Panama papers

Politics I have been avoiding since Holy Week began: I’d meant to give them up for Lent. (“Politics” are a plural.) I remembered, however, to give up returning phone calls, and paying bills. Now it appears that they are still there. It is in the nature of our society in its current, badly fallen form, that you cannot get away from politics, and must participate even to defend the few rights you retain. With the help of a little modest technology, our bureaucracies now enjoy powers of diurnal intrusion unprecedented in the history of the world. There is no place to hide from them any more, not even Panama.

On the face of it, we might find a certain satisfaction in reading news of an enormous Internet breach, that has exposed thousands of the rich and famous. The electronic “papers” — millions of “pages” — were hacked the other day from Mossack Fonseca, one law firm in Panama City. We are left wondering what other lawyers are flourishing in that town.

A broad selection of the sort of people I despise anyway (in an affectionate Christian way, of course) now have their laundry aired — rock stars, plutocrats, populists, and the miscellaneous stinking rich. Alike, they were trying to avoid crushing taxes. And doing so legally, for the most part, for loopholes exist in every tax system to accommodate insiders and their friends. And these can only be closed gradually, as new and better loopholes are invented.

My sympathies in this case are with the rich. They carry vastly more than their share of the income tax burden — the “top 1 percent” already pay nearly half the total haul in USA and Canada. Any politician who says “the rich aren’t paying their share” is a bald liar. Though it is true, they’d be paying still more without their dodges.

This is how the world works, get used to it, my mama said. I cannot imagine a human society in which there are no rich and powerful. Nor can I imagine one in which they are not taking care of their own interests. The most that can be done by political intervention is to transfer the wealth, from persons out of favour to persons now in — adding multiple new layers of injustice in the process, while promoting Envy and other Deadly Sins.

To my mind, the rich are not a problem. That is because they can take care of themselves. Even without their help, the rest of us “99 percent” could easily take care of each other.

My plan, incidentally, is a little like Ted Cruz’s. It is to simplify the income tax system by firing almost everyone in the Revenue Department, and making the payments voluntary. The government would record what everyone paid, and make this information freely available. Instead of those boring tax forms, they could mail a colour catalogue, with all the welfare programmes prettily laid out, so the citizen could earmark every dollar. We might even get more money out of the rich that way; for count on it, they are as vain as we are. Give them better opportunities to flaunt it. He who pays most for any given boondoggle, gets his name put on it, &c.

It wouldn’t really matter if some of them were misers who didn’t give a moulting aardvark for what anybody thought. They’d still have to do something with their money, and they might as well be doing it here instead of Panama. They could be productively investing it, for instance, instead of shooting it down some bottomless administrative hole.

Meanwhile, the politician with his pet spending scheme can go out to the public and beg. And if it’s a permanent scheme, he can keep begging, year after year. Let everyone who wants it pay, pay, pay. And let everything that has had it’s season die, die, die away.

(I’m not naïve. I would also have a flat sales tax to cover the essentials: cops, courts, soldiers, and retiring the national debt.)

Of course, I must think like this because I am some backward, reactionary Catholic and Christian. We favour civic freedom. Our doctrine, shared with Jews and Buddhists, is that people should be encouraged to do the right thing, and compelled by law only in the most extreme cases. Whereas, the contrary doctrine, held by liberal progressives and Muslim terrorists, is that people should be compelled to do every little thing. Sometimes these positions are labelled respectively “Right” and “Left,” but really it is the difference between good and evil.

Yes, now that I think of it: Vote for me.