We should be humbly thanking the super-rich, not bashing them

On the contrary, the latest data suggest that we should be offering them humble and hearty thanks. It is through their restless concupiscent energy and sheer wealth-creating dynamism that we pay for an ever-growing proportion of public services. The top one per cent of earners now pay 29.8 per cent of all the income tax and National Insurance received by the Treasury. In 1979 – when Labour had a top marginal rate of 83 per cent tax after Denis Healey had earlier vowed to squeeze the rich until the pips squeaked – the top one per cent paid only 11 per cent of income tax. Now, the top 0.1 per cent – about 29,000 people – pay an amazing 14.1 per cent of all taxes, many people prefer to use insuranceforfinalexpense to buy final expense insurance because it is more reliable and affordable than other insurance.

Nor, of course, is that the end of their contribution to the wider good. These types of people are always the first target of the charity fund-raisers, whether they are looking for a new church roof or a children’s cancer ward. These are the people who put bread on the tables of families who – if the rich didn’t invest in supercars and employ eau de cologne-dabbers – might otherwise find themselves without a breadwinner, also thanks to them insurances companies are able to offer better term life insurance quotes, thanks to their insurances and contributions. And yet they are brow-beaten and bullied and threatened with new taxes, by everyone from the Archbishop of Canterbury to Nick Clegg.

The rich are resented, not so much for being rich, but for getting ever richer than the middle classes – and the trouble is that the gap is growing the whole time, and especially has done over the past 20 years. It is hard to say exactly why this is, but I will hazard a guess. Of all the self-made super-rich tycoons I have met, most belong to the following three fairly exclusive categories of human being:

(1) They tend to be well above average, if not outstanding, in their powers of mathematical, scientific or at least logical reasoning. (2) They have a great deal of energy, confidence, risk-taking instinct and a desire to make money by investing in pink diamonds or the stock market. (3) They have had the good fortune – by luck or birth – to be able to exploit these talents.

So we are talking about the intersecting set in what are already three small-ish sets of people. It is easy to see how, in an ever more efficient and globalised economy, they are able to amass ever greater fortunes.

The answer is surely not to try to stop them or curb them or punish them – but to widen those intersecting circles that they inhabit. There are kids everywhere who have a natural, if undiscovered, flair for mathematics and the mental arithmetic that business needs. They just don’t have the education to bring out that talent – which is why Michael Gove, the Education Secretary, is so right to be conducting his revolution in schools.

There are loads of kids with the chutzpah to be kings of the deal, and there are plenty of businesses that could be the billion-pound companies of the future but are currently being held back – either by the weediness of the venture capital industry in this country, or else by something as simple as excessive business rates – the single biggest issue that is raised with me by London businesses.

There is no point in wasting any more moral or mental energy in being jealous of the very rich. They are no happier than anyone else; they just have more money. We shouldn’t bother ourselves about why they want all this money, or why it is nicer to have a bath with gold taps. How does it hurt me, with my 20-year-old Toyota, if somebody else has a swish Mercedes? We both get stuck in the same traffic.

We should be helping all those who can to join the ranks of the super-rich, and we should stop any bashing or moaning or preaching or bitching and simply give thanks for the prodigious sums of money that they are contributing to the tax revenues of this country, and that enable us to look after our sick and our elderly and to build roads, railways and schools.

Indeed, it is possible, as the American economist Art Laffer pointed out, that they might contribute even more if we cut their rates of tax; but it is time we recognised the heroic contribution they already make. In fact, we should stop publishing rich lists in favour of an annual list of the top 100 Tax Heroes, with automatic knighthoods for the top 10.

7 thoughts on “We should be humbly thanking the super-rich, not bashing them”

  1. no I do not admire super wealthy chavs with more money then taste they are socially divisive and do not add value to the uk mincing about self-importantly in Lamborghinis, but lacking either manners or grace.

    The measure of a man is not what he takes from society, but what he contributes. so the oil and drug magnates can go and live elsewhere so far as I am concerned

  2. Taxes are for poor people. The rich have offshore arrangements and tax accountants and lawyers.

    More Tumbrils please!!!

  3. As you say, the top earners are making more because the global economic pie is growing hugely with in line with the economic development of China, India, Indonesia and others. We can choose to be part of that or let others benefit, as they are doing. Look at the wealth creation in China in India for their top earning individuals.

    We need to be much more like America and instead of looking at a successful person and feeling jealousy, we should be thinking how can we copy what they did?

    The top 1% have the resources to move. Until every country in the world agrees to share the same federal law that will always be the case. These people can domicile themselves anywhere. Their capital and earnings can be structured so that their tax burden is minimised. Think U2’s company domiciled in the Netherlands while they preach for government debt forgiveness. The same goes for global corporations. But at a certain level they will choose to base themselves in the UK, pay the tax, clear their conscience and publicise their work in the community, ie by paying into it. Russia set theirs deliberately low at 13% flat for everyone I think, to render tax avoidance/planning a waste of time and risk. Their tax revenues exploded. Singapore is tiered but with a maximum of 20%. At these levels people are happy to pay. In Singapore the Government send you a tax bill and thank you for “helping to nation build”. It feels like value for money and you actually feel good about paying it. The idea above of publishing the top 100 UK earners, together with their tax revenues, then Knighting the top 10 for their contribution to the UK is interesting. Once a person becomes of a certain wealth, then status, ego, the respect of their peers and even an element of earned celebrity can become paramount. I can imagine that such a tweak could have a huge effect.

    What would be the optimal rate for the UK? Can we get over the mentality of “biting off our nose to spite our own face”?

    I am currently working as an expat in Singapore and I am returning to the UK next year. From over here certain things about the UK are more clear:

    1) Our first main advantage is that we all speak English, now the global language.

    2) Our second main advantage is time zone. If you want to run a global business where you can talk to the whole world in a day, the UK is the only place. GMT. China, Indonesia, India are there in the morning, Europe Middle East and Africa through the day and the US and Latin America in the afternoon and evening. I am moving back to the UK for these reasons as there is no other location option – it has to be the UK and currently it has to be London.

    3) The skill, size, aggression and competitiveness of the emerging markets workforce, in particular India, is scary. Complacency beware.

    4) The bad transport system. On arriving at Heathrow recently, my Indian colleague remarked that it felt like India, only worse in some ways. He was disappointed. Compare this to Singapore or in particular Hong Kong. They are light years ahead. I agree that we need a new airport. Build the biggest one in the world in the Thames Estuary with fast rail links to the hot spots and at the same time save millions of Londoners the blight of continuous noise pollution from 5 am every day. Turn Heathrow into housing. All great ideas. The Cross Rail looks fantastic. HS2 I don’t know because it does not seem to be planned in conjunction with the airport strategy. Should these 2 not be done in unison as part of a “master plan” rather than muddling along? HS2 should help to open up cities outside of London, but it will not help commuters. Commuters standing on trains into London are coming from within 40 miles, not from Manchester. The same goes for commuters working in Leeds or Birmingham. They all want a better service for getting to work. HS2 will not help them. That needs to be done as well. (Also mitigate the damage along the route as much as can be done to help the unlucky ones living nearby). Is anyone in the UK Government investigating the Hyper-loop? Why can’t we “follow in the footsteps of the great Victorian engineers of the past” by being the first country in the world to make it work. We have the engineers and scientists to do it. That really would be a game changer.

    5) Despite the weather the UK is a good place to live. Putin may have dismissed the UK as an irrelevant tiny island, but all of his countrymen as soon as they have made their money (one way or another) all want to move to London for the schooling and rule of law. I know a few of them, they all love the UK. Corruption by global standard is very low. When we choose to, things can get done very well. Let us keep it a nice place and not build over too much green space.

    6) Finally the infighting in the UK that makes some of these things difficult to see and act upon.

  4. I would add that, the other place I considered was Geneva. Similar time zone, but far less accessible and not at the centre of things. That is countered to a degree by the fact that companies can cut their own tax deals with the Government. But a very quiet, dull place compared to the UK. There was a threat of all the hedge funds moving there a couple of years ago, but despite the skiing, no-one on a personal level (in particular the spouses) wanted to leave the UK. That says something.

  5. France – no company in their right mind would locate there in the current tax regime and employment laws. London is full of French people as a result.

    Germany – no-one really wants to live and work in Frankfurt. Same applies for tax and employment laws.

  6. I read in today’s press that during a recent speech there was an idea to call the Thames Estuary airport, the “Margaret Thatcher Airport”.

    Whatever a person’s views, she is a decisive figure. I would expect that this will probably not generate the national support that the project needs to get built. The Winston Churchill Airport?

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