Envy is one of the very worst of human emotions. It occurs when a person lacks another’s (perceived) superior quality, achievement, or possession and either desires it or wishes that the other lacked it. And it is the very cornerstone of socialism. Listen to any socialist speech and they attack anyone who has achieved. Over the next few weeks you are going to hear a lot of socialist envy, because it is banker’s bonus time. What they don’t point out is that there is a simple solution here, if you want to earn a big bonus just go and become a banker.
In 1974 the Labour government increased the top rate of income tax (for those earning over Â£20,000) to 83%, they added an extra income tax on income from savings that they called “unearned” which had a top rate of 15%. So the combined top tax rate was 98%. They didn’t do this to raise money, they did it out of pure unadulterated envy, to punish people for succeeding. And the nett result is that people either stopped succeeding or left the country. There was just no point in working hard and taking risks when the government took 98% of your earnings off you.
Fortunately Margaret Thatcher came along, who was far too clever to succumb to a base emotion like envy. She reduced the punitive tax rates and so enterprise and hard work were restored to the British economy.
Blair and Brown realised that they not only couldn’t repeat this if they wanted power, they had to credibly pledge not to. So it went into the manifesto as a promise. Which, of course, they broke. They did not increase personal allowances in line with inflation, moving more people into the higher tax band. They increased national insurance, which is effectively a form of income tax, and they increased the top tax rate from 40 to 50%.
Of course it isn’t just with income tax that the evil of socialist envy rears its ugly head. Large numbers of their policies are designed to harm those who have achieved. Just look at how the annual road fund license is tiered or how many benefits are means tested to deny them to those who have paid most for them. It is so fundamental to what socialism is that they can’t help lashing out at achievers at every opportunity.
In fact, so pernicious and all pervasive is envy to the very essence of socialism that I am amazed that they have taken red as their colour. Green would be much more apt.