The Chancellor has announced plans to slit your freedom with Occam’s razor.
Before philosophers among you accuse me of ignorance, I’m using the term in its colloquial sense, meaning that a simple solution is usually best.
Dave and George clearly favour simplicity when it comes to reducing our suicidal budget deficits. Having pondered the issue, our sage rulers must have built a straightforward syllogism in their expensively trained minds.
Thesis: the state is spending much more than it’s extracting from people in taxes. Antithesis: people try not to pay the tax they’re supposed to owe. Synthesis: Ergo, HMRC must be empowered to raid people’s bank accounts to claim its pound of flesh – or make it a few thousand pounds.
The only alternative – I repeat, the only one – to this measure, explained Dave and George, is to raise taxes. And you won’t like that, will you?
No we won’t, that much is true. What is a self-evident lie is that squeezing more tax out of the public is the only solution to the budget shortfall.
We too are capable of simple thought and, unlike Dave’s and George’s, ours is unassailable. Because we too face the prospect, or indeed reality, of budget deficits in our family finances.
When the problem arises, it’s clear-cut: we spend more than we earn. Now any housewife will tell you that there are two possible solutions to this problem, not one. The first is to bring in more money. The second is to spend less. Another possibility, borrowing to finance everyday expenses, doesn’t solve the problem. It both defers and exacerbates it.
Now Adam Smith, who knew a thing or two about economics, explained that the macrocosm of a state is subject to the same principles as the microcosm of a household: “What is prudence in the conduct of every private family, can scarce be folly in that of a great kingdom.”
Of course Smith lived at a time when England still retained some residual sanity. That no longer being the case, Dave and George can’t even consider a substantial cut in state outgoings.
What, a year before the elections? Where are the cuts going to come from? Defence has already been slashed to a point where we have practically no army left. So where else? By far the biggest areas are the NHS and welfare. You aren’t seriously suggesting we cut there?
Just imagine the Milibandits squealing like stuck pigs that the Tories don’t care for the common man, or rather person. The NHS is a sacred cow that can be milked but not slaughtered. And the steadily growing welfare budget, especially if we pretend it isn’t growing, is a sign that we care (about our electoral chances, that is).
For similarly high-minded reasons, a hike in tax rates has to be off limits. That would alienate what’s left of the Tories’ core support and drive the middle classes into the Milibandits’ embrace at a wrong time.
Thus the only viable possibility is to make every taxpayer pay the amount the state demands – no avoidance, no evasion, no discussion. Now that’s where simplicity comes in.
How do you make the bloody-minded blighters pay? You could go about it the long way, historically preferred in societies listing liberty among their desiderata. Send the non-payer a few progressively sterner demands and, if he still persists, start legal proceedings. You know, due process and all that.
Or, in the flotsam washed ashore by Dave’s brainstorm, HMRC can simply break into people’s bank accounts and help itself to whatever it feels it’s owed. Simple, isn’t?
It is. Almost as simple as a single Leader making his own decisions without wasting time on things like accountability. Or sending wrongdoers to prison without wasting time and money on court proceedings. Or telling people where they must live, thereby protecting them from their own costly errors.
Such simplicity also goes by another name: despotism. The word has a few synonyms, all equally applicable: tyranny, authoritarianism, totalitarianism. Shades of meaning differ, but the underlying principle is the same: the state’s power over the individual is absolute.
Gone are the times when it was considered improper for HMG to know how much a subject had in the bank. Gone is the sacred constitutional principle of privacy to which each individual is entitled. Gone is the equally seminal principle of secure property.
What our spivs’ idea amounts to is seizure of private property without due process. This effectively puts a big, fat cross on 1,000 years of English constitutional tradition – and you know what’s the scariest thing? Practically no one minds.
To be sure, there were a few protests in the press here and there. But most of those focused on practicalities, such as the time-honoured custom of clerical errors leading to overcharging. Both the pundits and their readers were penny-wise and freedom-foolish.
But then Dave and George already knew we would be. These chaps don’t empty their bladders without checking the polls first. And the polls must have told them that Brits who don’t want the welfare state shrunk outnumber those who want their civil liberties preserved.
It goes without saying that any modern government, devoid as they all are of any moral or philosophical sense, strives to expand its power ad infinitum. The only check is ever provided by a society willing to keep tyranny at bay.
And that is the truly worrying part: evidently the number of those who cherish freedom has dropped below the critical mass needed to protect it. If true, and I pray to God it isn’t, we live in a corrupt society.
This means a corrupt, despotic government is the one we deserve. If so, things will only get worse.