Friday, 31 August 2012

The diffusion of wealth-and the taxes to achieve it-letter in The Times

National newspapers are usually owned by wealthy men who, not surprisingly, don't like wealth taxes. This has been obvious in the response to Clegg's (belated) outburst of egalitarianism-well maybe that is putting it a bit strongly.

Nevertheless the wealth tax proposals have been attacked on all sides (most diverting was Labour's sham moral outrage at Clegg's support for the 45p upper tax band-forgetting that it is higher now than it was during almost all Labour's period in office) . My issue with them is that they are presented as short term measures designed to get us out of a hole rather than as part of a long term strategy to 'diffuse wealth' Central to the Liberal Party's view of these matters has been the contention that wealth/property/ownership is held in too few hands and that a Liberal commonwealth 'in which every citizen shall possess liberty, property and security, and none shall be enslaved by poverty, ignorance or conformity' cannot be build unless we have ownership for all. This is why death Duties, employee ownership, citizen's asset funds etc have been part of the Liberal platform and why fundamentally we are a party of the left.

I even put pen to paper and wrote to The Times who published my letter this morning:
Sir,Many Liberal Democrats will welcome the re-emergence of a long standing policy to reform death duties("LibDems renew attack on rich, Aug 30")

The policy was first advocated in the 1938 Ownership for All Inquiry Report which advocated a 'new principle' that Death Duties be 'graduated according to the size of the individual bequest rather than the size of the state. This would tend to split up large estates, and would in general conduce to a more direct and rapid diffusion of wealth....'

It is entirely proper that such measures should, in the short term, be applied to removing the structural deficit but we should not loose sight of the long term objective namely 'the diffusion of wealth'

The resolution which established the inquiry stated:

This Assembly of the Liberal Party, indignantly aware of the grossly unequal distribution of property in this country, believes that the greatest possible measure of personal ownership, with the independence and security it brings, should be enjoyed by all. It also believes that the opportunities of a full life hitherto open only to the rich should be placed before all.

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