Rudd, Swan and the myth of Robin Hood
It is increasingly apparent that Australia’s well developed cultural bias towards egalitarianism is part of the leverage that the Rudd Government will seek to exploit to ensure its re-election this year.
Since 2007 Mr Rudd and Mr Swan have regularly gone out of their way to promote that they are some sort of modern day Robin Hoods. This carefully crafted illusion has been built around the idea that by taxing the “rich” we can somehow pay for a Mount Everest of around $93 billion of debt, racked up in reckless cash splashes and handed out on sometimes completely illogical grounds.
Now the Rudd Government tells us that we need to increase tax by 40 per cent on the most productive sector of our economy. They argue this is a “Robin Hood style” redistribution of wealth that will make us all richer.
In using this popular myth Mr Rudd and Mr Swan have sought to claim the role of a hero who acts against a perceived injustice: mining companies escaping fair taxation. But in today’s world this attempt to be Robin Hood does not have its roots in a massive injustice. Quite the opposite.
The popular myth alleges that Robin Hood took from the rich and gave to the poor. Robin Hood did so. But the actual story of Robin Hood was a reaction to injustice and oppression from aristocrats living on unearned wealth confiscated from productive people they regarded as being common and beneath them.
Wealth, in almost all cases in Australia today, is earned. Wealth is not confiscated through force by persons exercising improper or inherited functions of government. In modern Australia individuals and companies pay tax to State and Federal Governments.
The idea that some people or companies have obtained their wealth through the misfortune or at the expense of others ought to be a highly offensive proposition in Australia today.
The idea that we need a Government to rescue us from the oppression of “rich” people or so called “rich” mining companies, will lead to all of us becoming poorer. In Australia it remains one of the best features of our society that if you work hard and persevere you can achieve a better standard of living.
Through taking risk, a small business can become a big one, successfully employing more people and returning dividends to shareholders. But the ongoing perversion of the popular Robin Hood myth by Labor will threaten this successful formula.
From the Rudd Government we have now seen several deliberate attempts to turn this medieval myth into policy reality, to pursue policies that will undermine self reliance and innovation in favour of dependency. The Super Profit Mining Tax is simply the biggest and most audacious of these.
Remember also Labor’s attempts to tax employee share schemes (one of the mechanisms used by employees to get ahead). Means testing that sought to define ‘rich people’ as families earning $100,000 or more. Or the idea that if you have worked hard to save for your own retirement, or have private health insurance, you should be subjected to harsher and harsher taxation treatment.
It is as if for Kevin Rudd and Wayne Swan, profit, success and self reliance have become part of the problem and not part of the solution.
The idea of governments taking from ‘the rich’ and giving to ‘the poor’ is not new. But attempts by government to equalise wealth have been shown throughout history to end in disaster. The most recent attempts are close at hand. Anyone taking a trip through former communist or socialist countries can witness what soul crushing effects Government acting to redistribute wealth has had on these societies.
Globally there is building concern about unjust taxation. Last year citizens concerned with debt and increasing taxation gathered in their thousands across the US to dump tea into local waterways in remembrance of the infamous Boston Tea Party. Perhaps the only comparable event in our peaceful political history was the attempt to increase the beer excise. This resulted in the largest petition ever received by the Federal Parliament in our history. Some one million people signed up to protest an increase in beer excise.
While this is the kind of thing that brings a smile to most of our faces, there is a growing concern in Australia about unjust taxation. About Governments enacting laws under the guise of redistributing wealth that will actually crush our ability to innovate, create and get ahead.
The truth is, whatever troubles we now have, more wealth is enjoyed by more people than at any time in our nation’s history. A responsible government would act to improve and enhance the fundamentals of our economy that has given us our prosperity, not act to undermine them.
That means in particular fostering an environment where the self employed and the small business owner can thrive. At a time when figures are telling us the rate of self employed people is at a low level, this could not be more important to our sustained recovery.
The facts are that Australia is already one of the most generous countries in the world in terms of welfare. Welfare is the single largest expenditure item in the Federal Budget at around $115 billion. Individual income taxation is just $137 billion. So put another way almost every dollar collected from taxpayers is redistributed in the form of welfare payments. It is also the case that the most rapid growth in Federal Government expenditure since Federation has been in human services and welfare payments.
The reality is that Ministers of this Labor Government have tried to cast themselves as the Robin Hoods of the new era as a desperate smokescreen for their inability to properly manage the nation’s finances. By exploiting Australian’s egalitarian instincts, the Rudd Government is undermining risk and return, innovation, self reliance and people making provision for themselves. If this approach is continued it will only make all of us poorer.
If left to run their course, the so called Robin Hood policies Mr Rudd and Mr Swan are espousing, will see a diminishment of our standard of living. Australians need to see through this perversion of the myth of Robin Hood that Labor is using for its re-election. We ought to reject the premise that Government’s unjustly redistributing wealth will produce a better society. Australians need a government that will leave us alone, to work hard and enjoy the fruits of the forest.
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