Ponder the graph above. Sixty-nine per cent of [UK] Labour supporters would want a top rate tax of 50 per cent even if it brought in no money.
I’m sure they’d dispute the premise. I’m sure they’d insist that it did bring money in. And, on one level, they’d believe it; it’s human nature to start with the result we want and then rationalise it to ourselves with what look like hard data. I think their rationalisation would be false, obviously – once the behavioural consequences of the tax are factored in, it becomes a net drain on revenue – but I might be subject to my own confirmation bias in the other direction.
Anyway, this isn’t a blog about the statistics – I’ve already posted one of those. No, this is a blog about the mind-set of people who see taxation, not as an unpleasant necessity, but as a way to punish others.
This is amazing. Over two thirds of UK Labour supporters want higher taxes, even if those higher taxes did not produce more revenue for the Government.
I wonder what the percentage would be in NZ?
Envy is an ugly and debilitating condition, but it seems to have an evolutionary-biological basis. The dosage varies enormously from individual to individual, but even toddlers often display a sense that, if they can’t have something, no one else should either. If they had the vocabulary, they would doubtless, like the 69 per cent of Labour supporters, explain that emotion “on moral grounds”. Few toddlers, and few Labour voters, openly admit to being actuated by vindictiveness.
Hannan also touched on inequality:
I accept that there are advantages in homogenous, Nordic-type societies. Huge inequalities of wealth can lead to higher stress levels, higher crime rates and weaker social engagement (oddly, the people who deploy these arguments in support of economic homogeneity almost never extend them to multiculturalism, but that’s another story).
The case against state-enforced equality is not that a narrowing of the wealth gap is in itself a bad thing; it’s that it carries a disproportionate cost in terms of lost prosperity and lost freedom.
Wealth taxes make societies more equal; but they do so by making them less prosperous. We can push plutocrats into shifting their money abroad. We can drive hedgies to Singapore or Switzerland. We can, more prosaically, make entrepreneurs spend more time with their accountants and less creating jobs. We can encourage by far the most common forms of legal tax avoidance: shorter hours and earlier retirement. All these things will make our country more equal. All of them will make it poorer.
And be careful with what you wish for:
Following the credit crunch, inequality fell. City salaries plummeted, average salaries fell slightly, benefits stagnated. In other words, the 69 per cent got their way: Britain became poorer and more equal. Yet, in the event, it was Labour supporters who moaned loudest. There’s no pleasing some people.
The focus should be on economic growth. If you grow the pie, then you get better options as to how to divide it up. Taking more tax off hard working taxpayers so you can give it parents earning $140,000 does not grow the pie.