Economic Myths #13 – Wealth Inequality and “The 1%”


Economic Myths #13 – Wealth Inequality and “The 1%”

By Duncan Whitmore

The inequality of wealth and income is a frequent bone of contention in the mainstream media. According to The Guardian, 1% of the world’s population will own two-thirds of its wealth by the year 2030. A typical response to this kind of revelation is the following utterance from the Executive Director of Oxfam in 2015:

An explosion of inequality [is] holding back the fight against poverty. Do we really want to live in a world where 1% own more than the rest of us combined?

The mainstream debate over this issue fails to understand the true nature of the problem (although, interestingly, The Guardian article referred to above is unusually far sighted in recognising some of the causes of inequality).

The pro-free market side is wont to point out that such inequality “doesn’t matter” and that governments should not do anything to interfere with the progress of business. The likely call from the opposite side, however, is for increased taxation and redistribution and, indeed, Oxfam itself stressed the need for a greater crackdown on tax avoidance by large, multinational corporations. However, the reality is much more nuanced than the false dichotomy between “pro-business” and “pro-government/anti-poverty”. Continue reading

Economic Myths #10 – Taxes Benefit “Us”


Whenever there is the appearance of some headline berating large corporations for arranging their affairs so as to pay as little tax as possible on profits earned in the UK, the indignation from the general public seems to centre on the belief that the “lost” state revenue was somehow a “lost” benefit to the average citizen. After all, won’t lower tax revenues result in fewer hospitals and worse schools? Such was the fury greeting the news, on August 3rd of this year, that Amazon UK’s tax bill fell from its 2017 figure of £7.4m to just £1.7m in spite of pre-tax profits having almost trebled.

Unfortunately for libertarians, tax avoidance (together with the deliberate blurring of the legal and moral distinction between that concept and that of tax evasion) has become a favourite topic of heavily indebted governments as they attempt to balance their books without reducing their profligate spending. Continue reading

Tackling Taxes for Economic Prosperity


In a recent essay published on this blog1, the present author highlighted the need for a libertarian strategy to be firmly and uncompromisingly radical, rooted in challenging the inherent injustice of the state as the ultimate destroyer of liberty. This is in contrast to gradualist or, we might say, deliberately half-hearted approaches, which are forced to accept the state’s basic injustices (such as its taxes, regulations, and monopoly over law, order and defence) and replace any radical principle with some kind of utilitarianism.

While it is wonderful that liberty brings with it heightened economic progress in the form of material increases in the standard of living, libertarians recognise that these ends do not justify the means. For example, if it could be demonstrated that murdering red heads would add a few percentage points to GDP we would still regard such acts as evil; the ability of everyone else to buy a few more pairs of shoes would do nothing to change this fact. Therefore, while leaps and bounds in the standard of living certainly add moral weight to the case for a free society they fail to add moral decisiveness.

Interestingly, however, it seems as though wedding oneself to a fundamental principle allows one to examine the economic effects of liberalisation more pertinently and that even on their own terms, gradualists, neo-liberals and utilitarians fail to make proposals which would bring the highest economic benefits. In other words, libertarians such as ourselves, who are derided for being too “utopian”, “principled” and “unrealistic”, seem to have a better grasp of the primary utilitarian case for liberty than do their more pragmatic brethren. We will elaborate on this observation here by examining the problem of taxation. Continue reading