The Politics of Posh

This is a response to an item on tonight’s The One Show (http://bbc.co.uk/i/pymmg/):

Does class still matter? My rational side would argue not, especially as we are born into a background and therefore have no choice over it. However the Labour Party and the media – this time the BBC in the form of Kaye Adams – have made it matter. Is being posh Cameron’s Achilles Heel?

I really don’t see how the Labour Party can indulge in “toff-bashing” when Tony Blair himself was a boarder at Fettes College, also known as “The Eton of the North”. Adams highlighted in this programme that a third of ALL Members of Parliament elected at the last election – not just Tories – were privately educated (and therefore, according to the correspondent, toffs). So why has the Labour Party made being a toff a Tory trait? It makes no sense and is ever so slightly hypocritical, is it not?

So, inevitably, Adams goes on to interview the public – does their supposed “toffishness” weaken the Tories’ position going into the General Election? One lady, very sensibly, stated that it should be the policies that matter. I whole heartedly agree. Others said that it made the Tories seem out of touch.  I obviously understand that those with money don’t feel the pinch as much as most people perhaps but they undoubtedly must realise that there is a credit crunch all the same. As long as their proposed policies fit the issues facing this country at the moment then what is the problem?  One man said that he liked the fact that some people are proud of where they’ve come from and this, to me personally, has always been close to my heart. Why should Cameron be made to feel like he has to shy away from his family, his heritage? Another commentator said that Cameron actively tries to distract from the fact he’s a Sloane Ranger.

A clip is then shown of Gordon Brown when he referred to the Tories’ inheritance tax proposals as being “dreamed up on the playing fields of Eton”. Forgive me for having a rant but why should we have to pay to inherit what our parents worked so hard to achieve? I admit that putting the threshold up to £1million doesn’t make much sense in  a recession but taxing the rich is a bit too Robin Hood for my liking.

Stanley Johnson – father of my favourite mayor (!) – is then interviewed and quite rightly states that generally, the Conservative MPs likely to be elected this year will form an middle to upper-middle class group, just like the Labour MPs elected in 1997.

However the best part of this short item was a quote given by Adrian Chiles at the end; that posh was getting out of the bath to have a wee. By that definition I hope that all of you are indeed posh!

HLAD

N.B. I apologise for the number of rhetorical questions but after many debates about class with my housemates I just don’t know the answers anymore! I’m sure some of you will provide me with some…

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26 thoughts on “The Politics of Posh

  1. Thanks for shedding light on this here Helen! I totally share your views too. Anyone who descends to remarks of class in an argument is out of touch and out of ideas. The same goes with any other socioeconomic differences that we have in society.

    Attack the argument, not the arguer!

  2. Personally, I do love a good ol’ spree of “toff bashing”, but the Blair point is a fair one, however, he isn’t leader any more though. You are right in pointing out that “toffs” are found it all parties, but, there are proportionally (and possiblity of overall) more “toffs” in the Tory camp than the other parties.

    I personally think class does matters though as there is that obvious inequality (both economically and opportunistically). But, in contrare to “some people are proud of where they’ve come from” I think where you come from is totally meaningless as to start off from as it isn’t your choice, I’m not saying you should be ashamed, but being proud is meaningless.

    “dreamed up on the playing fields of Eton” though was just a jibe though, and quite a funny one I may add too. Obviously though I agree with you that it’s policies not background that counts, but when you do insist with a policy like the inheritance tax cut, people do make the link though, especially in these tough times. Oh and finally, “why should we have to pay to inherit what our parents worked so hard to achieve?” because like you said “our parents worked so hard to achieve?”, not you, your parents. Personally, I think it should be sent off to help the starving third world, rather than give it to someone who hasn’t earned it.

  3. Max,

    I would MUCH rather transfer the money to a charity (or even set up a charity) in the third world myself rather than get it caught up in govt beauracracy. I can assure you that this would be WAY more productive and the people who need the support are more likely to receive it.:-)

  4. You’re born into a background but not a lifestyle. Going to a private school doesn’t automatically make you a bad person, in fact many who did are highly intelligent, so the number of privately educated MPs isn’t a problem for good government. However anyone who joins the Bullingdon club clearly does it to make a statement that they are the elite and don’t care who knows. Cameron really doesn’t seem to have distanced himself from this and any efforts to show otherwise are just PR spin, taking him up and down the country to make vague promises. Despite the Tories having made plenty of recent changes (if they win the election things could never be as severe as with Thatcher) I don’t trust a lot of their MPs not to show disdain for their constituents who aren’t from comfortable, conventional backgrounds. Social classes do still exist and a successful government should do all they can to raise the aspirations of the deprived. As for the inheritance issue it sounds to me like you somehow feel you deserve the large sum you’ll inevitably receive despite it being your parents work – a typical toff attitude, assuming you have the right to stay on top because you have become accustomed to it, you won’t get much respect in Wales like that. We’re in a recession and taxing the rich more is surely the fairest way to reduce the deficit without cutting services too harshly. But on the whole, policies are more important than personalities, so Labour should tread carefully before making generalisations.

  5. What is meant by “toff”. Even in this brief discussion terms have been used seemingly interchangeably: is it rich/poor, a fact of upbringing, the result of the type of school you attended, ones role in the workplace, perhaps you need to have inherited ones wealth? etc. etc.

    Is Sir Alan a “toff”? Is a child of poor parents from a minority background a “toff” because of a scholarship to Eton? Is a bankrupt earl on benefits a “toff”?

    Problem is applied uniformly none of these definitions are particularly helpful to Labour.

    Look at the labour cabinet, how many of them would be considered Toff’s? Yet they’re not identified as such, no railing against them for their private school background.

    So while toff carries connotations it appears to be used more generally to create division and put people into a context of ‘not like you’.

    I think toff bashing is scratching a rather dark itch in Labours psyche myself.

    Oh, And since when has going to private school made you a “toff” anyway.

  6. I find it very hard to gauge this Toff Vs Anti-Toff mentality. It seems at first glance to be a jealous personal attack on a segment of society which is accepted in a way that if it were to be swung on its heels and used the other way round; there would be uproar.

    Adam

  7. Richard, the correspondent implied privately educated people were toffs, not me. I don’t believe this one bit, particularly as during my time at this university people have automatically labelled me as a toff on learning that I’m privately educated and from Surrey.

    JEvans, should a middle aged man be condemned for what he did during his student days when he was less than half the age he is now? Often young people feel like they have to try and “fit in”. I don’t know about you, but I still make foolish decisions at times and I hope that they aren’t used against me in 20 years’ time. I also don’t feel that I deserve inheritance, but I know for a fact that my father continues to work for mine and my mother’s future benefit. I don’t see why the state should take back what, ironically, they have given him after his death. As for the amount of respect I may or not get in Wales – I didn’t realise that all Welsh people (are you including my friends and family there?) share the same narrow opinion as you.

    Adam, I share your sentiments exactly.

  8. It’s hardly as if fitting in, even at Oxford, requires you to join such an exclusive club, although as you apparently have to be invited to join, it might be awkward to say no (I wonder how many have?). But I still don’t think he’s put those days behind him. And while I understand your argument about inheritance, the state simply can’t sustain all the necessary investment in services without enough money. There may be other cost-cutting methods (like pulling out of Afghanistan) but taxing those with far more money than they need for a comfortable life works without causing too much suffering or resentment. Robin Hood for PM!

  9. Julian, I hope you’re not implying that I have “far more money” than [I] need for a comfortable life” because, unfortunately, you would be sorely mistaken. And I know that going to Oxford doesn’t mean you have to join such a society but surely you can see how tempting it would be if people who had been to the same school as you were members.

  10. I wasn’t necessarily referring to you, just the upper classes in general. All this wealth locked away from the world where it’s needed. Sure, people make mistakes but we’re talking about a highly regarded man who, having gone to Eton and got into Oxford, might be expected to know better.

  11. JEvans,

    What do you think of those in your party who were big supporters of soviet Russia in their youth? Or other other rather extreme causes? Should they have known better?

    A couple of points – Inheritance tax is a misnomer – death tax would actually be more accurate a term or estate tax if you want something that sounds less horrific.

    The objection many have to estate taxes is that having already paid income tax etc on earnings then the residue is rightfully theirs to dispose of as they wish. For the government to make a second claim on someones assets because of their death violates this idea.

    If the tax was assessed on legatees, more akin to a windfall tax, then there is greater coherency but in that case the tax should be extended to gifts made within a persons lifetime.

    I think this would undermine peoples freedom to hold and use property as they wish which is a fundamental component of individual liberty. I would go so far as to say it’s actually a rights issue at stake.

    Further we all have different ideas as to what government spending is actually necessary. Perhaps the government should spend less and respect peoples property rights more. Taxes – like death – may be inevitable, but there’s no arbitrary level of mandatory public spending.

    From your example I also think that given the choice between say the affording the Iraq war and not paying inheritance tax avoiding the war would produce less suffering and resentment.

    You also suggest that it’s for a part of society to determine how much some people need, quite aside from any very genuine slippery slope concerns, I think this attitude violates peoples inalienable rights to self possession.

    Essentially you suggest not only that some other individual or group of individuals has greater rights to our labour than we do ourselves, but that they grant us an entitlement as to what we may have.

    You also talk about wealth being “locked away”. It’s being taxed on the basis of return generated and if the money isn’t used well then it will flow to more able individuals. Besides it’s not like there is a fixed sum of wealth in the world that we can just rearrange nicely.

    Oh and you might as well be referring to HLADavies as I expect there are a lot of people worse off than her. Everyone is rich to someone poorer.

  12. I won’t pretend that I can respond to that without embarrassing myself (or that I even understand all of it) as I’ve never studied politics or economics. I haven’t posted here before anyway, just followed a link from Facebook and thought I’d throw something in, and I’m not affiliated to any party either (but generally I’m left of centre). I can certainly see where you’re coming from about already having paid a lot of income taxes which I hadn’t considered, and many liberals won’t have, as well as some of the rights points, although whether people have the rights to some more abstract concepts like labour still seems questionable to me.

  13. No worries, I tend to go on a bit in my comments, but don’t let that put you off posting, just ignore me lol

    The right to ones labour is a product of your own-self possession – If I work to produce a product then I mix myself into it through the time and energy I invest. No one else has a claim on that time or the things I produce with it without essentially making a claim to own some part of myself.

    Plenty of people would disagree with that of course, which is why we have more than one political party lol.

  14. I hadn’t considered the income tax point either, Richard. And I now feel even more strongly about the inheritance tax issue!

  15. “The objection many have to estate taxes is that having already paid income tax etc on earnings then the residue is rightfully theirs to dispose of as they wish.”

    The same thing could be said of VAT, stamp duty or alcohol duty.

    “If the tax was assessed on legatees, more akin to a windfall tax, then there is greater coherency but in that case the tax should be extended to gifts made within a persons lifetime.”

    I agree with the shift being made to legatees but I can’t see gifts in kind being raxed without a massive increase in bureaucracy.

    “…but that they grant us an entitlement as to what we may have.”

    In practical terms that’s how it works. In a sense I’m using the police force right now and it’s all paid for by myself and my fellow citizens. No one’s stopping you from living on a dessert-island with no state interference. trouble is the dessert island won’t have state provided: education, defence, subsidized transport, healthcare, police protection, defence services, roads, saftey measures for all your food drink and household items, protection of your intellectual and artistic property and of course a safety net should you fall on hard-times.

    On a more general note, why aren’t the conservatives calling for a rise in the personal allowance over a cut in inheritence tax? Why choose a tax that affects the wealthier members of our society?

  16. “The same thing could be said of VAT, stamp duty or alcohol duty.”

    To a point one could and to a point one does. Although all three taxes are in effect variations on a sort of sales tax they each enjoy different justifications against which we can weigh the violation of any other principle. Alcohol duty might be used to deter purchase or offset the ‘cost of drinking’ (which I have mixed views on) for example.

    VAT is slightly odd in this context, it’s paid by the end consumer but is notionally a tax on the work of the producer (hence Value Added) so I’m not sure whether – in theory at least – it violates my principle. I’d have to give it some more thought.

    The main difference between these taxes and IT is that they are assessed on at least notionally voluntary business transactions – transactions designed to generate wealth or utility to the tax payer – stamp duty for example being on the purchase of shares – IT clearly isn’t assessed on this basis but on the fact that someone died. There’s no profit or utility in death and its rarely voluntary in any sense.

    Additionally any assets owned would already have been subject to these taxes prior to death, so IT becomes a 3rd pick of the pocket

    Another important difference is the level of taxation – the three you list are far lower than IT, and whilst this doesn’t affect any principle it does speak to the acceptability of any trade off we are making.

    “I agree with the shift being made to legatees but I can’t see gifts in kind being raxed without a massive increase in bureaucracy.”

    What about gifts of shares or cash rather than gifts in kind? It wouldn’t be the most easily enforced tax ever, but in principle I don’t see why it would require any massive increase in bureaucracy, it’s no different to taxing a sole trader based on their income.

    “In practical terms that’s how it works.”

    Perhaps. Doesn’t mean it should be that way though. Surely a lot of legitimacy of government stems from it protecting me and everyone else from coercion, not to enshrine coercion in law. I want a government that protects my individual rights, not one that seeks to treat me as a means for others benefit.

    “In a sense I’m using the police force right now and it’s all paid for by myself and my fellow citizens.”

    Well no-ones saying we shouldn’t have a police force. Oh wait…

    “No one’s stopping you from living on a dessert-island with no state interference. “

    No-ones stopping you living on a socialist commune where you work your whole life for everyone else’s benefit. Seriously? You’re at the point of saying if you don’t like the status quo then leave … ?

    “trouble is the dessert island won’t have state provided: education, defence, subsidized transport, healthcare, police protection, defence services, roads, saftey measures for all your food drink and household items, protection of your intellectual and artistic property and of course a safety net should you fall on hard-times.”

    Trouble is in your socialist commune you won’t have any individual freedom or will save for the ‘community will’. Luckily the state will nominally provide all that you need for – 1 bowl of gruel a day – any more being nothing but bourgeoisie greed. You’ll work 16 hrs a day without any reward and the infrastructure around you will be crumbling from inefficiency. In order to retain the community dire punishments will be regularly meted out to malcontents and slackers. You will not own yourself and when the community leader gets ill he will harvest your organs for the greater (read his) good.

    That’s not what you want / were saying? Oh wait I thought we were playing at just putting words and ridiculous arguments into each other’s mouths.

    I’m a fan of low tax, not no tax; it’s not my phrase but it made me laugh so I’ll use it anyway – I’m a compassionate quasi-libertarian. Of course we need courts and a police system, national defence, roads etc. Hypothecated taxation to support various things that we need is fine, ie road tax for drivers to support roads. Some general taxation, ideally through a flat tax on income and corporate earnings, is also fine to support various services. There are a lot of things I’d fund, albeit not necessarily to their current level or extent and many I wouldn’t.

    “On a more general note, why aren’t the conservatives calling for a rise in the personal allowance over a cut in inheritence tax? Why choose a tax that affects the wealthier members of our society?”

    In short I don’t know. I’d suggest that if a tax is unfair then get rid of it, it’s NOT ok to take advantage of people just because you think they are wealthy, they are individuals in their own right.

  17. I’m afraid VAT does violate your principle because the work that was paid for to ‘add the value’ was in a sense taxed through income tax and NICS.

    You talk about VAT being voluntary but there are many very basic things that are subject to VAT. You will aslo find that far more people will end up paying VAT even while leading fairly simple lives while the vast majority of us will never pay inheritence tax.

    And this was incredibily crude:

    “Another important difference is the level of taxation – the three you list are far lower than IT”

    I’m afraid that when you take the threshold for inheritence tax into account, it can be seen that that is completely untrue.

    “Surely a lot of legitimacy of government stems from it protecting me and everyone else from coercion, not to enshrine coercion in law.”

    I’m afraid that prison and war come under the heading of coercion.

    It’s a pity that you couldn’t understand my desert-island point. I’m pointing out that people have to make some sacrifices to live in a coherent society. I think that you accept that and that’s why you approve of some general taxation.

    “Of course we need courts and a police system, national defence, roads etc. ”

    Well what about healthcare free at the point of use? People have differing needs and wants and so we might not always approve of how every penny of our tax money is spent. Would you support conscription if world war 3 were to break out?

    A lot of people on the right believe in society when it suits them. Before we had tax-funded healthcare or a police force, many more people died of easily preventable diseases than as a result of crime. But a police force came first because it suited those at the top. This was despite the fact that far more human misery was caused by disease in a country where the average life expectancy of a working class man was 15.

    Today as a democracy we each pay a fair share towards the upkeep of the club. You might not like how every penny of your membership fee is spent; but the areas of spending that you favour might be less of a priority for your fellow club member. And yes there are no membership fees in the desert-island club.

  18. The fact is that class still matters. Although I agree that the social status of MP’s doesn’t necessarily determine their abilities as a representative, the class issue is one that will rightly haunt the Tory Party.

    18 years of Conservative government is the basis for the accusation that the Tories are a party run by and run for the richest few. The Thatcher and Major governments, and their neo-liberal, market driven philosophy was crippling to working class industries, livelihoods, and communities and the core ideology still runs through Conservative policy.

    I don’t deny that the Labour Party has done little to curb the dominance of the financial sectors, and has not done enough to redress the balance between rich and poor.

    However, Labour investment in the public sector has made significant, if not significant enough, strides towards redressing this. Cameron’s tories would make damaging cuts to public services to achieve their desire for small government, wrongly prioritise the wealthier groups in society with the Inheritance Tax cut and tax breaks for married couples, and implement ignorant and damaging policy, as shown by the ridiculous policies on teaching.

  19. Ok I’ve only got a couple of minutes so I’ll answer very briefly:

    “I’m afraid VAT does violate your principle because the work that was paid for to ‘add the value’ was in a sense taxed through income tax and NICS.”

    I understand what your saying but VAT is still being taxed on the production itself, it’s a pretty fine grained distinction I agree, whilst it’s clearly in addition to income tax so is NIC.

    Cf. Wealth taxes – the money is already earned and paid for and being taxed merely on the basis of holding, I see a distinction here. If you don’t then ok, Its not like I’m trying to say VAT is an example of an ideal tax.

    I used the term ‘notionally voluntary’. It would be hard to avoid paying VAT, but we at least make an assessment of it when choosing to buy something. I agree VAT is regressive, it’s one of the reasons I don’t much care for it, certainly not if it rises to 20%.

    “And this was incredibily crude:
    ““Another important difference is the level of taxation – the three you list are far lower than IT””

    You appear to have missed off the rest of that quote, which I’ll repeat it for you:

    “and whilst this doesn’t affect any principle it does speak to the acceptability of any trade off we are making.”

    I don’t understand how you make the point that many people fall outside IHT and then accuse me of being ”extremely crude” in pointing out that the level of taxation is relevant to it’s acceptability.

    “I’m afraid that when you take the threshold for inheritence tax into account, it can be seen that that is completely untrue.”

    That depends on how much money you have. It’s at 40% once over that allowance, if it was taxed at say 10% I doubt we’d be having this argument – I certainly would object a lot less.

    “I’m afraid that prison and war come under the heading of coercion.”

    I suppose there’s a sort of irony that to protect us from coercion the state must employ coercion itself, covenants without the sword and all that. To be honest I’m just going to assume you knew exactly what I was driving at.

    “It’s a pity that you couldn’t understand my desert-island point. I’m pointing out that people have to make some sacrifices to live in a coherent society. I think that you accept that and that’s why you approve of some general taxation. “

    I understood your point and I thought it was a straw man because you know full well I’m no advocate of anarchy. The very issue we are discussing is what ‘sacrifices’ are justified and how they become so. I am almost certain you believe in limits on what governments can rightfully do, democratic mandate or not. I’m just a believer in a different set of limitations.

    “Well what about healthcare free at the point of use?”

    Another discussion for another day.

    “People have differing needs and wants and so we might not always approve of how every penny of our tax money is spent. “

    I’m suggesting a bit more than that though, That we should start from a moral assumption that people have rights to their own person and the products of their labour, violating this right might be the price we pay for some form of government, but we should limit those violations as far as possible, not simply extend them when a portion of society calls for it.

    “Would you support conscription if world war 3 were to break out? “

    Sure if it was necessary for the survival of the country. I have more thoughts on conscription but I’m not sure they’re relevant atm.

    “A lot of people on the right believe in society when it suits them.”

    Same criticism could be laid at the feet of the left – everyone loves the folk when they agree with you.

    “Before we had tax-funded healthcare or a police force, many more people died of easily preventable diseases than as a result of crime. But a police force came first because it suited those at the top. This was despite the fact that far more human misery was caused by disease in a country where the average life expectancy of a working class man was 15.”

    Ok, go on, I have to know, what year are you talking about? I’d suggest that medical advances are the biggest improver of life expectancy. America seems to keep pace with countries with State Healthcare.

    “Today as a democracy we each pay a fair share towards the upkeep of the club.”

    No I think some people pay way too much to the benefit of others in the club.

    “You might not like how every penny of your membership fee is spent; but the areas of spending that you favour might be less of a priority for your fellow club member. “

    Well hopefully in time the club will come to realise the error of it’s ways.

  20. “Wealth taxes – the money is already earned and paid for and being taxed merely on the basis of holding…”

    Surely then that would include council tax.

    “I used the term ‘notionally voluntary’.

    You could also have used that term for inheritance tax.

    As for the level of taxation, it has to be understood with regard to the thresholds. If I leave £400,000 in my will, I will only pay 7.5% in tax.

    “Ok, go on, I have to know, what year are you talking about? I’d suggest that medical advances are the biggest improver of life expectancy. America seems to keep pace with countries with State Healthcare.”

    I said state-funded healthcare not state-provided healthcare. Medical advances are only useful if people have access to them. I can think of plenty of people who need healthcare more than police.

    “No I think some people pay way too much to the benefit of others in the club.”

    Are you talking about the people earning minimum wage who prop up our banking system?

    As for conscription, surely people should have the right to opt out, if no one has the right to control them. Dying in a trench is a lot worse than being taxed.

  21. “Wealth taxes – the money is already earned and paid for and being taxed merely on the basis of holding…”
    “Surely then that would include council tax.”

    Well given the way in which council taxes have increased I would say yes it does – and an awful lot of people agree. It’s become a high tax on top of high taxes.

    That said there are clear differences between council tax and inheritance tax. I still assert that IHT is outmoded and, having paid taxes (including council tax) all ones life then the remainder of your property is yours to alienate as you wish. People have earned the money, been good citizens, paid for things like education, health etc through IT, Council Tax, VAT, why not let them bequeath their legacy unfettered.

    ““I used the term ‘notionally voluntary’.
    You could also have used that term for inheritance tax.”

    Well not really even if you give the money away before you die your still taxed on it up to 7 years prior to death. Either way I’m just going to let this quote stand for others to judge.

    As for the level of taxation, it has to be understood with regard to the thresholds. If I leave £400,000 in my will, I will only pay 7.5% in tax.

    And 40p in the £ thereafter… Which is an awful lot. Remember that £400k is the cost of something between a by no means grand family home to a small flat in many places. It penalises people who save and want to provide for their children but aren’t wealthy enough to make use of the various ways around the system.

    It’s failed to adequately keep pace with house price inflation.

    £3.6bn is raised by IHT, not an awful lot, compare with spending £30bn on debt interest. I suggest we pay down Labours debt, which will probably admittedly take time, and use some of the money saved to abolish IHT.

    “I said state-funded healthcare not state-provided healthcare. Medical advances are only useful if people have access to them. “

    Well obviously, whoever said different? But there are various ways in which that access might be provided. Friendly societies did an excellent job for their members prior to the NHS in the context of what medical care was available at the time, although it probably wouldn’t work today. That said no-one is suggesting we cease state funding of healthcare, I’m suggesting we seriously extend the limits for IHT, a tax which isn’t even a terribly significant contributor to government funds.

    “I can think of plenty of people who need healthcare more than police.”

    Like ill people? But in the long run I dare say most need police far more than healthcare – I’d sooner enjoy protection from the vagaries of the state of nature and pay my own health care (which if you think about it couldn’t even work without the police). Than have a healthcare system without the police, which would be uh, difficult.

    “Are you talking about the people earning minimum wage who prop up our banking system? “

    I didn’t specifically list or exclude anyone.

    “As for conscription, surely people should have the right to opt out, if no one has the right to control them. Dying in a trench is a lot worse than being taxed.”

    I think we make some sacrifices to live in society merely that we should be extremely sceptical about extending them. As for conscription, well far am I’m concerned if there was a draft and I could find someone to take my place in return for a fee I wouldn’t have a problem with it. Much like a system used in the US civil war.

    Key point here is that I’d only allow conscription in the most desperate of times, otherwise we should have a volunteer army. The flip side to this is do you believe everyone should be conscripted at all times?

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  23. I’m still not sure that you’ve made a clear distinction between council tax and inheritence tax. The most obvious difference between the two as far as I’m concerned is that one hits a lot more poeple than the other.

    I’m afraid that inheritence tax is notionally voluntary as you can leave any money above the threshold to charities and other exempt organistaions.

    You might say that it’s ridiculously unfair to expect people to avoid the tax in this way but I think most people would find it easier to leave money for charities in their will than avoid VAT.

    To avoid IHT: Don’t bequeeth more than £400,000 to non-charitable organisations in your will.

    To avoid VAT: Don’t spend any money on the following:

    Petrol, Wine, beer, clothes, soap, condoms and toothpaste.

    Out of the two taxes I know which one I’d put first in the que for a tax cut.

    “And 40p in the £ thereafter…”

    Of course a head teacher pays an effective marginal rate of 41p in the pound on his income; so perhaps there are several taxes that are more deserving of a cut than VAT.

    As for the £3.6bn cost of abolishing IHT, surely if you’re unhappy with spending money on debt interest, then a tax cut now is the last thing you’d want? £3.6 bn is in the same region of the income tax cuts introduced as a result of budgets 2007 and 2008. The difference is that these cuts helped a much wider group of people.

    “I’d sooner enjoy protection from the vagaries of the state of nature and pay my own health care (which if you think about it couldn’t even work without the police).”

    I could protect myself but I couldn’t cure myself of a life-threatening disease. A gun is a lot cheaper than an ambulance.

    “…if there was a draft and I could find someone to take my place in return for a fee I wouldn’t have a problem with it.”

    Lovely. So the rich buy themselves out of war?

    “Key point here is that I’d only allow conscription in the most desperate of times, otherwise we should have a volunteer army. The flip side to this is do you believe everyone should be conscripted at all times?”

    You’re party likes to descirbe these times as ‘desperate times’. Obviously they’re not desperate in a military sense but if people are going to have military obligations in a military crisis, then I believe we have social obligations during a social crisis.

    This comes back to election ’45. There are some people who believe in society during wars and the rest of us who believe that society can deal with problems in peace time.

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