Oh, to Hammer Tax Until it’s Flat

In my last QoL piece I talked about lies and tax cuts. A side issue which I raised was about the moral legitimacy of progressive taxation. I posited that it was a form of theft. A few readers took issue and this generated a lively to and fro. I thought it worthwhile to explore the topic a little further. Here are a couple of quotes from the comments to illustrate the counter argument:

“But what is your argument against progressive taxation which is (I would say) almost universally accepted as a socially positive policy? It ensures that people who are most able, contribute more and the bad consequences of income inequality are moderated. Provided progressive taxation is not so high as to stifle entrepreneurship and career aspirations, it must be socially beneficial.”

And there was this: “From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs,” can be construed as supporting a progressive system, which within bounds is not unreasonable.”

The point being made is persuasive at one level. The Marxist slogan in the second quote should not be dismissed because of its provenance. Imagine, among the survivors, that you are uniquely able to reconstruct the plane which has crashed in the Sahara Desert and therefore need an extra ration of scarce water and food to keep you going. You guessed it, as in the Jimmy Stewart, Richard Attenborough, Hardy Kruger, Peter Finch, Ernest Borgnine et al, movie The Flight of the Phoenix (1965). But life is not generally about crashed planes in the Sahara.

Life is not generally about being marooned on a desert island either, but I believe it gets close to real life stripped of paraphernalia. There are men and women of ranging abilities on the island; able-bodied and those less able. Everyone must do what they can if they are all to survive. Do you put the product of everyone’s labour into a collective pot and share it about equally? That’s progressive taxation taken to an extreme; namely socialism. It is bound to lead to less progress.

First, the more able have little incentive to work hard. Second, there is much less scope for saving and, say, building a boat to catch more fish. Only those who have much more than their needs save much. In other words, only the rich save. Progress depends on rich people. That is the economics case against progressive taxation and socialism. However, it’s not the moral case.

Suppose in my desert island example everyone is happy about sharing the pot. Suppose everyone has a kibbutz mentality and cares not about getting ahead. Is that immoral? The parable of the talents would suggest that not making good use of the resources at one’s disposal is sinful. I don’t know for sure. Certainly those in an actual kibbutz would not have regard for Jesus’ parable. But you know, economic progress has made momentous inroads into reducing poverty. Adopting an economic model which reduces economic progress hurts the poor. That can’t be good. It might be thought of as immoral.

I spoke to the assistant minister at my church a little while ago. I’m at a stage, I said, where I might go and live reclusively in a beach shack, drink red wine, read good books, watch TV. Isn’t that selfish? He questioned. Hmm? Well then, isn’t the lifestyle in a kibbutz-type arrangement somewhat selfish?

Sticking with my desert island example, I’ll take it forward a few years. Some of the most able-bodied islanders have taken to keeping part of their produce rather than tipping it all into the pot. Why should we bring in so much produce and share every bit of it with those who are much less productive, they argue. Ah! Selfish human nature at work.

A meeting in the communal village square decides unanimously that the most able-bodied have a point. But, some say, what about those who can’t fend for themselves? In the end, it’s unanimously agreed that each person who works will contribute 10 percent into a pot to be shared among those in need. A Christian pipes up. “That must be right, it’s in the Bible.”

Time goes on. “Hello!” Exclaims a fellow by the name of Max Lark. “This isn’t right. Those producing a lot must tip more into the pot than a measly 10 percent.” Another meeting ensues. This time four out of five islanders vote to extract 20 percent from the one-fifth of islanders producing the most. “How can we make them pay up,” says one lady at the meeting. A tough looking guy stands up. “There more of us than them. Some of us will spy on them and if they don’t pay up we’ll give them a good whipping; that’ll learn them.”

And, as more time went on, the 20 percent became 30 and even 50 and 60 percent for those who produced the very most. What could they do. They thought that they were the victims of thievery but had no one to protect them and were fearful of being whipped. They did react by giving less voluntary alms to the poorer islanders and, to boot, employed clever means to try to fool the spies. The majority responded by using more of their number as spies. And so it went on.

Now, you see, we are not into “cheerful giving” of the kind St Paul talked about (2 Corinthians 9:6-8). We are into enforcement. The question is, can forcing people to give be moral? Enforcing morality sounds like a contradiction in terms. Nonetheless, is it the price that must be paid to have a well-functioning civil society? And if it is, does that in effect make it morally acceptable?

Having well-functioning society is in large part a matter of whether bills can be paid. Can police forces and defence forces be paid? Can the poor and sick be cared for? Estonia has a flat income tax and, reportedly, is the wealthiest of the three Baltic states. Hardly proof, but still. Milton Friedman favoured flat taxes and calculated they would work to bring in sufficient revenue.

A low flat rate – less than 20 percent – on all income above personal exemptions with no deductions except for strict occupational expenses would yield more revenue than the present unwieldy structure. — Free to Choose, 1979

On the other side of politics, so does California’s Jerry “Governor Moonbeam” Brown, who ran for the White House in 1992 on a platform that specified a 13 per cent tax for all.

And it’s not as though the matter isn’t alive and well. For instance, there is a bill in Congress advocating flat taxes (admittedly going nowhere). The Democrat governor of Kansas has just vetoed a Republican bill to bring in a flat state income tax.

Of course there is much more that can be said. These are incomplete thoughts. However, if you can run a country with everybody who works having the same proportionate skin in the taxing-paying game then that seems to me to be much more of a moral system than the one we have. And the pie will most likely get much bigger to the benefit of everyone. Not happenstance. A moral society is a prosperous society. That’s why Christendom and prosperity have gone together.

44 thoughts on “Oh, to Hammer Tax Until it’s Flat

  • exuberan says:

    Enjoyed the Read

    The majority responded by using more of their number as spies = ATO

  • Botswana O'Hooligan says:

    We have a wonderful system of taxation in this “lucky country” of ours and I have always felt privileged to work here and pay tax, just on 2.5 million in income tax during a working life of 61 years tho I spent many of those 61 years working overseas. My wife, an immigrant, paid just on 1.0 million in income tax after a working life here of twenty years and she also feels privileged tho she has not complained. Our luck is further enhanced of course in that we are self funded in retirement and don’t want or even qualify for a OAP as everyone does in NZ/UK/France/ Russian Federation to name just a few countries. The Russian Federation was riddled with all sorts of faults but one plus was that your OAP depended on your profession so were you a bludger or labourer your pension was miniscule and that gave people an incentive to be well qualified. France had it with 17% VAT on just about everything so that a married couple with two kids paid just 12% income tax. This “Fair Go” system we have here is wonderful if you are of a certain background or devote time to pursuits as in skateboarding and thus too busy to earn a quid, but not so flash for those of us who paid all the tax and even continue to pay a bit of tax on income from investments.

    • David Isaac says:

      State pensions would have to go under the flat tax system. Self-provisioning, intra-familial and community-based charity the order of the day. Almshouses for the indigent would provide an appropriate outlet for all of the misplaced guilt and compassion which is destroying our nations.

      The idea that the state owes anyone a living other than war veterans and their widows is at the root of many of our ills.

    • christopher.coney says:

      Great comment.
      Australia really is a great country.
      If we look around the world or travel a bit, it’s clear that this land has been fortunate indeed in very many respects.
      One thing that saddens me is the shallow but harsh criticisms of the white Australians who came here 250 years ago with the wonderful institutions that are now models for nearly all states on earth.

  • pgang says:

    Nice one Peter. I think you summarised it neatly in your first article in saying the Bible makes a case for proportional tax. 10% is 10%, whether you earn 100 or 100 million. Everyone gets to contribute, and every contribution is equally worthy. Perhaps for the poorest the burden is greater. But then, so is the honour. But socialism hates things that lift people up.

  • Brian Boru says:

    A modern nation has to provide many services for its people. Security, health, education, transport infrastructure and other items according to the degree its citizens wish.
    Taxes of various kinds are imposed to fund these objectives. For instance, Estonia that Peter mentioned has (errors and omissions excepted) flat personal tax 20%, social tax 33% (?), VAT 22% and 12% excise. All of which plus corporate tax adds to 33.07% of GDP. Australia has a tax burden of 28.68% of GDP. (wisevoter dot com slash country-rankings slash highest-taxed-countries)
    Personal income tax is but one impost within the mix but the result overall has to be sufficient to provide the funds to meet our objectives. Within the mix there are varying percentages and methods of application.
    It is clear from the examples above that if all government expenditure was to be funded only by personal income tax that the rates would have to be much higher than presently the case. It would be doubtful if lower earners could afford to pay the required rate. The exemption income level from any tax would therefore have to be quite high. This in turn would require the flat rate on higher earners to be higher still. A better system is to tax lower income earners at a rate they can afford, then there is a lesser burden on higher earners. This holds true whatever the mix of taxes.
    Peter is fond of quoting the Bible, I am not so well versed. However I do remember; Luke 18:25 that “it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God”. I therefore can also seek Biblical comfort in my contention that those who are able should contribute more.
    Sixty years ago, on the Yarra bank, I heard an anti-communist speaker criticize “From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs,” as being contrary to human nature. Our nature is to get as much as we can get for as little as we can give, thus the failing of communism as a system. In the dying days of European communism, it was said; “they pretend to pay us and we pretend to work”. Obviously it is necessary not to destroy incentive.
    Progressive personal income taxation is just part of the mix of taxes we must endure. Provided it is not so high as to stifle entrepreneurship and career aspirations it has its place and is (apart from outliers like Estonia) almost universally accepted.
    Our governments have avoided auto-adjusting progressive tax brackets, say by reference to average earnings. That is because they are addicted to “bracket creep”. That is a failing of government, not of progressive taxation.

    • David Isaac says:

      One important difference between Estonia and Australia in 2024 is that one is constitutionally dedicated as the home of a particular European ethny, Estonians, whereas the other is a free-market economic zone of a global empire. Their country is tiny and full. Ours is vast and empty but feminism, materialism and environmentalism convinced the most capable Australian women over a couple of generations to drastically reduce their fertility and now instead of a young optimistic, growing nation of Australians we are living in a globalist hodge-podge in which assertions of our identity are increasingly criminalised and our children are taught to hate their ancestors and themselves.
      Australia’s economy is juiced by importing young people from all over the world rather than paying to train our own as we once did to a much larger extent. This in addition to our vast mineral wealth means we don’t have to tax as much

  • Occidental says:

    “…but I believe it gets close to real life stripped of paraphernalia.
    There are men and women of ranging abilities on the island; able-bodied and those less able. Everyone must do what they can if they are all to survive.“
    But Peter this hypothetical is nothing like real life. Imagine you are actually marooned, and amongst your fellow survivors is Abdul Benbrika, and his attitudes don’t change with the vicissitudes of the situation. What happens in reality, is probably more Lord Of The Flies than Island Survivor. I point this out to remind you that your income tax (flat rate or progressive) supports Benbrika and his followers, and will continue to until you turn up your toes.
    I came face to face with this situation some years ago, when I hired a woman as a live in carer for a loved one, and found out she was a demon from hell. Unknown to me she was collecting the disability pension and had been in receipt of it for decades.
    I learned then the subtle difference between community and society. A community is really your circle of known individuals. Those you know or whom your acquaintances know. I am happy to help them because I can judge them. Society is the word used by Posturers to describe their target beneficiaries, and as such is deliberately amorphous. That group I am not in the least interested in supporting. I know there are many good people amongst them, but I also know that by and large those good people have contributed, and probably don’t even need my help.
    And finally Taxation. The federal government never needed income tax until 1915, and then only to fund it’s war effort. War is always the base cause for taxation. Most services are provided best by the market ie your fellow man, not by government. But governments, after wars, are swimming in revenue that they harnessed, and then become the answer to problems we never knew we had.
    When I left Oz about five years ago it was principally to get off the treadmill of taxation and dependance. We become dependent on our environment. We get used to going to Woolies for our favourite products, going to our local pub and we can’t imagine living in a different environment.
    We become immobile and government loves that, and slowly keeps turning up the heat on its captive frogs. Remember it was the exodus of the UK wealthy in the 1970s which forced the Labour government to repeal its own wealth taxes. Governments will tax everyone as much as politically possible and fairness does not enter the equation.

    • pgang says:

      All good points. Although I can’t think of anywhere else to go that is in any better condition than we are.

      • Occidental says:

        Pgang, we are led to believe we are in a good condition, and the rest of the world is in turmoil. With the exception of a few countries in the third world, most countries are safe to live in, at least as safe as Australia. Once you accept that reality then you need to investigate whether the taxation, culture, and amenities suit you, now and into the future. Believe me there are many good options depending on what you seek. Finally I point out that most advancement or material improvement for the individual comes from mobility. It is why our ancestors emigrated to Australia, why we move house, or even towns, we do it to improve some aspect of our life. My father was poor living in Sydney but moved to outback Queensland and became wealthy. Mobility is often the key to improving your life. I now live in a third world country and feel exponentially safer than when I was living in Australia.

  • Davidovich says:

    How about some figures as to the tax take for different flat taxes and compare with today’s progressive tax take? If there is a flat tax rate which provides equivalent income for the Government whilst not being punitive to lower income earners then the simplicity and cost savings could make it worth while.

  • Stephen Due says:

    Essentially taxation is theft backed up by moralistic propaganda and brute force. Below the surface always lurks the iron fist. When discussing this topic, people imagine themselves to be godlike observers, tasked with controlling the use and distribution of the society’s wealth. This is assumed to be a convenient fiction – a sort of conceptual framework from which to develop a theoretically persuasvive rationale for what is actually a political process within a power structure. In reality it is just the totalitarian mindset at work.
    So one might ask whether there are ways of imagining this problem that do not lead in practice to totalitarian systems. What about a different perspective?
    Consider health care. Do we need a vast government-run tax-funded superstructure to cure our diseases keep us healthy? The answer is no. Throughout human history, until about a hundred years ago, people looked after their own health with the help of independent professional doctors. When a person became unable to do this, capable individuals in the local community would exercise compassion and pitch in to help. This was a humane system based on real relationships. With education much the same applies. And so on.
    What totalitarian systems do is partly psychological, in that they appeal to our desire to be god-like. But they also destroy initiative, create dependence on government, open up avenues for legalised theft and corruption on a vast scale, and inevitably result in gross injustices.
    What we are living under is essentially a form of communism – an elected tyranny. Of course it can be justified by adopting the assumption that we need the tyrant to ensure wealth is distributed ‘fairly’ and our manifold needs are catered for. It is true that people are afraid of freedom, and are easily persuaded to let the government look after them. This partly reflects the fact that governments today have overwhelming physical force at their disposal. It is too easy – perhaps it is even psychologically necessary – to make a virtue out of reality. Which is all rather sad. in my view.

    • Rebekah Meredith says:

      Good points.

    • says:

      Yes, a form of theft, but to have any form of society, it’s going to be there. Even if you’re a member of a stone age tribe, you have to contribute to the common good, and if you don’t the consequences are likely worse than what the ATO will do to you.. There’s a reason for the expression that the only certainties are death and taxes- it’s true.

    • mrsfarley2001 says:

      One historian described the rule of Henry V111 as “tyranny by consent”. Something similar seems to apply here in Australia, made very evident by the COVID period. Thank our ancestors for the secret ballot, so we were able to keep our own counsel re the voice.

  • John Daniels says:

    Once people have excess income above their living needs they can invest in a tax sheltering way .
    That is when their building of wealth begins .
    Most of my life I have built wealth as well as paid high rates of personal income tax .
    I remember the time when the marginal tax rate was 60% for income above $36000 , however that was before capital gains tax .
    The Rich have opportunities to build wealth that are just not available to the Poor living from pay check to pay check .
    The opportunities to build wealth were higher when the marginal tax rate was 60% than they are now. Inflation drove the capital assets of the Rich higher without capital gain taxes and financial leverage , not available to our poorest was King .
    I am disappointed at the latest clawback by Labor , I think pre election commitments should be kept fully but it will not mean that the above $160000 income will have to eat bread and dripping .

  • Rhadamanthus says:

    Societies that impose steeply progressive income taxes, needed to finance a bloated welfare state, ultimately slow down economic growth. The result is that those societies, over time, become poorer than what they would have otherwise been. This may not affect very much those at the top of the economic pile but it certainly does those at the bottom. The welfare state funded by those taxes provides short term gain for those poorer people, but at the price of a long term cost. Over time they would have been much better off had those taxes, and the welfare state funded by it, not existed.

    You can see proof of this in most Western societies where, as the burden of taxation and regulation has increased economic growth per capita has slowed to almost nothing. Look no further than our own country, Australia, if you desire a specific example.

    Corporate tax should be reduced to zero. That income will then wind up in the hands of the individuals who either own those corporations or are employed by them. Income received by individuals should be taxed at a flat rate with a reasonably generous threshold, which might be fixed at either the current age pension or a figure slightly above it. That threshold should be adjusted annually in line with average weekly earnings, or some sort of similar statistic.

    This will ensure that those on low incomes do not see an excessively high proportion of those incomes stripped away in tax. It is as much progressivity as the tax system should admit.

    And we should stop treating the state as, to quote Frederic Bastiat: “that great fiction through which everyone endeavors to live at the expense of everyone else”.

  • chuckp61 says:

    Govt is getting bigger and bigger – like a virus that will eventually kill its host, us.

    What’s more worrying in the short term is the views of the vast majority of NORMAL voters has become irrelevant to the political and business elites. Even the act of voting seems to make no difference but that is a discussion for another time.

    As far as taxation is concerned what could be more fair than a flat tax of say 15% with very few allowable deductions.

    If you make $4000/pcm you pay $600 less allowable deductions.

    If you make $20000/pcm you pay $3000.

    If you make $100000/pcm you pay $15000.

    Personal Allowable deductions could be things like interest on home mortgage, childcare, education (whether for children or adults seeking to move up the income ladder) and a % of the cost of private medical insurance – but not a lot else.

    Large Business taxed at a flat 20% with the usual deductions for investment in the business etc.

    Small family type business could be taxed at 15% with deductions for the usual costs of carrying out that business but then the owners of said business pay no personal income tax on wages paid to themselves.

    Reduce the taxation laws to 1 page and sack 95% of those employed by the ATO.

    Of course you will probably also need to ensure govt is reduced in size to live ‘within its means’.

    what could be ‘fairer’?

  • brandee says:

    Observe how the ‘progressive’ Party and ‘moderate Liberals uses the funds from progressive taxation:
    *The NDIS with an unquenshable demand for funding that is likely to exceed the defence budget
    *The NIAA needing funding to provide ACT office jobs in an appearance to do good

    • christopher.coney says:

      As someone with some personal knowledge of the NDIS I agree that it is a big problem; much more stringent limits and regulation must curb its relentless and rapid growth.

  • says:

    Interesting discussion on the morality of progressive tax. It’s worth noting that high income earners don’t actually pay more on the first part of their income than low income earners do ie the tax brackets are the same for everyone. So I reckon there’s a kind of morality at play. Society says your first few hundred dollars a week (what someone needs to rent a room and buy food), we won’t touch that, whoever you are, but as you are able to afford more things that aren’t deemed as vital, we will up the percentage that we take. If you have dependents, we take their vital needs into account via FTB A and B, but once your income reaches the territory that you can meet their vital needs, those benefits phase out. All that said from the left half of my brain, the right half still thinks the top bracket is too severe, something like 30% would be better.

    Thete’s way more to tax than income tax, and moral support for the low income earner often doesn’t apply. There is a flat tax, namely GST, that has no tax free threshold. Once you realise all forms of government revenue are a tax, whatever they might call it, then regressive taxation is definitely a thing. If you happen to miss the school zone sign, you get to pay $400 or so, regardless of income. That’s 2% for the $20K earner, 0.2% for the $200K earner.

  • tom says:

    I worry that the average Australian doesn’t really believe in property rights in any fundamental way. Or rather, they believe in their own property rights, just not the property rights of anyone wealthier than they are.

    I worry about the long term implications of the majority knowing that they can vote to transfer wealth held by a minority into their own pockets, and our politicians being incentivised to promise this. Aren’t we just sleep-walking into socialism?

    • christopher.coney says:

      You might be right about this Tom, but if you are right this has been going on for well over a hundred years and perhaps your great great grandparents had the same concern so if we are sleep walking to our doom it has been a veeeery long sleep indeed.

      • Peter Smith says:

        As I intimated, there is nothing in the New Testament, nor the Old I don’t think, which says wealth is bad. Now the love of money is a different thing. Making an idol of money, very bad. That’s why the rich man has greater difficulties in getting through the narrow gate. Wealth can be corrupting. It’s not being rich per se that’s the problem. The Catholic church points to individual riches as giving the God-given opportunity for sharing. Voluntary sharing of course.

        • christopher.coney says:

          I agree that wealth per se is not intrinsically bad.
          Indeed, a young child who inherits a fortune cannot but be wealthy – at least for a time.
          And when wealth is put to good use it’s a blessing.
          And you are right that in terms of property wealth the Catholic Church is a very wealthy institution.
          As a Catholic this does not cause me difficulty because this wealth is meant to be for the glory of God, which includes provision for poor and the various celebrations of the faith as well as education, health and many other unquestionably beneficial ends. Of course, there have historically been terrible abuses, and there will continue to be in the future, by those in the church, including clerics, who are dishonest, selfish, as well, ultimately, as criminal.

  • says:

    Actually, I make an error saying GST is flat. It’s actually regressive against income. ie if you buy an $11 ,takeaway, that dollar tax is a bigger percentage for the low income earner.

  • Davidovich says:

    “Estonia has a flat income tax and, reportedly, is the wealthiest of the three Baltic states.”
    If Wikipedia can be believed, Estonia has a flat income tax but there are a myriad of exemptions which can be obtained to reduce that tax. Additionally, their VAT is about 20% and there are a range of additional taxes and charges which apply to all working individuals as well as pensioners. Flat tax may sound good but the Estonian government obtains its money from its citizens one way or the other.

  • christopher.coney says:

    I tend to think that a mixed economy has shown itself to be better than either practically pure socialism or practically pure capitalism, and here in Australia for a very long time we have had a pretty good version of a mixed economy. And an aspect of most successful mixed economies is progressive taxation. Our sustained mixed economy is promoted by having pretty regular changes of government between the largely pro-business parties and the largely pro-worker ALP and other minor parties.

    Only certain kinds of people are driven to accumulate as much money and other wealth as they can and some of these people have been responsible for quite a lot of good, as the author suggests, but some of them have been heartless, greedy monsters. Most people are content to work in their jobs and make a reasonable living – enough for a home, to pay for groceries and bills, and save a bit for retirement. Thank goodness that most people, that is, ordinary people, do not have money as their god.

    Peter cites the parable of the talents, and fair enough, we should not waste our talents, we must do our best during our lives in everything that we do. But Peter does not cite the many condemnations of wealth and the wealthy that we find in the New Testament – these obviously do not fit his narrative.

    The author writes that with progressive taxation “the more able have little incentive to work hard”. Most of the professional people I know love their work and they do it almost without looking at the fee book; they have interesting jobs and make more money than most so they are happy. Doing the job and enjoying it is enough.

    The author also writes that “only the rich save. Progress depends on rich people”. Well, if only the rich save, maybe there need to be changes in the wage and salaries paid to people in different jobs so that ordinary people can save a bit.

    As for your claim that “progress depends on rich people”; I am terribly sorry to say this but the greatest contributions to civilized life do not come from the rich but from those who enrich and raise the spirit; and just to name a few I mention the authors of the Hebrew Bible, Homer, Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, Jesus Christ, the authors of the New Testament, St Augustine, Confucius, St Thomas Aquinas, Duns Scotus, Kant, Hegel, Heidegger, Goethe, Tolstoy, Yeats, and well, I think I have missed several hundred. But I think you probably get my point.

    • Peter Smith says:

      Christoper, you write: “Peter does not cite the many condemnations of wealth and the wealthy that we find in the New Testament – these obviously do not fit his narrative.” I know of no such condemnations of wealth or the wealthy (per se) in the New Testament. Perhaps you can point to one.
      In context, by progess, I meant economic progress. I should have made it clear.

      • christopher.coney says:

        Hello Peter. The parable about camels, needles and rich men (Matthew 19:24) seems to state that salvation might be hard for the wealthy. Obviously a parable like this one needs interpretation, but on its face it questions the salvation of the wealthy. For rather (but not entirely) different reasons, in Plato and Aristotle we find virtual contempt for human beings who seek wealth as their primary goal in life.

  • Occidental says:

    “I tend to think that a mixed economy has shown itself to be better than either practically pure socialism or practically pure capitalism“,
    care to give a few examples of a practically pure capitalist economy. Certainly we know that all communist or marxist economies have been or are basket cases. Other than say North Korea every economy on earth is probably a mixed economy these days, so I am not sure what the comparison is.
    “And an aspect of most successful mixed economies is progressive taxation.“
    Progressive income tax, was the first modern income tax, as implemented by William Pitts government in 1798, you guessed it, to fund war. So any attempt to introduce flat taxes are simply an attempt to modify the template.
    “Only certain kinds of people are driven to accumulate as much money and other wealth as they can”, this comment is risible. Everyone save a few nuns and monks who depend on the generosity of others, attempt to accumulate as much wealth as they can, within their abilities. Every time you hear of pensioners losing their life savings to an investment scam, you are hearing of people trying to, but failing to accumulate wealth. Every time you buy a lotto ticket you are trying to luck upon wealth.
    “Most people are content to work in their jobs and make a reasonable living “, of course they are, there are no other options for most people, they have no opportunities to strive for a dream, or even have a dream in the first place. They are as Thoreau said, living lives of quiet desperation.

    “Most of the professional people I know love their work and they do it almost without looking at the fee book; they have interesting jobs and make more money than most so they are happy.“ This describes me, but I became a professional because it paid well. If some one came to me and said they had an investment opportunity, or an insiders tip on the last at Randwick, I still considered it. I was no different from the taxi driver or coal miner in that regard.
    But Christopher taxation is not used by government to spread wealth. Or reward the indolent, or help the indigent. Taxation is used to fund government. To be in government politicians promise groups of voters to reward them, or when in power, share the spoils, to keep their promise. The real problem of taxation is it is the lifeblood of government and government is a beast, that loves no one, has no morals, no scruples, and is faceless. There are no good governments anywhere. More tax equals more government, and we all become poorer for that.

    • christopher.coney says:

      As to your first point, agreed, my terminology is not great. I am thinking of Singapore (and perhaps the USA until about the 1990s) as countries with small(ish) national governments which are (relatively) non-interventionist, and have (perhaps) wrongly called these instances of practically pure capitalism. So, I stand corrected as to my word choice; the comparison is perhaps better made between bigger and more interventionist states (as we have in Europe and Australasia) and smaller, less interventionist ones. For my part, I’d rather live in Oz than the USA any day for what I hope are obvious reasons.

      You write and I quote: nearly everyone ” attempt(s) to accumulate as much wealth as they can, within their abilities. Every time you hear of pensioners losing their life savings to an investment scam, you are hearing of people trying to, but failing to accumulate wealth. Every time you buy a lotto ticket you are trying to luck upon wealth”, and then you refer to ordinary people as “living lives of quiet desperation”.
      Sorry, I don’t agree.
      Ordinary people love spending time with family and friends, playing with the kids, reading, playing sports, rather than piling up money/property 24/7.
      And as you probably know, Plato and Aristotle could barely hide their contempt for businessmen precisely because they give the best years of their lives to a necessary human good (money) which is about the lowest possible – arguably even lower, in terms of fundamental nobility, than eating and sex.

      • Brian Boru says:

        Yes Chris, one of Australia’s richest men was Kerry Francis Bullmore Packer AC (17 December 1937 – 26 December 2005). In 2004, Business Review Weekly magazine estimated Packer’s net worth at A$6.5 billion. He died age 68 and did not get to take even one cent with him.
        On the other hand many of us on this forum are quite a bit older than that. We are still enjoying being able to comment here as well as having good times with our grandchildren.
        True wealth is measured in healthy days not dollars.

        • David Isaac says:

          Whilst health is an undeniable boon, counting healthy days ought to come second to furthering the interests of one’s family, friends, community, nation and civilization.

    • christopher.coney says:

      Even though the greatest classical philosophers, Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle, had contempt for money makers – because their priorities were so awry and because they gave far more attention than is due to money and property – I think that this attitude is not the best one. The Christian teaching is that we should not despise or regard with contempt any other person (a contempt ruling by a judge is really motivated in principle by disrespect for the law and its institutions rather than being personal). In the eyes of God all human beings are equal in a strong sense, though not absolutely. All human beings, even the most monstrous criminals, are due respect and attention, and this is their due even if their crimes warrant the death penalty.
      Back to the main point: anyone who gives first priority to money and property has his priorities wrong; of this I have no doubt.

    • john mac says:

      Excellent post , Occidental . The Govts and their Bureaucracies (henchpersons) are like the “Blob” , ever expanding . Unaccountable , unsackable , and unscrupulous . I myself , with no real education or degree , never earned a high wage (no complaints, either) have managed to accumulate several properties , albeit with a significant mortgage , through thrift and discipline . No new cars , often shopping at the Salvo’s for furniture and clothing (some terrific buys, too) , no overseas trips or expensive phones and other toys , yet I haven’t missed out . Recently a friend’s daughter , who was looking for a property to buy due to an inheritance, was bemoaning the difficulty and cost of finding a house and complained to me about the ‘selfish” landlords hoarding all the properties and that it was not right or fair and a law should prohibit it . The fact that she was a child of extreme privilege was lost on her , and I explained my situation , that short of winning the lottery , property ownership was my best chance to secure my future and retirement , without the Govt’s help (or interference !) and that i will receive no pension , something parasitical westerners expect as a right . She grudgingly agreed with me , but how many of her era will see self determination as the key , in a world of NDIS , pensions , annual, sick , “domestic violence”, maternity , Paternity! and ‘mental health ” leave , all the while demanding more and more Govt aid ?! Anyway all this will be moot as “Cashless society” will render us all slaves to the state , subjects not citizens , and the total loss of freedom surrendered for convenience . Was it Franklin who said “those that choose security over freedom , will end up with neither ” ?

  • christopher.coney says:

    I agree with you completely Brian.
    For Aristotle and Plato (and every one I think) health is obviously a good, but it’s only a condition of the higher goods of civilised ‘arts’ such as hospitality, conversation, pleasing others, tasteful dressing, courtship, a loving family life etc, and the highest goods such as music, painting and philosophy.
    And somewhere in there I need to put football (by which I mean AFL); apologies to rugby readers and round ballers :)))

    • Brian Boru says:

      Yes again to all that Chris, I know we are digressing but;
      For music, it has to be Puccini. For a real treat, see if you can find just the music (not the singing) for the 2nd Act of Madam Butterfly. Listen with eyes closed. It lifts me up every time.

      • christopher.coney says:

        Agreed; Puccini is an eternal gift from God.
        As to Act II of Butterfly, do you mean the whole thing? Or perhaps ‘un bel di vedremo’?
        My go to these days is the piano music and the simpler stuff of Arvo Part; he’s a bit too modern for many but I love it.

  • christopher.coney says:

    PS: a bit before Kerry Packer’s era there was a fellow named Essington Lewis who was a honcho of BHP. Geoff Blainey wrote a good biography of him. One stunning but extremely said thing about Lewis is that even though he wanted his children to learn to read etc, he did not like them to read fiction, that is literature. So novels, dramas and poetry were out. Lewis made an important contribution to the war effort during the 30s and 40s, so for that we must be grateful, but he had a barbarous notion of a good education.

  • Paul.Harrison says:

    It’s not called the House of Commons for nothing. When our species finally accepted that there is strength in numbers and commenced living together, complete with walls, provisions, laws, defences, etc., this was seen as a good. Part of this organisation, as it devolved over time, was the Common, which was for the use of all, such as grazing ones sheep, meetings, growing food and other ‘common’ uses. The ‘common’ was usually situated in the middle of the village and one can safely assume that was where the fresh water was. It’s only a theory but we can safely surmise this: Over time, Farmer Fred, who owned a number of sheep equal to the others, and thus shared equal time feeding his flock on the commons, discovered that breeding his sheep often resulted in a flock which delivered more wool and meat than the other villagers. He realised that by following his discovery of breeding certain sheep, he could prosper and thus trade more than the average. This of course required that he use a disproportionate share of the commons as a result of more sheep. There was much protest at this. What shall we do? Levy a tax on his success, that’s the go. And over time, this particular tax was increased on Farmer Fred until, fed up, he abandoned his citizenship in that particular village and moved off somewhere to join others who were more successful purely by their own effort. Having done this, he continued to trade with his previous village and went on to prosper very well indeed. This is how import tax was invented. And so on, and so on. IT IS A CRIMINAL ENTERPRISE TO TAX PROSPEROUS PEOPLE MERELY BECAUSE THEY HAVE MORE. Read Atlas Shrugged, and obtain an understanding of why Atlas shrugged.

    • christopher.coney says:

      As to your last sentence: Rich people, and those who are not rich, are taxed because there is truth in the saying that taxes are one of the unchanging realities of modern civilization. Rich people are NOT taxed, to quote you, “merely because they have more”. So my first point is that they are taxed along with the non-rich. Secondly, being rich, they have capacity to pay more tax than the non-rich, so nearly all governments these days, of the left and the right, tax the rich more that the rest of us. Third, usually the rich have done well for themselves, and very often for the non-rich too by employing the non-rich, but their success, like the success that all of us may have, is based upon a history of providing all sorts of public goods that are essential to any success at all – a reasonable legal system with reasonable laws and functional institutions, public infrastructure such as roads, bridges, airports etc, relative social stability, with a community made up of people that get along reasonably well most of the time.

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