If, like me, you aren’t plugged into popular culture, Robson Green is some kind of TV actor, a rather good one by general consent.
That makes him a celebrity, a status that confers on its proud possessor the authority to enlarge on any subject under the sun and have his views taken seriously.
Now my lifelong familiarity with actors (I grew up in the family of one) has led me to one of those YOU CAN’T SAY THAT observations, namely that thespians tend to be rather dim.
This stands to reason: someone who spends his life assuming other people’s personalities is unlikely to develop a strong one of his own. Good actors are so used to delivering other people’s clever lines that they are unlikely to come up with any of their own.
Proving my oft-made point that left-wingers are usually knaves and always fools, most – though not quite all – actors gravitate towards the sinister (or is it gauche?) end of the political spectrum.
Basking in the reflected light of their celebrity, they appeal to the constantly widening group of people who accept their authority to pontificate. The common misapprehension is that an actor, when not in character, speaks his mind.
This is wrong: a person can only speak his mind when he has one. Since most actors have little of that faculty, in their public pronouncements they continue to deliver someone else’s lines.
That – and only that – makes their statements interesting for they provide a clue to Zeitgeist. Hence Mr Green’s tirade against tax avoidance deserves to be considered with the attention it otherwise wouldn’t merit.
The actor riles against tax avoiders, not tax evaders. There’s no point getting too worked up about the latter, those who break the law trying to shield their money from the state’s grubby fingers.
Taking a moral stand against them is like taking one against robbers. Let the law deal with those who break it.
Tax avoidance is a different matter altogether. This is practised by those who find legal shelters for their money, tucking it away so that neither the Treasury nor its legal arm can get to it.
The only way for the state to claim what it feels is its due is to shame the clever chaps into transferring more of their hard-earned into public coffers. Thus Dave Cameron, that unimpeachable moral authority, often delivers himself of diatribes against the depraved vermin who deny the state its uncountable pounds of flesh.
But Dave, for all his manifest intellectual failings, seldom oversteps the boundary where demagoguery ends and madness begins. He must have slept through most classes at his expensive schools, but at least he did attend them.
Robson, on the other hand, doesn’t suffer from similar restraints on his freedom of self-expression. Hence: “My son was in real trouble when he was young and we took him to the hospital… That’s why you pay your taxes.”
And further: “We’ve got a police system who protect us [should be ‘that protects’, but obviously no teleprompter was available], we’ve got firemen who put out fires. We’ve got defence, man. That’s what tax is for.”
Thanks, Robson, for putting it so simply that even we can understand. But simple is always in danger of becoming simplistic, and this is the case here.
These days the public sector, largely financed by taxes, consumes just under 50 per cent of our GDP (in fact, but for some statistical acrobatics, it would be even higher than that, but that’s a different matter).
In 1900, however, the public sector claimed only 15 per cent of the nation’s wealth. Does this mean that Robert Cecil, 3d Marquess of Salisbury, PM at the time, was less committed to public services than Dave is now? And a lot less than Ed?
Did his government not give a hoot about the Brits getting killed by medical neglect, domestic criminals, foreign enemies or raging fires?
But forget about Britain for a second. Why is it that the thought of confiscating half of people’s income never crossed the mind of a single ‘absolute’ monarch of yesteryear? Shame Robson wasn’t around then to teach them the morality of taxation.
Extortionist taxation isn’t about public services. This serves as nothing but the smokescreen for the real objective: the state putting its foot down. That’s what tax is for, Robson.
All modern post-Christian governments, democratic, authoritarian or totalitarian, overlap on one common imperative: transferring more power from the individual to the state.
Where they differ is in the methods by which they facilitate this process, and therefore in the speed at which it accelerates.
For old times’ sake, most Western states move towards total control more slowly and less violently, which shouldn’t mask the fact that they do move towards it.
People are being gradually conditioned to accept as an inexorable force of nature that it’s up to the state to decide what to do about their health, education – and money.
Yet if there is an historical fact to which there are no exceptions it’s that a government that does a lot for you does a lot to you. That’s why wise men of the past delivered many variations on the same theme: a government governs best that governs least.
We today live in an age of totalitarian economism: deprived of any spiritual core to our lives we’ve been trained to lead an existence mostly defined in economic terms.
The exact terms differ from one economist to the next, but they all, Marxist and ‘conservatives’ alike, preach the philistine gospel enunciated by Max Weber: “Man is dominated by the making of money, by acquisition as the ultimate purpose of his life.”
If true, then man dominated by the making of money can easily be dominated by a state taking his money away from him. The larger the proportion of his income thus extracted, the greater the state’s domination.
This play was written by Zeitgeist, and Robson Green dutifully delivers its lines with the usual amount of demagogic pathos. However, the rest of us should get up and cheer every clever chap who finds legal ways of saving his wealth from the state.
His intention may only be to protect his money. But in effect he’s protecting what’s left of our liberty.
My forthcoming book Democracy as a Neocon Trick can be pre-ordered, at what the publisher promises to be a spectacular discount, from http://www.roperpenberthy.co.uk/index.php/browse-books/political/democracy-as-a-neocon-trick.html