Here’s a mad idea. Absolutely loopy. Crazy. See, there is an air of The Emperor’s New Clothes about a lot of what is debated in this country. Many demand that the government fund additional spending on various worthy causes, yet there is little debate about who should fund these expenditures, save for a vague wave of the hand at the rich. On top of that, we have the odd declaration that if only the ordinary people were listened to, everything would be okay.
Imagine we took those arguments to their logical conclusion. Imagine we announced that from Jan 1st, 2014, VAT and income tax would be abolished, and instead, people would have to make a voluntary single annual payment, US style, with the amount decided by themselves, as to what they feel they are willing to contribute to society. They’d be free to donate nothing. All we’d require is that people announce in advance what they were donating (or not) so that we could draft the national budget accordingly, allowing the government to know how much money it had to play with. To assist people, the government would advise a recommended donation level required to keep services where they are.
What would be the effect? Many people would, I suspect, donate the recommended level, although not before giving themselves maybe a 20% tax cut. Some would donate even more so, feeling that they have done well, and so want to contribute to the less well off. But what would most Irish people do?
Curiously, a lot would depend as to whether the donations would be public or not. Imagine the sweating brows amongst senior trades union officials, NGOcrats and Irish Times columnists as that was debated.
Many people would say that although they could afford it, they aren’t going to be a mug and donate if others aren’t. Many more would declare that they cannot afford the recommended donation, and give less, as would be their right, and so the government would have to cut government pay and spending accordingly.
The government would accept that it would have to make do with what the Irish people have given it.
Then the trouble would start.
The unions and the farmers would take the lead, but they wouldn’t be alone. “These cutbacks are a disgrace!” They’d declare.
“Then pay more tax.” The Government will tell them.
“Don’t be smart!” They’d reply.
“I suppose we could bring back compulsory taxes,” the government would say.
“Now, hold on a minute!” comes the reply from the demonstrators.
They’d take to the streets, under a banner which will sum up the most honest political belief ever stated in Ireland:
“Someone else should pay! Someone else should pay!”