Tuesday 8 September 2009

Down with representation without taxation

As soon as the news of the Andhra Pradesh chief minister's crash was on Rediff, the piece attracted scores of hate posts. This was only expected because hate posts rule Rediff news. Never mind what the news, it brings out the worst in Rediff readers. Or perhaps the worst people read Rediff.

Nevertheless, it may be useful to think for a moment about why we, the better off Indians, hate politicians so.

Do we hate them because they’re corrupt and ineffective? But so are we. We use every trick in the book to avoid paying taxes and fines, and consider it perfectly ok to bribe.

In the vast majority of cases, who accepts the bribe? Not a minister, but an official whose demographic profile is not too different from the bribe giver’s. They’d be in the same decile in terms of per-capita income.

We are also morally rotten because we do nothing against the wretched poverty and ghoulish disparity that surrounds us.

As for effectiveness, what have we done lately (in the last two thousand) years that should make the 1.1 billion chests swell with pride?

So, it’s simply another case of the pot calling the kettle black. Since most pots do that, shrinks must have figured out by now why they do it.

However, I believe our rage also has something to do with taxes. We genuinely believe that paying taxes is a stupidity and a sin because it hands over our ‘hard-earned’ money to politicians and bureaucrats to squander.

The trouble is that while we can wriggle out of paying direct taxes, completely avoiding indirect taxes is not so easy. So we end up paying some taxes, which we resent horribly, party because some of it reaches to the poor. Otherwise why can’t we have a discussion on politics without using the terms ‘populist’ and ‘sop’?

Interesting, whatever comes our way is a ‘relief’, a ‘reform’ or even an ‘incentive’. It’s as if changing the words changes the equations of economics.

We only want our tax rupees to pay for things (infrastructure, felicities, public services) that benefit us directly and exclusively, and not at all those who enjoy representation without taxation, that is, the vast majority who earn too little to come within the ambit of income taxes and spend too little to be paying much indirect taxes either, at least on a per capita basis.

We don’t see the redistribution of national wealth – leave alone the levelling of society (remember the ‘socialistic pattern of society’) – as government's job.

At best, we can let a little ‘trickle down’. That’s it.

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