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Sunday, 23 September 2012

'Fair' taxation

In the United States, Britain and France - in particular - there is a debate about 'fair' taxation which is on the verge of reaching crisis proportions. In all three countries, there is deep concern about the need for economic growth to lead the economy out of recession. Growth comes from investment. A minority of the population directly contribute to investment by putting their savings and some of their income into shares and bonds that provide funds for commerce and industry; and a diminishing proportion of the population make indirect investments in shares and bonds through collective savings funds such as voluntary pensions schemes and insurance reserves. The inept extension of taxation of pension funds by Gordon Brown in the UK [combined with the disastrous ineptitude of the actuaries] has devastated the value of pensions, and thus has destroyed public confidence in the merit of saving through such funds, which have a much lower take-up than in previous decades. A compulsory state scheme will not correct this situation: it will merely produce pension 'pots' that are so small that they will have no impact on the growing disaster of pensioner poverty.

Investment by richer individuals has always been essential for economic growth to occur in any free society. In centrally planned authoritarian states, much of investment is wasted because a small cohort of bureaucrats cannot have the sensitivity to economic possibilities, and to adverse trends in productivity and the desirableness of products, that a wide range of personal investors can achieve. The optimisation of investment is only achieved by personal decision. There is now a hugely powerful intellectually-led movement to increase taxation of the rich - and thus to reduce the quantum and the selectivity of investment - on the idiotic ground that higher and higher taxation of the relatively 'rich' is intrinsically 'fair' and therefore appropriate. Some advocates of such taxation regard widening and intensifying the ruinous taxation as the most important cause in politics. The Obama Democrats in the USA and the Liberal Democrats in Britain and the Socialists who have quickly become querulous with their new president in France are all devotees of the doctrine that the investable funds should be grabbed from the relatively 'rich' and disbursed as immediate spending-power to the relatively 'poor'. This is an intensification of the ruinous policies that have helped to bring their economies into a condition of low growth and high 'welfare' spending. As long as this nonsense is prevalent, real economic capability will be destroyed and the potential of the economies to give their people real welfare will continue to decline.

There is also a socially divisive component to this issue. Class conflict is being promoted, with the classes defined in terms of tax-bands applied to incomes or to assets. People who do not declare earnings large enough to be required to pay tax on them are to be more explicitly defined as 'disadvantaged' or 'deprived' and [according the British Liberal Democrats] 'the rich' who earn more that £50,000 a year are to be taxed to transfer money to the 'deprived'; and then their assets will be valued and subjected to a further levy. If that levy is met from income their income will doubly have been diminished: their consumption and their potential to invest will be reduced - both inflicting direct damage on the economy; and if the levy is met by asset sales, leading to a mass sell-of of a range of assets [both material and financial assets] their prices will fall with further detriment to the economy. To this idiocy the same politicians are adding the notion that young people should be able to enter the housing markets by having the deposits on their houses secured by their parents' and grandparents' 'pension pots'. The funds that people hold in their pension funds are vastly reduced by the crass policies of the past two decades; and now they are being challenged to risk the loss of those funds altogether - and to face old-age poverty - if they take up the new scheme. If they decline to do so, there will be serious discord in families: if they do comply, they will be constrained in how much pension they can draw by the contractual form of the guarantee; and if there is another house-price slump they may loose their pension assets when the property is repossessed. Even if the housing market holds up, it is obscure as to how many years the guarantee [and therefore the restriction on the pension fund] will be maintained. None of this looks like constructive social engineering: it would be crude exploitation of the relatively-thrifty, leading to massive destruction of accumulated wealth.

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