I’m against high taxes in Ireland. The reason is because all my adult life I have seen an Irish state which collects taxes and, as a priority, sees ensuring a high quality of life for its own employees and favoured sectional interests as the primary destination for those taxes, with service delivery very much the second objective. As a result, I have no faith in the argument put forward by the Irish Left in defence of higher taxation. It is, quite simply, not in my own self-interest.
Having said that, I don’t have an ideological objection to high taxation. I’m not a Randist Tax-is-Theft nutter. I’m just not convinced that the Irish state could get me a better return for my money in terms of quality of life than I can myself. Having said that, I have yet to meet, with the exception of Labour Senator Brendan Ryan, an Irish politician of the Left willing to make the moral argument for us all as a society paying higher taxes for the common good. Even Joe Higgins and Richard Boyd Barrett, almost uniquely for European politicians, do not make the argument for common high taxation for common social goals. Instead, they talk of taxation in an unrealistic and punitive vein, as a weapon to be used against a class who dare to hold but also create wealth. Yet their “Soak the rich as national cash-cow” strategy is just not viable as a long term sustainable source of revenue because the penal rates they advocate are rates that not even ordinary workers would tolerate. It is, of course, true, that there are those in our society (and not just amongst the ranks of the ultra-wealthy) who object to paying any significant level of taxation yet expect the same level of services as others. They are the social parasites that exist in every society, and have to be faced with a choice: Pay and benefit, or don’t pay and leave.
But what of the rest of our society? Where are the new leaders of the Left willing to confront the failed sacred cows of the Left, by proposing ideas such as the ordinary worker as taxpayer being the priority with regard to public spending outcomes? Where are the new leaders of the Left with the courage to advocate, for example, a Luxury Tax on high value products, or are they too frightened because of a recognition that working families too aspire to own such products? Where is the new leader of the Left willing to state his reputation on proving that your money in his hands will deliver a better outcome for you? Show me the young leader of the Irish Left willing to say that we must all pay higher taxes, and identifying specifically what rights and services we will all get in return? Show me that, and whilst I still may not agree with him, I will respect him.