Before I go on, I must issue a disclaimer. I believe, and my friend Melanie Phillips proves, that women can be very good columnists indeed.
Yet I also believe, and Emma Duncan proves, that women are sometimes hired to be columnists not because they are qualified but because they are women. Otherwise it’s hard to explain how she found a broadsheet platform for airing Marxist twaddle with a touch of psychobabble platitudes.
Miss Duncan works for The Times, where her most recent contribution starts with a rather strained paradox: Don’t Kill the Death Tax, It’s Good for Most of Us. If she expected to catch our attention, she succeeded in my case.
I read on to find out whether she could make a case for that crepuscular proposition. She couldn’t. All Miss Duncan managed to do was prove yet again that such propositions beget crepuscular thinking.
Shining through the gossamer veneer of ratiocination is her underlying belief in the Marxist dogma that daily toil is the only acceptable way of making money. Money shouldn’t be allowed to make money – that’s capitalism, with its inexorable enslavement of the working classes.
Alas, since money hasn’t yet been abolished, as it will be when the millenarian bliss of communism arrives, it’s hard to avoid the lamentable situation of some people having more of it than others. Such individuals then pass the excess on to their children, who thereby lose the incentive to do honest labour at a factory conveyor belt.
The only way of correcting that gross iniquity is to reset the dial in each generation, by confiscating the estate of the dead plutocrat, thereby forcing his progeny to work for a living, ideally in manual jobs. Since it’s hard to drum up public support for such an extreme measure, any approximation will have to do, the closer the better.
If we can’t expropriate 100 per cent, let’s make do with 40 per cent, for the time being. Meanwhile, while we await the bright future of total nationalisation, let’s mock people like Nadhim Zahawi, MP, who “reckons it is ‘morally wrong’ to take someone’s assets on their death.”
This is how Miss Duncan encapsulates that argument in one paragraph: “There certainly is an element of unfairness, in the form of double taxation: if people are passing on money they have earned, it has already been taxed. But the rise in the value of estates is largely due not to years of hard work but to the rise in property prices.”
The observation is astute. However, the illogical conclusion isn’t: so let’s extort that ‘surplus value’. Though Miss Duncan managed not to use that Marxist term, she has lovingly preserved the warped thinking behind it.
According to her, some taxes are good for you. “The best ones – sin taxes, carbon taxes – discourage bad behaviour.” ‘Sin tax’ is an excise tax levied on certain goods deemed harmful, such as alcohol and tobacco.
You see, we may not know what’s good for us, but thank goodness the state does. Having a drink at the local, for example, is sinful. That’s why the state has raised tax on beer to a point where some London pubs already have to charge £10 or more for a pint as the wages of sin.
That obviously limits their clientele, and pubs are going out of business in droves. Miss Duncan doubtless thinks it’s good riddance: those dens of iniquity lead people into temptation. Now those who feel like a drink will do the virtuous thing: buy a two-litre jug of the cheapest cider and drink it on a park bench.
But she is right about the carbon tax: it discourages people from pursuing hedonistic, soul-destroying ends, like keeping warm in winter. And as to industrial profits, we all know they are the work of the devil.
Hence, taxing factories a little extra for their use of hydrocarbons is God’s work. Since factory owners then raise the price of their products, consumers have to pay more for them, thus having less left to spend on booze and fags. Virtue all around, all thanks to good taxes.
Getting back to death taxes, Miss Duncan supports them with the trusted Marxist argument from inequality: “And if inheritance tax is unfair, inheritance itself is even more so. When I die, my children will use the proceeds from my house to buy their own… The third of people who don’t own a house won’t be able to give their children this leg-up.”
So let’s punish the remaining two-thirds for having the temerity to buy a house, rather than living in social accommodation where everybody is equal. Fair is fair, eh comrades?
Banning the inheritance tax would transgress against the sacred dogma of equality in other ways too: “It would also exacerbate regional inequalities: about half of the benefits would go to people in London and the southeast.”
Verily I say unto you, 40 per cent is a joke. What’s wrong with nationalising the whole estate, lock, stock and house? But does Miss Duncan ever wonder what percentage of our GDP is produced in that contemptible region? She should.
Just think about it: according to Miss Duncan, inheritance tax saves people from all seven cardinal sins: pride, greed, wrath, envy, lust, gluttony and sloth. This last one is supported by unimpeachable evidence: “An American study showed that receiving a large inheritance tends to decrease people’s earnings and increase the chance that they will drop out of the labour force.”
Crikey. I wonder how much that study cost. So the more money people inherit the less likely they are to enjoy the daily grind? I could have told them the same thing for free.
The other sins discouraged by death taxes are less obvious. Since they are unsupported by poll data, Miss Duncan relies on anecdotal evidence or what to her seems to be logical inference. For example, she mentions families torn asunder by squabbling about inheritance. She also offers her own variation on the theme of ‘money doesn’t make you happy’.
That’s true, although I’ve seen more unhappiness caused by poverty than by wealth. But that’s not even the point. The point is that Miss Duncan proceeds from the assumption that the state, and she as its prophet, should treat people as children incapable of deciding for themselves what’s good for them.
Hence the state must step in and spank them into virtue with taxation. Spare the tax and spoil hoi polloi, that’s the upshot.
Now I know that The Times, in the past the mouthpiece of conservatism, has become ‘liberal’. But do its editors realise they are lending their pages to unvarnished Marxism? Oh well, they probably wouldn’t care even if they did.