The tax battle turns Biblical
Those arguing for tax cuts are finding justification in the Old Testament. Martin Robbins reports
The taxpayers’ alliance represent taxpayers in much the same way that the BNP represent British people, or Justin Bieber represents quality music. Campaigning for low taxes and small government, the vaguely libertarian pro-business group are one of Britain’s slickest lobbying outfits, with admirers in the right-wing press helping hundreds of their stories find their way into print every year. You’d think such an established, professional group would avoid doing anything too off-the-wall, so one can only assume their latest report [PDF] is some sort of cunning parody of the Christian right.
Those who dislike inequality, or support the redistribution of wealth, are suffering from “sexual jealousy” according to the TPA: “Even in an age of workingwomen, sexual continence and gender equality, the man with the most money still gets more sexual opportunities than the man with the least money. Ask them. So no wonder we dislike inequality. No wonder we want tax to take that money off a Vanderbilt before he grabs all the best women.” In the world of the Taxpayers’ Alliance, people only care about other people because they want to get laid.
This is just a warm-up: the real barminess comes in a lengthy essay [PDF] on the religious basis for taxation. “The Biblical model for the state is small and decentralised,” we are lectured, and the Prophet Samuel is invoked in support of the idea that a 20 per cent tax burden is too high. “Scripture teaches that because humans are steeped in sin, the state is required to administer justice, to protect against aggression and to provide for public works. […] There might also be a very limited involvement in health and education matters.” In case you were confused, they helpfully clarify that: “When Jesus said that Christians should render unto Caesar he was not endorsing high taxation.” Phew!
Their appeal to the Bible echoes that of another right-wing small-government group – The Christian Party. Their 2010 manifesto quoted Genesis 41:34 (“Let Pharaoh proceed to appoint overseers over the land, and take one fifth part of the produce of the land of Egypt”) as support for their plan to set income and corporation tax at a flat 20 per cent. Neither group bothers to explain why the tax systems of Iron Age nations, whose health and literacy were roughly on a par with their broadband coverage, are relevant to modern Britain.
Of course you can pick Bible quotes to suit almost any worldview: the Taxpayers’ Alliance are small-government evangelists, and they have found the right religious rhetoric to suit their purposes. They share common ground on this front with the Tea Party, and it’s no surprise that the two have forged closer ties in recent years, organising joint events. “We need to learn from the Tea Party movement,” said their Chief Executive, Matthew Elliott. “It will be fascinating to see whether it will transfer to the UK. Will there be the same sort of uprising?” As bizarre at it seems, a Christian battle over tax could be just around the corner.