• Graham

Twelve voices were shouting in anger, and they were all alike. No question, now, what had happened to the faces of the pigs. The creatures outside looked from pig to man, and from man to pig, and from pig to man again; but already it was impossible to say which was which.

Animal Farm

It is clear from Orwell’s final paragraph that he believes Capitalism and Communism, far from being polar opposites, are two sides of the same coin. Either gives an opportunity for the unscrupulous to seize power and gain access to the privilege and wealth with which to exploit the less powerful. Whether they live in North Korea or North Carolina, the voters have a political choice and probably believe not only their choice is a wise one but also the alternative is untenable.

Once the current pandemic has passed into the phase where it is seen as acceptable, the electorate of this country will be faced with a similar definitive choice. It will, on the one hand, be agreed that those who did the heavy lifting that prevented the collapse of society must, in future, be given the right tools to tackle the job quickly and efficiently. On the other, will be a need to refill the coffers so that we can sustain ourselves against a similar attack. Both require considerable sums of money and there will be the usual arguments as to who shall provide it and whether it should be a tax on income or goods. The Government should first look at a one-off tax on those who have had a ‘good’ Covid: the providers of overpriced PPE and their like. But there is another pool of money that has miraculously appeared. A variety of lock downs has meant we have not lived our normal lives which includes unnecessary spending on leisure activities. As a result, our bank accounts have been enhanced with sums of money that would previously have been spent. In the case of the relatively well-off it could be a few thousand, in the case of the wealthy several tens of thousands. In more superstitious times this unexpected windfall would have been offered as a thanksgiving to the Gods, in a Utopian world it would be distributed among those who had suffered the most, I, however, suspect it will result in an orgy of self-indulgence boosted by an advertising campaign that reinforces the idea that after so much pain we deserve to be pampered. The Treasury, no doubt, will welcome such a move seeing it as the best way to kickstart the economy, but I suspect a downside. Demand will be great. Goods and services will be in short supply. As a result, prices will rise and once up rarely come down. Rather than Covid bringing the nation together, it will prise the haves and have-nots further apart.

Perhaps the time has come for some lateral thinking. We could take a leaf from the book of Henry V11’s Chancellor, John Morton. He successfully argued that anyone living extravagantly must be rich so could afford taxes and anyone living frugally must be hoarding their money and were similarly able to contribute to the Exchequer. Perhaps some Chancellor of Elizabeth 11 could come up with a similar wheeze. Off-shore bank accounts might be a good starting point.

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© 2017 Jane Wilson

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