Moral confusion

Dave Killion — August 21, 2011

Plenty more where that came from...

In an article that isn’t entirely wrong, Peter Oborne of the Daily Telegraph writes of the recent rioting in England –

“… there was also something very phony and hypocritical about all the shock and outrage expressed in parliament. MPs spoke about the week’s dreadful events as if they were nothing to do with them.

I cannot accept that this is the case. Indeed, I believe that the criminality in our streets cannot be dissociated from the moral disintegration in the highest ranks of modern British society. The last two decades have seen a terrifying decline in standards among the British governing elite. It has become acceptable for our politicians to lie and to cheat. An almost universal culture of selfishness and greed has grown up.”

Now I’m not one much for defending politicians, but the notion that the modern elected official is less honest than his predecessors of twenty years ago makes me giggle. But that’s a minor error on Oborne’s part compared to his effort to present the threats of wealthy businessmen to move their operations to less punitive tax regimes as morally equivalent to the theft and destruction of private property by the rioters –

“I couldn’t help thinking that in a sane and decent world (moving his headquarters to Switzerland) would be a blow to Sir Richard (Branson), not the Chancellor. People would note that a prominent and wealthy businessman was avoiding British tax and think less of him. Instead, he has a knighthood and is widely feted.

…  Sir Philip’s businesses could never survive but for Britain’s famous social and political stability, our transport system to shift his goods and our schools to educate his workers.

Yet Sir Philip, who a few years ago sent an extraordinary £1 billion dividend offshore, seems to have little intention of paying for much of this.”

It seems odd to me that Oborne would cite Britain’s political and social stability in an article about thieving politicians and spontaneous riots, but that doesn’t matter much, because the point is that England has been economically free enough and politically stable enough that people like Branson and Philip can prosper. What Oborne misses entirely is that the wealth these men have has come from people who think they have received in exchange something of at least equivalent value. That is to say, even if people like Branson and Philip paid no taxes whatsoever, they have increased the wealth of Britain far above and beyond any value they have received from government schools and roads. Oborne has a golden egg, and is complaining that there’s no roast goose.

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