I hate to say it, but one of the best defences of the idea seems to be on the Adam Smith blog.  It has more value for coming from a site that somehow interprets most of the message of Adam Smith as ‘don’t tax people’. At one point they got me quite excited with this:

How much money are we talking about? The LibDems expect their proposal to raise £1 billion, but a fully integrated homeowner tax, at full income tax rates and with no threshold, should bring in about £25 billion. That’s enough to reduce income tax by 5p, cutting tax rates from 20% and 40% to 15% and 35%.

Do they mean on top of the Council tax? Jeez, those people at the ASI are propertytaxoholics.

On CommentisFree, James Graham is taking on Vince for, amongst other things, his failure ‘to come up with a coherent and consistent economic policy for the Liberal Democrats’. At one point he mentions us/CF:

And why is it that the economic situation is so serious that there is no alternative to do anything other than think the unthinkable when it comes to spending cuts, but when it comes to tax rises we are so timid? Even the Orange Book keepers-of-the-flame Centre:Forum have been urging the party this summer to consider a combination of a property tax and a change to the capital gains rules which would raise £6-10bn a year . Cable’s proposal would raise a measly £1.1bn, so why bother?

James apparently spent most of the LD conference in a cold fury * so this is realatively mild stuff. Although elsewhere on his blog he says that the only genuinely candid thing that Clegg said all week was ‘ferocity with a purpose‘.  Really? The only candid thing? Imagine what people would be saying if the Lib Dems had descended into factionalism . . .

I’m a party member, but not an insider and therefore don’t have any insight in their policymaking.  But I think the reason spending cuts are put forward first is simple.  No-one can have serious doubts that the Lib Dem ground roots can come up with ways of taxing people more.  No-one.  My prevailing memory of the Make it Happen debate was of the endless speakers who thought #600bn not enough, 700bn, 800bn, we’ll get there eventually . . . it took quite an effort from the  leadership to wrench the vote away from more public spending, more tax, forever.

The public, rightly or wrongly, want to see politicians showing they can do the hard thing. For the politicians, cutting spending is the hard thing. Doubly so for activists, who have been used to the politics of the shopping list for ages now.  But, as Flip Chart Fairytales showed, not even Thatcher really cut spending – despite having the opportunity to lop great chunks off the bill from the then-nationalised industries.  Once we are through the Keynesian depression part of this slump, the cuts will have to be frightful – though they will need to be planned, over many years, and hopefully with cooperation and imagination on all sides. The last time we did this, we had a huge standing army to stand down.

I did not properly recognise these political undercurrents when writing that CentreForum pamphlet.  I still think I was right to introduce the idea of tax cuts, because that was a totally under-debated part of the problem.   And I agree with James that opening this can of worms for just 1bn was hardly worth it.

* I think I recognised him in Harry’s bar, looking neither cold nor furious, but everyone deserves a break


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