London, England-A new wealth tax is being proposed by the leftist wing (The Liberal Democrats) of our coalition government that will come with unprecedented powers to enter our homes and root through our personal possessions to value rings, necklaces, paintings and furniture, anything that might raise more taxes. If we refuse to be inspected or get our own valuations wrong, we would be facing fines, maybe even a jail sentence.
This brainchild was conceived by the Lib Dems for their next electionmanifesto and is part of a series of measures planned to tax the better off. Taxpayers would be required to ‘self assess’ their net worth, which would be checked by inspectors under the auspices of HM Revenue and Customs. Currently this government department has no power to enter a person’s home.
This is already being done in France where a person’s ‘global assets’ – everything from his car to his mother’s antique silver fork was taxed at .25% when introduced, and inspectors there have the right to enter private homes.
Once a tax is levied, it’s only a matter of time before politicians start to tinker with it to squeeze yet more from their victims. That is exactly what new socialist president Francis Hollande did when he raised the tax to .55%. And if the rioting and austerity protests don’t abate, he’ll probably raise it again.
My neighbour has family property in France and noted the week before the tax came into force, those who could piled all their paintings and antiques into their cars and drove them over to the UK. He said the ferries were bulging with cars crammed with treasures. If this idea takes hold, they will have to load up the truck and move to … Switzerland or Lichtenstein where wealth is welcomed and appreciated, along with the cash-poor Brit that inherited a Piaget and mink coat from a relative.
France has just passed a Robin Hood tax on all financial transactions
But that’s not all. France has just passed a Robin Hood tax on all financial transactions. Americans take note. If you own shares in a French company, you will be taxed 0.2% every time you trade them. So if you hold $100K worth of shares in a French company and you sell, you owe the French government $200. And if you holiday in France and want to exchange $1000 into Euros, that’ll cost you $2. Not to worry though, it’s all going to a good cause in supporting developing countries, where France wants more influence. It’s only a matter time before the Brits pick up on this one.
Being just a proposal at this stage, the UK jewellery tax can and is being pooh-poohed as ridiculous and unenforceable. But that doesn’t stop British liberals. One of our Lib Dem MPs, Tessa Munt said that the jewellery tax was ‘an interesting idea’. As long as one of them thinks this is a good plan, they will not rest until it gathers enough momentum to try and get it passed into law.
Take the so-called mansion tax. This was an idea put forward, again by the Lib Dems and they wanted to introduce a new tax on privately owned real estate valued at more than £2million. Initially it was £1million, but after an outcry from people who were cash poor, but who had a family home that had accumulated value over the generations, was re-thought to a higher level. It doesn’t matter that people who buy these homes are likely to be buying their property after having paid 40% income tax on their earnings, or that their properties are already subject to higher council taxes, or that the owners will have paid a hefty stamp duty tax just to buy the darn thing in the first place. That is simply not enough blood, in an era of wealth envy and redistribution politics.
The idea was so tempting that the main opposition party – Labour – has picked up on it and will put it into their manifesto. Seeing as there is a real chance they may get into power in two years time, this tax will become law. And just like the French, the numbers will be raised to the point where no one will want to buy a house anymore and before you can say, ‘Happy Anniversary Darling’, that necklace you bought will be next on the list.
Liberals lead such unhappy lives. They aspire to nothing more than plotting against other people and their aspirations. Even if they have piles of money themselves, which they guard jealously, it is still not enough. Nothing can assuage the perceived injustices they see in the world. It is as though if they stopped trying to redistribute, they would have no reason to exit. They are screwed from two angles. One, redistribution never works, no matter how high you raise the ante, so they are permanently frustrated, and second, envy of what you don’t have rots the soul, so they are permanently frustrated there as well.
People who strive and build, making money out of the process, choosing to use it as they wish, generally lead happy lives. They don’t eye the other guy with disgust and loathing. If they eye him at all it is with a thought as to how to make a better product or improve a service. The liberal on the other hand wallows in envy. Catholics have a good take on this in the idea of capital vices or cardinal sins- greed, lust, pride, wrath, gluttony, sloth and envy. It is often joked that the last of these, has the least kick or thrill. With all the others you get, if only briefly, a surge of pleasure or a sense of vindication. But with envy, no one gets a thrill. The envier never feels satisfied and the envied has this dark, joyless shadow of the other’s envy on him.
The only real joy in life is the act of giving. Of oneself, of one’s time and one’s property. This is the Christian way and the only caveat is that it is done freely. This is at the heart of where joy lies. When a third party like the state forces the giving, it robs the relationship between the two people in the charitable act, the one giving and the one receiving and the genuine happiness that both receive.
The great American economist Walter E Williams puts the argument like this, and I am paraphrasing, ‘ If I come and point a gun at you and force you to give me your money, which I then give to the homeless person down the street – have I committed a crime? Now if I am the government and force you to give me money on the threat of jail and I give it to homeless person, have I committed a crime? ‘If you are a liberal you would have answered no to both, because the end always justifies the means, even if the means are evil in nature. But practice an evil act like this for long enough and you won’t’ know where to stop. This kind of means cannot justify the ends.
This is where leftist politicians lose their way. Once they start a tax or a system of money extraction, it can never stop and even the ends become disengaged from reality. The worthy cause becomes indiscriminately confused with the unworthy.
Alongside the wealth tax headlines, we also have the story of Heather Frost, an unemployed mother of 11 children by several different men, who lives on state benefits and is having a large £400,000 eco house built for her at taxpayer expense. Frost already has two council houses which are connected together via a door, but alas there is not enough room for the kids AND the menagerie of a wheezy horse (and the attendant vet bills), the £1,000 Macaw, and various other pets. The outrage has been considerable, especially in the light of the downgrading of our AAA UK credit rating by Moody’s. Although this has not been understood by the local politicians who think they are performing a good deed. Well that’s fine. If this is considered a worthy cause, get a charity together and pay the woman’s bills. One or two might even be willing to sell their jewels to finance it. That would be the free thing to do. Those preferring to spend their money on those with unavoidable need, or those that have to restrict the number of children they have because they know they cannot afford more, then that would be the free choice to make.
Taxation takes away our freedom, but more importantly it takes away our humanity. I am not advocating we don’t pay toward the basic infrastructure of society, but we must rediscover what it means to be human which, of course means sharing, but it also means preserving and creating beauty.
We are the only creature on this earth that creates beautiful things. Beauty is what brings us close to our creator. It is that capacity that also brings joy to the human spirit. Tax our treasures to the point where they are not worth having and you end up like a cold war Soviet Union, everyone dressed in grey suits, living in ugly concrete blocks and drinking gallons of vodka to eradicate the bleakness that surrounds. Live in this long enough and one even loses the inclination to aspiration – to create beauty, wealth, or anything other than eking out your existence until the next payment from those that would steal from others to give to you.
Given the old adage that you get less of what you tax and more of what you subsidise, we are heading straight for a soulless, ugly world. The only way out is to be more productive, tax less and let people live their own lives. The budget in March 2013 is most likely the last opportunity the Conservative Party will have to take a bold step and reduce taxes in order to stimulate the economy and increase tax revenues, but based on their inept performance to date I’m not holding my breath. Maybe I’ll even take up drinking vodka.
Anna Grayson is a senior columnist with the London UK-based expatriate newspaper The Canada Post. Early career was as an Account Director for Grey Advertising in London and Brussels as well as contributing freelance editorial work at Condé Nast Publications, The Montreal Gazette and The Toronto Star.
Anna can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org