Who is the fairest of them all?

I suppose that the idea of the political parties squabbling to represent themselves as the fairest of them all is something which we should welcome. Yet there is something about the current scrapping over public spending cuts which seems faintly unsavoury and its getting in the way of trying to think through different solutions to problems.

Now, I don’t like paying taxes. Who does like paying taxes? Yet the truth is, I think that moderating the cuts by asking everyone to pay a bit more in tax just might be a better option than the rather narrow choices that we are being presented with at the moment. And what kind of taxation am I talking about? Mirror, mirror on the wall, which is the fairest tax of all?

Holding up that question like a mirror to society, I find myself sure that direct taxation (ie income tax) is the fairest of them all. I don’t find that view represented by any of the political parties at the moment. It is hard to hear much talk of reducing poverty, redistribution of wealth or of trying to build a society where social security, free health-care and universal free education are the common goals. I also hear no narrative except the cuts agenda. We are all the poorer for it.

The proposal this week that the brightest and best of our young people (in England at first, but there is a danger of it coming here too) be saddled with tens of thousands of pounds of debt at the start of their working lives is a grim warning that some battles already seem lost. The widespread acceptance of student debt is a cultural change I never wanted to see in the first place. The idea of making it so much worse is utterly frightening and seems to me to be very far from leading us to the best possible solutions for education.