Simple solution to inequality problem

TheStar.com – opinion/letters – Re: Why you should care about inequality, Column, Jan. 7
Published On Sun Jan 09 2011.

Hugh Thorburn

Carol Goar rightly alerts us to the danger and injustice of the growing inequality of wealth appearing in western societies, especially in the English-speaking ones. This trend will continue if nobody does anything about it. She suggests giving more to charity, talking to friends about the problem, writing to your MP and getting involved in public affairs. This is pretty discouraging.

This problem is one of our most serious and the remedy is simple, yet politically unlikely. It is selective tax increases, especially via the income tax. Just after the war we had very progressive taxes on high incomes. These are now gone and high incomes are relieved of those high levies. The result is inadequate revenues for government to expand social services to reduce poverty and provide child care, adequate nursing homes and other services for vulnerable and disadvantaged citizens. We have the wealth to provide a Scandinavian level of services if we would only bite the bullet and let the government do its job. We would all, rich and poor alike, be better off with less crime and disorder, better health and less poverty-induced misery and destitution.

We must get over the demand for tax cuts as a first priority, and recognize that we, in paying taxes, are simply providing the means for government to provide us all with the services that almost all of us will provide for ourselves anyway via the market. To do it through government introduces an element of societal solidarity and decency that will reduce the hostility and desperation that results in crime and bitterness.

Hugh Thorburn, Professor Emeritus, Political Studies, Queen’s University

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