the corner office

a blog, by Colin Pretorius

Avoision II

As I read somewhere this week, is it ethically wrong to open an ISA? To contribute to a pension fund? All these things reduce the amount of tax you'd pay compared to saving money in the bank. Taking that a step further, is it unethical to choose a low-paying job, knowing it means you'll pay less tax? What about choosing not to work longer hours, not to take on a second job? All of these things reduce the amount of money the tax man could potentially take from you.

No, the response would be, that's not the same thing as a very wealthy person who has an accountant helping them to sidestep tax, or by exploiting loopholes. Sort of, yes, but every time someone says something like 'the wealthy' my first response is this: define 'wealthy.' Define 'sidestep.' If there's a line between Us and Them, where is it? If there's a line between Acceptable and Unacceptable, what is it?

People need an Other. A tribal enemy, a vent for personal prejudices. We all have our prejudices, and for many on the Left, 'the wealthy' are a popular Other. Yet in the UK alone, just about everyone is wealthier than someone else. So who's wealthy and who's not? No small irony that by global standards even the most vehemently unwealthy British Lib Dem supporter is fabulously wealthy.

It's easy to rant about the Other, but the lines between whom (and what) we approve and disapprove of are not so easily defined. I think it's because when you try to draw the lines, you often realise that there is no line at all.

{2010.09.25 14:33}

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