22 May 2014

The moral case for tax avoidance

George Monbiot writes about Scotland's deer-stalking estates and grouse moors:
Though the estates pay next to nothing to the exchequer, and though they practise little that resembles farming, they receive millions in farm subsidies. The new basic payments system the Scottish government is introducing could worsen this injustice. [Andy] Wightman calculates that the ruler of Dubai could receive £439,000 for the estate in Wester Ross he owns; the Duke of Westminster could find himself enriched by £764,000 a year; and the Duke of Roxburgh by £950,000. I'd vote yes to rid Scotland of its feudal landowners, George Monbiot, 'the Guardian', 19 May
It's not so much the wastefulness of such subsidies, nor the environmental devastation they wreak, nor even the lunacy of taking money from ordinary people to subsidise wealthy aristocrats and monarchs. Rather, the issue is the persistence of such stupid, corrupt policies, which have hardly changed in the several decades since they were first exposed and their impacts quantified. We have no systems in place to act on the voluminous evidence of their disastrous (for more than 99 percent of the population) effects. This is one big disadvantage of making policy as if outcomes are irrelevant: nobody has incentives to terminate failed policies. Instead, the beneficiaries of lucrative-but-stupid policies, have every incentive to oppose their withdrawal, and the means by which to do so.

Mr Monbiot goes on to describe the visual impacts:
The hills in many parts look as if they have been camouflaged against military attack, as they have been burned in patches for grouse shooting. It is astonishing, in the 21st century, that people are still allowed to burn mountainsides – destroying their vegetation, roasting their wildlife, vaporising their carbon, creating a telluric eczema of sepia and grey blotches – for any purpose, let alone blasting highland chickens out of the air. Where the hills aren't burnt for grouse they are grazed to the roots by overstocked deer, maintained at vast densities to give the bankers waddling over the moors in tweed pantaloons a chance of shooting one.

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