowds

16 April 2016

9:00 AM

16 April 2016

9:00 AM

In a way the headline to my fellow columnist Dominic Lawson’s Sunday Times commentary on 12 April said it all. ‘Join the pitchfork wavers on tax, Mr Cameron, and you end up skewered.’ The column had something of an 18th-century ring to it, conjuring in my mind’s eye an elegant London dinner party, with men-about-town in powdered wigs twitching back the heavy damask curtains to sneak worried glances at a riot outside: an unruly and enraged mob rampaging up the street.

But Dominic had a powerful argument. It was, he suggested, noblemen like David Cameron and George Osborne who had unwittingly energised the rabble. Dominic had warned his readers of this four years ago, when the Prime Minister and Chancellor had trumpeted their moral repugnance at the comedian Jimmy Carr’s use of a legally approved scheme to minimise tax. I don’t myself think there is moral equivalence between Mr Carr’s elaborate arrangements and Mr Cameron’s father’s use of a common and straightforward investment vehicle, but Dominic’s point was that if you encourage people to ask not only ‘Is it legal?’ but ‘Is it moral?’, you’re on a slippery slope.

And so you are. So we all are this week; slithering around in ambiguous territory with few footholds. We’re all pretty clear that choosing e-cigarettes in place of tobacco for our nicotine hit is tax avoidance of an unimpeachable kind, while investment vehicles that hide the real beneficiary’s identity are morally dubious. But in the territory between those two, we struggle to draw the boundary — and always will.


I wish, however, to issue a hesitant peep on behalf of the pitchfork brigade. Should we be unwaveringly hostile to the British public’s ‘periodic fits of morality’ that Macaulay so memorably mocked? Fits of popular morality have helped spur on reforms in our history that we hardly regret. Public opinion was used to good effect in the campaign against slavery; and again by Dr David Living-stone in his campaign against slave trading in British possessions toward the end of the 19th century. The treatment of women in prisons, the use of child labour, successive reforms of our electoral franchise… in every case reform came in part as a result of public anger whipped up against practices that were perfectly legal but increasingly felt to be immoral — the distinction that Mr Lawson seems to deplore in the case of taxation.

Politicians need kicking on sometimes. Charles Dickens’s grasp of law and politics was crude, but he understood this truth. Fierce competition between rival politicians for public approval may be unedifying to watch, may be cynically calculated, and may risk the operation of the law of unintended consequences, but isn’t that what democracy is supposed to do: make those who govern us respond to our beliefs, our opinions and our feelings? Some media commentary on the right this week has seemed to hint that this would be a bad thing.

And sometimes it might. Especially this is true when a great wave of public indignation temporarily swamps reason. Such frenzies can be as evanescent as they seem at the time to be unstoppable; and the modern news cycle in tandem with the social media has increased the speed and ferocity with which they can arise — and subside. Some of the opinions now sloshing around on tax do seem to be of this frenzied and silly kind, and commentators like Lawson are right to warn of the dangers.

But pause to remind yourself why it is that this national anger about tax avoidance has proved so easy to fuel. We’re not talking here about a sudden or capricious opinion that has only recently and probably temporarily tipped the public mood. The feeling is long-standing and deep-seated that there’s something very unfair about the rich being able to afford schemes that greatly reduce the tax they pay, while middle- and low-income people have to pay their full whack. Is this moral sentiment wrong? I think not. People genuinely don’t mind pulling their weight if they’re confident that other people are too. The thought that one is oneself paying dues that citizens much richer than oneself are managing to duck enrages people, enrages me, and should. If, as Dominic suspects, people like Cameron are ‘pandering’ to that, then I say, ‘Pander on. You should.’

Much of my family live in Spain. There has arisen there the widespread view that everyone with power, titles, money or connections is on the take in some way. This gives rise to an enervating national cynicism in which until recently people hardly bothered to protest or try to change the system, but instead resigned themselves to cheating too, just like everyone else. In Britain we have yet to come to that. Not only do people not accept that ducking your taxes is right — they believe that we, the people, are in the position to combat these practices. Rage is not impotent but constructive, directed. Is that unhealthy?

Cynics and impossiblists point out that as long as tax havens exist, people will use them. Pressed harder, they would advise (as Lawson does) that we stop blaming those who take advantage of loopholes and instead work to close them. But why has it proved so hard to close them? Many believe (I do) that too many world leaders and their friends have a direct or indirect interest in the existence of jurisdictions like Switzerland, Liechtenstein, Panama or the Cayman Islands for it to be easy to get the international consensus required.

In which case, maybe we need the tumbrils? Maybe we need the enraged mob. Maybe we need large bodies of fairly ignorant voters, hazy about the details and often wrong in the targets they choose, but united by the feeling that it isn’t fair that money can buy you exemption from the tax liabilities that poorer citizens are unable to avoid?

There is a place for pitchforks in democratic politics. Dominic thinks that by egging their bearers on, our leaders may be skewered. Perhaps. But turning away in fastidious distaste can get you skewered too.

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Show comments
  • rhys

    YES !
    And , while the pitchforks are off their hooks, lets use them also on the richíssimo owners of four houses ( at the last count ) who delight in supporting the uncontrolled mass immigration which has contributed hugely to the impossibility of house / flat purchase for people on modest incomes ( police officers / teachers ) .
    Oh ! Sorry ! ( Did I notice someone turning away in fastidious disgusto ? )

  • Richard Lally

    “but isn’t that what democracy is supposed to do: make those who govern us respond to our beliefs, our opinions and our feelings?”
    Which is why it is so important that we do something about our electoral system. How is a parliament with, for example, 1 MP representing 17% of the electorate going to respond effectively to people’s views?
    (I personally deplore the views of UKIP but I think that it is dangerous in the long term for democracy if parliament is such a poor representative of the views of the people)

    • rhys

      The current voting system has given us – inter other absurd alia – a House of Commons where Scottish voters, who are split right down the middle between unionists and separatists, are represented almost wholly by separatists.
      But when you have finished signalling your virtue, perhaps you would tell us specifically which are the ‘views of UKIP’ which you deplore ?

      • Richard Lally

        For all I know UKIP may have some reasonable views but I am sadly unaware of them.

        • SunnyD

          Hi Richard

          Are you aware that UKIP were the catalyst for the EU referendum? (assuming you care whether the country should have a say about whether or not we continue “ever closer integration” into what will eventually become a European Superstate)

          UKIP’s proposals for tackling immigration seem much more “reasonable” than anything that the past Labour and current Conservative Governments have thus far imposed on this country. Don’t forget that Dave himself said that he would not be fit for office if he couldn’t reduce net migration to the tens of thousands (I presume you’re au fait with current net migration figures). A welcome side effect of UKIP’s proposals will ease pressure on the benefits system and the NHS (effectively cutting “health tourism”) – is that “reasonable” enough for you?

          I’m no “kipper” but even I can see that some of what they propose sounds awfully more sensible than what has been inflicted on the population by current and past administrations. http://www.ukip.org/manifesto2015
          I hope this helps – and may all your troubles be little ones.

          • Bonkim

            The Referendum Party of the 1990’s was the beginning.

          • SunnyD

            chicken/egg scenario in which I say “UKIP were the catalyst” and you say “The Referendum Party was the beginning” to which I say “UKIP formed a bit earlier than 1994 (the year the Referendum Party were conceived) – even if you exclude the years they were known as the Anti-Federalist League” (1991-’93, if the Google hits are correct)

          • goodsoldier

            Why ain’t you a Kipper?

          • SunnyD

            despite their good ideas, I don’t agree with everything that I’m herring

      • Bonkim

        The reason is medieval – if you had one more on your side you could slaughter the otherside to the last man and win. Those who did not join one side or the other were spared to labour on for the winning side – sound logic..

    • Father Todd Unctious

      Well there are no MPs representing 32% of the population, those who abstained. Plus 650 representing only those who voted for them, which in most cases was fewer than half the voters in their constituency.

      • Richard Lally

        Are you advocating the Australian policy of making voting compulsory?
        .
        At least 32% of the population live in constituencies where there is no chance for anyone other than the Conservative or Labour candidate – while we continue to have an old fashioned undemocratic voting system you cannot blame people for not doing something as pointless as voting.

        • Father Todd Unctious

          No.

    • Bonkim

      Those who govern us often help channel out thoughts by leaflets and frightening noises – just in case we have our own minds.

    • goodsoldier

      What do you deplore about UKIP?

  • evad666

    23 June 2016 will hopefully see a majority Vote to Leave the EU (note I say nothing about Europe) This will then provoke a rethink across the UK and the Continent and a re-evaluation of the allegedly democratic EU Institutions.

    • Bonkim

      Don’t bet until the race is over.

  • Frank

    Careful what you wish for, if Britain does ever return to a proper pitchforks rebellion, you may find that this brings about lots of changes you wouldn’t approve of!

    • Father Todd Unctious

      The quintessential Pitchfork Rebellion in Somerset, in 1685, presaged the massive outpouring of anti-Catholic bile that has come to posterity as the Glorious Revolution. Extreme religious bigotry peppered British history until 1900.

      • Frank

        I think that burning an annual guy fawkes is pretty low key form of “extreme religious bigotry”, perhaps we should “pump it up”!

        • Father Todd Unctious

          I’m thinking more of refusing Catholics the vote until ,1830 and not allowing Jews to own property until 1859.

          • Frank

            OK, but hardly at the most “extreme” end of things (and I am not at all sure about your date of 1859, I seem to remember Jews being allowed to own property in the 13th/14th centuries, perhaps you can quote your authority?). Extreme religious bigotry would probably require minority religious groups to be subjected to pogroms, which were not a regular event in British history.

          • Father Todd Unctious

            So the Pilgrim father’s left due to our benign approach to religious dissent did they? Baptists had to build their Chapels well away from towns or near county boundaries for a quick escape until around 1800.
            Until 1670 they had to meet clandestinely in barns and often had proper burial or marriage rights.

          • Frank

            In the context of what was happening at this time in France or Germany, the British approach was not extreme!

          • Bonkim

            Most of the early immigrants to the New World were running away from poverty and persecution in Europe.

          • newname

            Frank: Jews were expelled from England in 1290 and only allowed back in under Oliver Cromwell.

          • Frank

            Not sure that is right, they were funding most of our kings from the 13th century until Oliver Cromwell. We were always quite strong on announcing expulsions, that were then quietly dropped when someone pointed out that we needed the finance!

          • Bonkim

            But it was convenient to get rid of the money lenders which wiped off your debt – and let them back to start new loans.

          • Frank

            Yes, it was a wonderful plan, probably what we should do with the likes of wonga

      • Tamerlane

        Country was fairly anti-Catholic before that twit, some chap called Fawkes.

        • Father Todd Unctious

          But we are not disputing when England became anti -Catholic,that was in the reign of Elizabeth I. We are talking about Pitchfork rebellions. The Monmouth Rebellion was in fear of a catholic King. It preceded the anti Catholic Glorious Revolution by four years.

          • Tamerlane

            No kidding.

  • Fenman

    No man has a duty to apy more tax than he legally has to. Either an avoidance scheme is legal or it is not.
    The vast majority of these schemes are to do with inheirtance tax. If the govt. lifted it to 1 million and abolished offshore trusts this wd bring it to an end, The real problem is not individuals at all but amoral multi-nationals such as Satrbucks, Google and Amazon who use complicated offshore instruments to avoid billions in tax. These are the ones to go after, but all govts seem very reluctant to do so.

    • OmnipotentWizard

      You were doing well until “The real problem is not individuals at all but amoral multi-nationals such as Satrbucks, Google and Amazo…” Just like individuals they obey the laws. I certainly wouldn’t do business with a company that paid more tax than it had to.

      • Fenman

        Having worked in the multi national world the problem is they get away with billing contrived costs, such as management fees and charges for use of brand name in the UK, which most countries will not allow. So the fault is with the incompetence of HMRC in not exposing the artifiality. There is no doubt that corps such as Starbucks are doing this. Do you really think they make no profit in the UK?
        Sent from my iPad

        • Father Todd Unctious

          I totally agree. HMRC is underfunded and badly run. Deliberately so in my opinion.

        • OmnipotentWizard

          “Do you really think they make no profit in the UK?” UK companies do the same abroad and Starbucks contributes lots in terms of employment with its associated taxation and increase in commerce.

  • Doug

    “Public opinion was used to good effect in the campaign against slavery; and again by Dr David Living-stone in his campaign against slave trading in British possessions toward the end of the 19th century. The treatment of women in prisons, the use of child labour, successive reforms of our electoral franchise… in every case reform came in part as a result of public anger whipped up against practices that were perfectly legal but increasingly felt to be immoral”

    Utter bollocks. It was all outsourced. Remember that the next time you look at your Smartphone.

    • Bonkim

      All these historic customs are thriving in many parts of the world.

  • MC73

    So populist pitchfork-waving is good in this case, but a disaster in the case of the EU referendum?

  • ellieban

    It’s the vague and chronic nature of this protest that should have the oligarchs worried. It takes a lot to organise and motivate people to protest something as hard to pin down as the endemic application of unfair taxes. If this many people are moved to turn out to oppose all the myriad impacts of austerity because the PM did something that isn’t even really morally dubious, but merely serves to highlight the difference between “them” and “us”, imagine what will happen if something truly damaging comes to light. Something like, oh I don’t know, a particular party spending more on campaigning for an election than is allowed under law, or something like that…

    • OmnipotentWizard

      As we live in the wealthiest generation ever it might be a little difficult to energise the public away from their comfortable lives.

      • ellieban

        Are you over 40 by any chance? because I’m not part of the wealthiest generation ever: I’m part of the first generation to be less well off than my parents. I’m part of a generation who has had to struggle through paying exhorbitant fees for my education while the generation above me dismantled behind them all the public services that gave them their own great start. My Grandfather died believing he’d lived in the best age to be alive and my parents agree with him. At present, I have no savings and very little opportunity to get any with a financial system that’s so attacked against me. I can’t get on the housing ladder, and the property my parents expected me to inherit will almost certainly be sold to pay for their retirements.

        I’m not out in the street yet, if only because I don’t think £30k offshore 8 years ago properly declared before running is enough to topple a government, and I don’t fancy BoJo or Osborne as replacements.

        Don’t underestimate my anger or the anger of others like me: our lives are not all that comfortable and the trajectory is in the wrong direction. Something will give eventually.

        • OmnipotentWizard

          “…I’m not part of the wealthiest generation ever: I’m part of the first generation to be less well off than my parents.” And you know that because?

          In 2013 the Conservative Government set up the Social Mobility and Child Poverty Commission. The conclusion was that MIDDLE CLASS kids MIGHT be worse off than their parents. The reason that parliament sets up these committees is so they can identify potential problems and prevent them.

          Wealth: We can now afford almost three times as many cars per million people on the road as in the 1960s. People have twice as long vacations and will probably go further. We eat out five times as often. People spend longer in retirement. Obesity is now a problem that our parents certainly couldn’t afford. The number of households has grown as we can afford to have less people per house. Benefits have far outstripped inflation.

          “I’m part of a generation who has had to struggle through paying exhorbitant fees for my education…” Incorrect. If you don;t earn enough you don’t repay your loan and if you do earn enough the repayment are minimal compared to salary.

          “At present, I have no savings…” That will depend on your age. The old adage when I was young was – you spend the first third of your working life getting into debt, the second third being in debt and the last third paying off your debt. So life for past generations was not the debt free paradise you imagine.

          “I can’t get on the housing ladder,..” So? It is a different dynamic now. In the 1970s you buy (a house) to invest and today you rent a house and invest elsewhere. No big deal.

          “I’m not out in the street yet,…” Few people are. In England and Wales there are estimated 3500 living rough out of a population of 56million.

          “Don’t underestimate my anger or the anger of others like me…” Come election day we only have one electable party at the moment – which is sad.

          • ellieban

            “And you know that because?”

            http://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/mar/07/revealed-30-year-economic-betrayal-dragging-down-generation-y-income

            “It is likely to be the first time in industrialised history, save for periods of war or natural disaster, that the incomes of young adults have fallen so far when compared with the rest of society.”

            Studies like this, and the fact that I am living it.

            “Wealth: We can now afford almost three times as many cars per million people on the road as in the 1960s. People have twice as long vacations and will probably go further. We eat out five times as often. People spend longer in retirement.”

            Yes, I’m sure the over 40s do exactly that, but my generation does not. We have no pensions and debts instead of savings. Retirement is a luxury I do not expect to be able to afford, at least in part because so much of the tax that I pay has gone on funding the retirement of those older than me. I’m not saying that shouldn’t happen, I’m simply pointing out that it’s a luxury my generation is unlikely to have access to.

            “Obesity is now a problem that our parents certainly couldn’t afford. ”

            Healthy, good quality food is expensive while addictive foods with lots of sugar are cheap: obesity is a complex problem caused by far more than simply consuming too much and it is overwhelmingly a problem of the poor in modern society.

            “Incorrect. If you don;t earn enough you don’t repay your loan and if you do earn enough the repayment are minimal compared to salary.”

            I went to the best design school in the world (the RCA in London), and I had to pay £60k up front to do it. Art school has always been a bit of a luxury that most people couldn’t afford, but 30, 20 or even 10 years ago it was nothing like the equivalent of 2 – 3 years salary to attend, even for people like me who, for various reasons to do with successive governments cutting education funding, don’t qualify for any support at all. I was the only person on the course who was not the child of a wealthy family. I *think* it will end up being worth it in the end, we shall see, but please don’t presume to tell me I haven’t had to pay for my education, I have paid far more than you know and I am not alone.

            “So? It is a different dynamic now. In the 1970s you buy (a house) to invest and today you rent a house and invest elsewhere. No big deal.”

            There is no money to save. It’s not that I can’t *invest* in housing: I can’t invest. This is the same attitude that lead the government to try to help poor people get on the property ladder by offering a new ISA. Great, if you have the money to save for a deposit, but savings are a luxury that many cannot afford–like vegetables.

            The concept of there being no money seems remarkably difficult for some people to grasp, I can only assume you’ve never had to experience it. I’m pleased for you. To dismiss the anxiety that comes from knowing you’ll never have even the chance of a permanent roof over your head as “no big deal” is simply breathtaking in its privilege.

            I’m sure that 3500 (which is a number I don’t believe: this article says CHAIN counted 7500 different people sleeping rough at some point in London alone: http://www.crisis.org.uk/pages/rough-sleeping.html) are comforted to know they are only a tiny proportion of the 56 million who have a roof over their heads.

            We can agree that there is only one electable party at present and that that’s sad, although I doubt we agree over which party that is.

          • OmnipotentWizard

            The Guardian article is largely in line with the Government’s own findings. The article makes it clear that the issues surrounding this are global. Also bear in mind that the survey has been taken at a low point in the economic cycle and also that the article doesn’t say that the young are poorer in absolute terms – rather the implication is that they rest of society are a lot richer.

            Certainly my kids are better off than me at the same stage and when it comes to houses they “rent-and-invest” rather than “buy-to-invest”.

            Your biggest problem is that you will live loner than me – and you will have to pay for that by saving more or working longer.

            “I went to the best design school in the world (the RCA in London), and I had to pay £60k up front to do it.” I have to say that was your choice. In the 1960s very few people could have afforded this especially as the end job is likely to not be well paid. In the past we had less freedom to pursue our dreams and had to worry about getting a job that would support us at the end.

            “The concept of there being no money seems remarkably difficult for some people to grasp,…” People have got into “the World owes me a living mode” over the last generation. If you can’t get a job with a reasonable salary which matches you art qualification then (a) you didn’t choose your path wisely when leaving school, (b) there are plenty of manual or office jobs that will pay reasonably well, and (c) you can always move to a cheaper area.

            We now live in a more meritocratic society than at any time.

            “I’m sure that 3500 (which is a number I don’t believe:…”
            “The Autumn 2014 total of rough sleeping counts and estimates in England was 2,744” (Rough Sleeping Statistics England – Autumn 2014 Official Statistics – ONS)
            AND

            “A total of 3,569 rough sleepers were identified by counts and estimates by local authorities in Autumn 2015, up from 2,744 a year before.” (BBC Online News 25/02/2016)

            “…I doubt we agree over which party that is” You may like Corbyn but he ignores the basic rule of economics:

            Wizard Rule 3: A country can only redistribute wealth if it can create wealth to redistribute.

          • ellieban

            “The Guardian article is largely in line with the Government’s own findings. The article makes it clear that the issues surrounding this are global.”

            Yes. The UK is part of the globe.

            “Also bear in mind that the survey has been taken at a low point in the economic cycle”

            That’s debatable. I don’t really believe “the economic cycle” exists in the way it has been assumed to for the last 200 or so years, but that’s outside the scope of this discussion and a can of worms I don’t particularly care to open on a lovely spring Sunday when I should be outside, not sitting at my computer!

            “and also that the article doesn’t say that the young are poorer in absolute terms – rather the implication is that they rest of society are a lot richer.”

            Exactly. The rest of society has gotten richer and has left the younger generation behind. We are no worse of than you were at our age (or at least, not by much), but we are not better off either and, crucially, you are. That’s the whole point. I’m not saying I have nothing, I’m saying the trajectory is no longer going in the right direction. That’s problematic.

            “I have to say that was your choice. In the 1960s very few people could have afforded this especially as the end job is likely to not be well paid. In the past we had less freedom to pursue our dreams and had to worry about getting a job that would support us at the end.”

            Of course it was my choice, and I count myself very lucky that I was in the position to make it. And again, that is my whole point: shouldn’t it be a choice everyone should have open to them? Design thinking is a very important and widely applicable skill: the world would be a better place if everyone had access to that training. I am lucky, and I would prefer to live in a world where everyone had access to that same opportunity because it would improve the country I live in for me.

            As John Green put it: “I support free education for everyone because I don’t want to have to live with a bunch of stupid people”. Education–any and all education–should not just be a privilege for the rich (or, in my case, the overly stubborn and determined).

            As for younger people having the freedom to pursue our dreams, there is an element of that. However, it is also true that the well paid jobs for life that many people enjoyed through the 60s – 80s no longer exist. We no longer have fair pay or job security, so why would we suffer through a job we hate? If it’s going to be poorly paid and temporary, we may as well do our best to make it something we enjoy!

            “People have got into “the World owes me a living mode” over the last generation.”

            Please don’t be that guy. I have worked exceedingly hard: I have four degrees (three post graduate, only one of which is in the arts) and now run my own business. I worked part time from age 15 to fund that education (16 hours a week as a care assistant for the elderly, so I’m not talking a paper round or Saturday job, here). I certainly don’t believe “the world owes me a living” and in all honesty, I’ve never met anyone who does. Have you? Really? Or have you just absorbed their existence from the papers you read? Even if I did have only one degree, and even if it were “just” a BA, a world without people trained in the arts would be a sad and grey world indeed. Why should only rich people have the right to make colour for the rest of us?

            “If you can’t get a job with a reasonable salary which matches you art qualification then (a) you didn’t choose your path wisely when leaving school, (b) there are plenty of manual or office jobs that will pay reasonably well, and (c) you can always move to a cheaper area.”

            Is it so hard to believe that “jobs with a reasonable salary” are getting more difficult to find, even for people who work hard? And no, I can’t just “move to a cheaper area”: the work is in London and there are no longer any “cheaper areas” in that city (cf this weekends demonstrations!). And that’s aside from the fact that I don’t actually want to live there, because the pollution gave me asthma and I value my health.

            So my choices are: a) live somewhere with affordable housing and no well paid jobs, b) live somewhere with well paid jobs, no affordable housing and deadly air or, c) go it alone and risk everything to carve out a global enterprise that makes the world better for other people. I chose C, the hard choice. I don’t regret it, and I expected it to continue to be difficult. And yet, it is even harder now than it needed to be because of the systematic dismantling of various support structures over the last 20 years.

            Oh, there’s also d) move to another country that values my skills and treats its younger generation better. The statistics (particularly for those trained by the NHS), show that I’m not alone in finding that a very tempting option.

          • OmnipotentWizard

            “I don’t really believe “the economic cycle” exists in the way it has been assumed to for the last 200 or so years,…” That is a long way to go back. Until 1860ish the UK was still in transition because of the Industrial Revolution.

            Better to look since WW2 – it is easy to see the cycles of growth and stagnation. If you could solve that then you’d get the Nobel Prize for economics.

            “Exactly. The rest of society has gotten richer and has left the younger generation behind….” I’m not sure what you are complaining about. As I said your main problem is that you will live longer and hence need to work longer or save more. A secondary problem is one of expectation – we have a generation where we tried to push 50% of people into university education. Many were unsuited and hence avoided useful degrees (Engineering, Maths, Economics, Computing, Physics, Law, etc) because they were too hard and opted for easy degrees. In the past these would have been the people who would do the minor clerical and retail jobs.

            “Of course it was my choice, ….shouldn’t it be a choice everyone should have open to them?” If you were expecting a grant then you would be asking the tax payer (little old ladies & young families) to fund you. With a loan you fund yourself and that is fairer.

            “I have four degrees (three post graduate, only one of which is in the arts)” Now I don’t know you but….I used to recruit for a high tech company and anyone with that level of academia behind them would be immediately suspect.

            “…and now run my own business.” That is much better. If you get it right you’ll earn a lot of money and if you get it wrong you’ll be hard up. I hope you understand your market as that is why more failures occur. As we are now on the upswing of the economy cycle (that you don’t think exists) then this is the right time to take the risk.

            “I worked part time from age 15 to fund that education…” Good for you….but why take so many degrees?

            “I certainly don’t believe “the world owes me a living”….” A lot of people do.

            “Why should only rich people have the right to make colour for the rest of us?” We don’t live in an ideal World and as I said before – Wizard Rule 3: A country can only redistribute wealth if it can create wealth to redistribute.

            And I would turn the question around – why should others pay you to follow your dream if they can’t?

            “…”jobs with a reasonable salary” are getting more difficult to find,…” That is always true across a recession (and this is the fourth I’ve been through) . But now wages are rising faster than inflation again.

            “…go it alone and risk everything to carve out a global enterprise that makes the world better for other people.” There are warning bells in that statement. If you have a business then your prime focus must be to continue trading BEFORE any moral more charitable aspirations. If your business is helping people then going broke will help no one. So please be careful and employ a good accountant.

            “…because of the systematic dismantling of various support structures over the last 20 years.” I’m not sure what you think has been dismantled?

            “…move to another country that values my skills and treats its younger generation better.” You many find that the other mans grass is not as green as you think – I’ve lived in the US, Canada, Australia and Sweden and visited lots of other countries and so I have some experience.

          • Bonkim

            How long will humanity last at the rate it is breeding and consuming – that is the question to ask. Creationists believe God will drop Manna from Heaven to replenish the earth’s resources.

          • Father Todd Unctious

            Humanity will last for centuries. Only the uneducated and those with an agenda to push think otherwise.

          • Bonkim

            A century is a brief time in human history – so very short time left.

          • Father Todd Unctious

            He has bought into the lies spread by half a brain David Willetts in his distortion if the truth book the Pinch.
            A shabby misrepresentation of a babyboom generation from 1945 to 65, which in the UK simply did not exist.
            Our babyboom was1958 to 72. Only the media ignore the statistics and plough on with stories about “boomers” even though they are accusing the wrong age group.

          • Bonkim

            The earth is overpopulated and resources running out. That is the main reson the world will get poorer from now on – and Britain particularly with its huge population rise and some sections reproducing at rabbit-rates.

          • Father Todd Unctious

            No it isn’t. And no they are not. You have a minimal grasp of demographics. So why make such an odd claim?

          • Bonkim

            I suppose God asked people to populate the earth with Catholics and Muslims and from time to time Manna will fall from heaven.

          • Father Todd Unctious

            We are heading for a maximum 9.5 billion population and the Earth can already sustain 14 billion. So what is the issue?

          • Bonkim

            Rejoice and enjoy life till it lasts.

          • Tamerlane

            Space.

          • OmnipotentWizard

            “The earth is overpopulated and resources running out.” Hardly. Most of Africa is nowhere near the level of productivity of Europe for example.

            “That is the main reson the world will get poorer from now on…” Incorrect.
            “Across the world, even in countries like Bangladesh, families of just two children are now the norm – meaning that within a few generations, the population explosion will be over.” (Professor Hans Rosling)

            “…some sections reproducing at rabbit-rates.” Incorrect. Birth rates in countries where immigrants come from are already low (see above).

          • Bonkim

            You will have to research that yourself. I have done my sums and looked at the evidence. Look up the size of families in Refugee camps and those getting into boats in Turkey. Africa is quite productive where there is water given the climate. Having said that rotten social organisation and rotten cultural norms, and religion does not help – overseas aid is propping up populations where conditions were hostile ti life. Even the Sahara is getting overcrowded.

          • OmnipotentWizard

            “I have done my sums and looked at the evidence.” And are now unable to supply the evidence.

            “Look up the size of families in Refugee camps and those getting into boats in Turkey.” Neither I nor you have done this.

            “Africa is quite productive where there is water given the climate.” Hardly. The yield per square kilometer is only a fraction of Europe and just adding water won;t be much help.

            “Having said that rotten social organisation and rotten cultural norms, and religion does not help…” You do seem to have 1980s thinking.

            “…overseas aid is propping up populations where conditions…” That is not only wrong but very wrong.

            Here are the facts: In the year 2000 the UN declared “Child Peak” which
            means that the number of children in the World has stopped growing (at
            2billion). This is because that (even in poor countries) the number of children per woman is around two both of which will survive into adulthood. In the 1980s the number of children per woman was six of which five would survive into adulthood – the reason for this change is a bit counter intuitive and I suggest a video a bit later which tells you why.

            This all means that all future population growth will be from increased longevity alone. It also means that we can say with some certainty when the World population will peak and at what number – the UN estimate the the peak will occur in 2090 at a bit less than 11billion before slowly decreasing.

            Currently the World population is a little over 7billion and it is estimated that 75% of the extra 4billion will be in Africa and most of the rest in Asia.

            This video will explain: http://www.gapminder.org/videos/dont-panic-the-facts-about-population/

        • Father Todd Unctious

          What a ridiculous statement . UK wealth has doubled in the last 30 years. Life expectancy is growing rapidly. The under 40s have had the most comfortable lives in all history. Cheap air travel, mobile phones, the internet, stay at school to age 21 or 22, free healthcare, parental leave, smoking bans, huge reductions in road deaths and murder, 200 channels of TV , dishwashers, tumble dryers, microwaves, dysons, double glazing, no conscription, no hanging, easy divorce, abortion, contraception, mortgages at 1%, loans at 3%, cuisine from all over the world……what are you moaning about?

          • Bonkim

            You depict a brief moment in earth’s long history – a snapshot that will fade soon. The very facts you refer to are ruining the earth and cutting short man’s tenure.

          • Father Todd Unctious

            UK wealth has doubled every 23 years for the last century.

          • Bonkim

            but people did not have to go to their local food bank. How do you define wealth? Cubans enjoy better health and social care than the British – does that mean they are wealthier?

      • Bonkim

        I have to agree on that despite the loads of other rubbish you post..

  • OmnipotentWizard

    Anyone who says they pay more tax than they need to is a fool or a liar.

  • Jacobi

    Yes, we probably all have something to hide, in our pension funds for instance, and so on. That is to be remembered before we wave our pitchforks

    But a riot now and then is good fun provided attention is directed away from us. We all have our pet causes, of course and that is a good thing. I mean there’s still some residual slavery of course and what about positive discrimination, an abomination if there ever was one and those bloody cyclists who, who never pay road tax but clutter up the roads of us road tax payers.

    I could go on. Trouble is I never seem to find the time to go out on a good riot.

  • T Gould

    I’d rather fits of morality over things that actually matter, not increasing the tax take.

  • Newcombe

    The case against Jimmy Carr is not that he used tax avoidance schemes, but that he did so while espousing lefty, BBCite socialist tropes. Like Bono, for example – going around lecturing US taxpayers to pay more tax to help the European “refugee” crisis all the while avoiding paying his own fair share of tax in Ireland, or lecturing the rest of us on poverty and climate change while he gets getting richer and increases his own carbon footprint by flying frequently around the globe in his private jet. Oh, but they can do that because us plebs need to be told and protected. What do we know, right?

    It is these people’s hypocrisy that grits not their personal tax arrangements.

  • tolpuddle1

    It wasn’t Cameron who “energised the rabble” (i.e. the general public) – it was 2008 and its consequences.

    Compare the 1920’s v the 1930’s.

  • tolpuddle1

    It doesn’t occur to Dominic Lawson that he too belongs to a (global) rabble – the super-rich and their hangers on.

    And is there anywhere, outside the ranks of organised crime, a worse rabble ?

  • Sean L

    How is it any more “moral” to waste money raised by tax than to try to avoid paying it in the first place? There’s no *moral* question here at all: it’s just what people in the media choose to concern themselves with, which is driven by market forces: clicks, viewing figures, newspapers sales. Cameron can easily be caricatured as a “toff”, whereas the vast maw of the bureaucratic state or public sector squanders vast resources. But *impersonally*, which equates to no *story*, meaning no market. Besides, as another columnist pointed out here last week, proletarian idol Wayne Rooney earns more in a week than Cameron in a year, and in all likelihood employs top notch accountants to minimise his tax contribution. If Parris had an ounce of intellectual integrity, that’s what he’d be writing about, the sheer mendacity of what is put up for public consumption in this sphere. But instead we get this prize inanity: “Public opinion was used to good effect in the campaign against slavery; and again by Dr David Living-stone in his campaign against slave trading in British possessions toward the end of the 19th century.” But that’s all politics *is*: contesting interests competing for dominion over the public realm or public opinion. There’s no such thing as politics operating autonomously of the public. Even in dictatorships, political life is conditioned by fear of the masses. As for comparing Cameron’s tax affairs with the Atlantic or Arab slave trades… it wouldn’t pass muster in a fifth form essay, yet we’re subjected to comparable tripe here every other week…

  • Columbus ‘Chris’ Falco

    My grandfather told me this saying from the days of Mussolini -“With a government like this the only honest thing to do is to cheat on your taxes”

    ” Con un governo come questo l’unica cosa onesta da fare è barare sulle vostre tasse “

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