The Wool Over our Eyes

You need to be a linguistic analyst to function as a fully paid up citizen of our version of democracy. Why? Because unless you learn to decode the language of politicians, the chances are that you end up paying dearly for the vote you cast to support your favourite party. An example is the row in Britain’s coalition government over whether to levy a special tax on homes worth more than £2m.

People with £1m homes, like TV personality Joan Bakewell, protest at the prospect of being targeted. Ms. Bakewell is frank about the source of her windfall gain. She writes:

“We ended up paying £12,000 for a house in a decrepit London square, painted the front door olive and started a trend. Over the decades and with no effort on our part the area has been transformed and so have the prices. Houses in the Primrose Hill area fetch well over a million these days…”

Ms Bakewell says she is all for taxing the rich but a higher property tax is out of order. “I may have to sell my house.” If she did, she would walk away with a million in her pocket for an asset that cost her £12,000. Should we shed tears?

Manna from Heaven

Where did all that money come from that has made Ms. Bakewell asset rich? Not from a lick of paint on the front door. It came from the value-adding activities of the rest of the community, over the years, which is a measure of the services that property owners like Ms. Bakewell enjoyed without paying for them.

But she should relax. Britain’s Chancellor, George Osborne, is not about to prick the property bubble of the rich. Here is where the linguistic analysis is needed. He says that “the days of unfunded giveaways are over – and they’re not coming back in this Budget”.

That’s a lie. His government, and all the previous ones, gave nothing away for free. The giveaways were all funded by taxpayers. There was one special case of unfunded giveaways, but we don’t talk about this in polite political circles. The public services that jack up the value of people’s homes and commercial properties are not funded by those who reap the gains.

People like Ms. Bakewell are sad for the poor but unhappy at the prospect of paying their fair share through a property tax that matches the value of the land beneath their homes. She asks: “After 40 years, why should I be forced to sell my home?” The answer is simple. Pay for the benefits she receives like low-income people, and no-one has the right to interfere with where she chooses to live.

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