Nick Clegg's conference speech: 'Tax Wealth, Not Work' should have been the slogan

Property makes people rich through good fortune, not effort. A tax on wealth - not work - is a policy the Lib Dems should be championing

Share

One of the hardest jobs in politics is coming up with a decent slogan. I say this not with any particular experience of party politics, but rather a weary familiarity with the slogans of yore which fail to inspire. Remember "Back to Basics", for instance? Or "Vote Blue, Go Green?". Utter tripe, both. And what of Labour's corking re-election gambit in 2001, "A lot done, a lot still to do?". That sounded like something Alan Partridge would say at Glastonbury. 

And though the competition is fierce, I think the offering plastered on lecterns at the Lib Dem conference this year - "Fairer tax in tough times" - is up there with the best of them. It's the sort of phrase - plodding, witless, earnest - that you might associate with a retired travelling salesman, or a Jehovah's Witness who can't take a hint. More's the pity, because the basic message, being a plea for social justice, is unimpeachable; and so, in the interests of our comrades in Brighton, let me dare to venture an alternative.

It's not quite "Change you can believe in", and it doesn't have the metaphorical allure of Ronald Reagan's seminal "Morning in Britain". But it does make sense and have the virtue of being both simple and something all three parties and the public would support. Plus it's alliterative, which is always good.

TAX WEALTH NOT WORK. There I said it.

I've banged on about it here before. Tax is a terrible and terribly necessary thing. It should be designed so that, as much as possible, it rewards socially desirable behaviour and disincentivises socially undesirable behaviour. Two things in the former category are: people going to work (especially very poor people, who might otherwise be welfare recipients); and entrepreneurs taking risks to start companies that create jobs. Two things in the latter category are: property bubbles (a chief cause of our economic woe); and old and rich people acquiring, through inflation in property and land value, wealth much faster than the young and poor.

TAX WEALTH NOT WORK.

Herbert Asquith laid out the case marvellously in 1907, and David Lloyd George incorporated it into his People's Budget of 1909: unlike income, property is visible and thereby hard to evade. The total value of land in Britain has been estimated at £50trn; tax that at one per cent and you get £500bn. Nice. If proper taxes on property and land - which make people rich not through effort and industry but good fortune and windfall gains derived from public infrastructure - were combined with radical tax cuts to income tax for all earners, and corporation tax for small businesses, even pleb-hating Tories ought to get behind it.

TAX WEALTH NOT WORK.

Morally and economically necessary, as well as right; capable of generating huge public support; consistent with the crowded centre of British politics; and alliterative to boot. What's not to like?

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Business Analyst - Surrey - Permanent - Up to £50k DOE

£40000 - £50000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

***ASP.NET Developer - Cheshire - £35k - Permanent***

£30000 - £35000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

***Solutions Architect*** - Brighton - £40k - Permanent

£35000 - £40000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

Senior Research Fellow in Gender, Food and Resilient Communities

£47,334 - £59,058 per annum: Coventry University: The Centre for Agroecology, ...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Taking on Ukip requires a delicate balancing act for both main parties

Andrew Grice
Today is a bigger Shabbes than usual in the Jewish world because it has been chosen to launch the Shabbos Project  

Shabbes exerts a pull on all Jews, and today is bigger than ever

Howard Jacobson
Wilko Johnson, now the bad news: musician splits with manager after police investigate assault claims

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news

Former Dr Feelgood splits with manager after police investigate assault claims
Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands ahead of the US midterm elections

Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands

The Senator for Colorado is for gay rights, for abortion rights – and in the Republicans’ sights as they threaten to take control of the Senate next month
New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

Evidence found of contact between Easter Islanders and South America
Cerys Matthews reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of Dylan Thomas

Cerys Matthews on Dylan Thomas

The singer reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of the famous Welsh poet
DIY is not fun and we've finally realised this as a nation

Homebase closures: 'DIY is not fun'

Homebase has announced the closure of one in four of its stores. Nick Harding, who never did know his awl from his elbow, is glad to see the back of DIY
The Battle of the Five Armies: Air New Zealand releases new Hobbit-inspired in-flight video

Air New Zealand's wizard in-flight video

The airline has released a new Hobbit-inspired clip dubbed "The most epic safety video ever made"
Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month - but can you stomach the sweetness?

Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month

The combination of cinnamon, clove, nutmeg (and no actual pumpkin), now flavours everything from lattes to cream cheese in the US
11 best sonic skincare brushes

11 best sonic skincare brushes

Forget the flannel - take skincare to the next level by using your favourite cleanser with a sonic facial brush
Paul Scholes column: I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo

Paul Scholes column

I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Jones and Rojo
Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

While other sports are stalked by corruption, we are an easy target for the critics
Jamie Roberts exclusive interview: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Jamie Roberts: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Wales centre says he’s not coming home but is looking to establish himself at Racing Métro
How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

Lost in translation: Western monikers

Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

Handy hacks that make life easier

New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

KidZania: It's a small world

The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker