fear not, the billionaires are coming…

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Hailing from the frozen north, I remain delighted when I find any reference to the fine city of my birth. So, imagine my joy when I discovered the idiom ‘death and taxes’ was first penned by Christopher Bullock in his 1716 comedic farce ‘The Cobbler of Preston’: ’Tis impossible to be sure of anything but Death and Taxes.’ My, how we laughed. And, my, how right was Mr Bullock and never more than in this day and age when the latter half of ‘tax and spend’ has been undertaken so judiciously and will have to be compensated so disproportionately by the former. Perhaps, to the extent that the quantative easing and austerity budgeting of post-2008 will be nowt but a twinkle in an economist’s eye.

However, whilst taxation, in its broadest sense, obviously remains a thorny and divisive subject it should never be confused with, or mistaken for, charity.

It may or may not come as a surprise that Apple, under Steve Knobs, intentionally gave nothing, zilch, to charity, arguing that it was something his shareholders could do with their dividends. You can’t fault his logic but it would have been a tad more morally consistent had the great man accepted the ‘burden’ of contributing to the good of society via the appropriation of fair & equitable taxes. Sadly, our latter-day mobile messiah failed to appreciate that he, his company and many of those shareholders, inhabited an artificial land of tax havens, offshore sanctuaries and customs flags of convenience, claiming that ‘only the little people pay taxes’. Duplicitously, neither he nor his company were either charitable or taxable.

Fast forward but a few short years and super Stevie appears to have been replaced by a small group of uber-rich philanthropists, including Mark Suckerberg, Elon Must, Jeff Bozos and Bill & Malaria Gates, all apparently seeking charitable absolution for the sins of their deceased mentor. Or are they? Homelessness, unemployment, disease, intergalactic tourism: no probs, peeps, we’ll sort it but there’s a catch… let’s hear no more about corporate regulations, restrictions and controls and certainly let’s forget about taxes as they’re merely what governments waste. Furthermore, buoyed by the recent success of his manned Space X’s launch, Elon explained he’s keen to “put a million people on Mars by 2050”, create “plenty of jobs” and that “he’s been accumulating assets on Earth in order to pay for this.” Absurd. Deranged. Like his Falcon 9 rocket, Elon’s as high as a kite again.

The misplaced trust we grant to our celebrity, government-lobbying billionaires derives largely from the fact that, other than hang on their every pronouncement with bated breath, we don’t really know what to do with them. I’d argue taxation would be a good place to start and this must not be confused with voluntary charitable donation. Tax should be raised from all for the good of all, to be allocated through democratic consent as this is how decent societies develop, operate and prosper.

With today’s reported 20% fall in the country’s GDP, I’m confident we’re going to be imminently and repeatedly reminded that we’re all in this together (whatever ‘this’ is) and that we all need to do our bit for the collective good. Sadly, in the communist vein of some being born more equal than others, it would appear some to be more in this than others and more committed to do their bit than others. As Mr Bullock may have commented: ‘Twas ever thus.’