The good end happily, and the bad unhappily. That is what fiction means.
Oscar Wilde, The Importance of Being Earnest
The philosophers have only interpreted the world in various ways; the point is to change it.
Marx, Theses on Feuerbach
Well, hot diggity-dang. Wrong agane! (As was Simon, the only commenter who ventured a prediction, but we'll come to that.) Nick abandoned his usual pith for a full-blown essay, and one which was largely well received by the pack who comment on such things.
Simon, it doesn't look like Nick is about to jump for the Hate Mail just yet. True, he worries about taxation, which is a favourite of the Mail (whose editors probably consider the typical reader to be a shopkeeper who fills in his own return, unlike the academics or civil servants who favour the Guardian - and are on PAYE), but the Mail's line is given to us by 'Harl' in the comments:
Not too put too fine a point on it, but on the whole the super-rich tend to pay for their own maintenance, and they pay handsomely. Rather, it is the Vicky Pollards of this country and their pathologies which eat into Britains revenues. Yes, indeed it is the fat, baby-making, uneducated, unwashed and unruly sectors of our society wot bankrupt us.
Nick however makes two points against this. 1) The super-rich do not pay for their own maintenance, rather they sponge; and 2) they actively rob the Treasury (and therefore us) by diverting their taxes elsewhere: if you bought product X at your local Asian shop, the tax on the shopkeeper's profits would go to the Inland Revenue; if you bought it in BHS (Nick's example), that tax would be winged to Monaco to keep warm with millions like it. So far, well, so good. I don't disagree (though I don't claim any special knowledge about the super-rich, still less about the specifics of Philip Green's earnings). True, if Nick were to throw in some antic spellings and quotations from Dante in the original, he'd be close to doing a creditable impression of Ezra Pound, but the old loon had to use a term from later in Harl's comment, 'verve.'
Sigh. So Nick, having pissed off many faithful readers by calling anyone he disagrees with
the far lefthas no abandoned his escape to the
Hate Mailby pissing off anyone not on the far left with the rest of his article. As Rubin in the comments notes, his opening sentence is pure guff:
The great domestic political question of the 20th century was whether the state's tax rates should be set to benefit the working or middle class.
What isn't this guilty of? Hyperpole? Sweeping generalisation? Over-simplification? Being utter rot?
So why did I open with two over-used quotations? The first was suggested by this:
I'm not sure that this defence of an unjust system can last much longer when it is becoming very clear that the super-rich's indemnity from taxation is unbalancing the public accounts.
There are two statements here:
the super-rich's indemnity from taxation is unbalancing the public accounts(whether this is true or not, I will leave to the other Bruschetta Boy) and the prediction that the defence of this
unjust systemcannot last (and its corrollary, that the system too cannot last). What Nick does not say is how we can expect to see this system and its defence overthrown.
A few years ago, I read some commentator - it may have been Nick Hornby or Jim White - after taking his son to a football match where their team lost remark that his son thought it would all come right in the last ten minutes as if football followed the structure of Hollywood. Nick seems to have seen too many films and not enough football matches. Sometimes the wrong guys win.
If you think that's too strong an interpretation he continues:
And as it debauches the economy, it also debauches politics.
Note the present tense. Politics is being debauched now: it was previously in, as it were, a bauched state, even, possibly, under Major and Thatcher.
When he looked back from the early 19th century and tried to explain why there had been a revolution in France in 1789 but not Britain, Alexis de Tocqueville said: 'In England, the poor man enjoyed the privilege of exemption from taxation; in France, the rich.'
Here, Nick all but predicts a revolution, but without having the nerve to either forecast who will lead it or to advocate it himself. For he said a fortnight ago,
Commentators can't say anything sensible about the next election until they see how Gordon Brown does as Prime Ministerwhich suggests to me that he expects the succession to take place. Voting Labour cannot end this state of affairs then. Nor can voting Tory or Liberal Democrat or Respect or for anyone else. What's left has to be revolution. If that's not a
far leftposition, I don't know what is.