Monday, 25 June 2012

"I am a tax payer, therefore I am moral", or so the politicians say.

What was the best, quickest and most entertaining way for David Cameron to take the focus off of his poor Leveson Inquiry performance? None other than to shamefully expose and scrutinise celebrity tax avoiders. Are you forgetting Cammy that half your government probably avoid them too?

David Cameron, it would appear, has been unrelenting and ruthless as of late in his public speeches. Just this week Cameron launched an explosive attack on Jimmy Carr branding Carr "morally questionable" for using one of the many tax avoidance companies available to the wealthy.  

Cameron has successfully opened a can of worms however, which I'm certain is to backfire on him, for now the doors are wide open for the rest of the Tory party to be scrutinised and heavily investigated. I'd be quivering right now if I were one of those. What's even more entertaining is that it has come to light that Cameron's father-in-law too has used "blatant" tax avoidance schemes. So, I guess the question really is, why did Cameron feel it right to single out one person and scrutinise them? It's scapegoating at its most obvious form.  

If you remember correctly it wasn't so long ago that MPs were at the forefront of the expenses scandal, in which they were wrongfully claiming thousands of expenses. To reiterate Cameron's words, "blatant fraud", one might say. 
After studying a political philosophy module this year, I began reading about "the state" and the nature of it. It is really interesting to look at the history of the state, for it is used to justify how and why it operates today in the way that it does. I.e. by having a democracy. Effectively, looking at the "nature" of the state involved analysing how the state, or society, came to exist. It looked at who first decided upon the designation of property and who decided upon a system of taxes. 

Personally speaking, I consider myself to be a moralistic individual. I am not saying I have never told a white lie but, in terms of theft, I can honestly say I would never steal. That's immoral behaviour, as I am sure you would agree. But the thing is, is that I am not all that certain that paying taxes is key to moral behaviour. Tax as far as I am concerned is, a political obligation, not a moral one. In Johnathan Wolff's book, An Introduction to Political Philosophy, Wolff sums up 'political obligations' in the most concise manner I could think of. "Political obligation is the obligation to obey each law because it is the law, and not necessarily because we think it has some independent moral justification". 

Some may argue that what the law requires them to do, i.e. pay their taxes, is morally wrong - for tax money is perhaps utilised to immoral ends in certain cases, for example, in the creation of weapons of mass destruction. Thus, paying taxes in said situation is morally reprehensible. But there's this underlying obligation to pay taxes, because that makes us morally worthy, right? However no one signs a form or contract agreeing to consent to the state, we are assumed to comply from birth. Taxes are in this sense, perhaps assumed to be hypothetically consented to. Of course the state wouldn't work if everyone utilised tax avoidance schemes, but I question how many people would genuinely pay all of their taxes if they were offered an easy route to effectively "opt out". It's the same situation as those that do odd jobs for cash in hand. If one is to listen to Cameron fundamentally, those actions are too morally questionable, for you have not declared the cash to the state. Alas, you have little option but to be publically shamed, to go to prison and pay your debts to society. 

Let us not forget we are in the brunt of a double dip recession, and money easily translates into emotion. Those who struggle with payments but still pay their tax resent the wealthy that avoid it, but the wealthy who pay their taxes resent paying such a high rate of tax that may be put towards benefit "scroungers", for example. It's a contentious circular argument which is hard to settle. 
Cameron's speech angered me, for he scrutinised Carr in such a focused and playground bully style manner. It's picking a person out of a pool of avoiders and publically shaming solely one individual. And the reason I disagree that tax paying makes one morally praiseworthy is for it is not society whom decided upon this settlement, but an economically driven government.

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