Aug 052012

An interesting thought came my way a few minutes ago:

Note to ALL political tweeters: How about you congratulate Olympians, rather than try to politicise their fantastic achievements? #indyref

And this I find myself agreeing with.

The truth of the matter is that environment often conditions our behaviours.  If people are tending to politicise sporting achievements, there may be a number of wider reasons for this.  Today, on the day that Andy Murray wins the Olympic gold against Roger Federer, I am minded to remind us all that Olympic committees are tied to sovereign nation states; that sovereign nation states do not always find it easy to rise to latterday expectations of equality; and that whilst the Olympic Games as such has an ideal the participants will continue to subscribe to, it also has a business model which leaves much to be desired – especially when it cedes as it does the physicality of the Games to globalising corporations hardly given to treasuring localities and regionalities with any degree of gusto.

That the Games are political is nothing new.  That they need to be political is another matter.  It might require a complete and utter change more in how we see the world than how we pay for it, but such a change would surely benefit everyone.  If both small and large could take advantage of their beauty and majesty, wouldn’t that send a far more egalitarian message to their spectators and participants?

As a final thought, the most curious thing for me in all of this, and this is me now reflecting at a broader level, is how these large and omnipotent business “partners” – the Coca-Colas, McDonalds and Adidases of the world – strive on the one hand in their processes and procedures to depoliticise all social and cultural discourse and yet on the other encourage division and an almost serf-like ownership of these inconsistently private spaces of public usage.  In reality, whilst they appear to be the most apolitical of all institutions, their impact on how we run our lives is about as profound as it could ever get.

Perhaps we need a new way of looking at this 21st century politicking: the politics of hide and seek participation; the politics of pretending one doesn’t do politics at all – even as one spends millions of pounds on affecting the directions societies take.

A coward’s politics.

A politics – as the Spanish would say – of “tirar la piedra y esconder la mano”.

In other words, a politics of “throwing stones and hiding hands”.

Now that indeed, these days, is the task of Olympians – that is to say, the boardroom Olympians who literally rule over us from up on high.

How history does indeed re-establish itself from generation to generation …

Sad, ain’t it?

Aug 052012

Steve states the following, marvellously accurately:

[...] I’ve been thinking about tax. Specifically corporation tax. One thing I’ve agreed with my conservative interlocutors about is that the tax system needs to be simplified. Too much complexity means too many loopholes for clever people (and rich people and big corporations can afford to hire a lot of clever people) to exploit and avoid taxes.

I think I was cogitating along similar lines a couple of years ago now, when I suggested we did away with income tax – though not our income tax codes:

[...]  What if we paid for everything according to our tax code?  In an entirely – or almost entirely – cashless society, tax code information could quite easily be added to our credit and debit card chips.  In such a way, we could eliminate all kinds of income tax and use the tax code – instead – to determine how much we paid at point-of-sale.  Big spenders and big earners would pay more for everything – those with less would pay correspondingly far less.  The scale would be incremental rather than banded.  Poverty traps could be eliminated at a stroke.  We wouldn’t have to calculate VAT or chase its evasion or pay out tax credits or even child benefit.

An income-tax free state which allowed for properly dimensioned public services and strove to reduce the difference between the very richest and the very poorest?  Surely a Nirvana of some kind …

Such thoughts may be considered a betrayal of socialist principles but – as Steve points out – in times of crisis, we are perhaps obliged to think beyond simply redressing the shop window:

I’m convinced that the status quo is not the only option – that we don’t have to simply put a new coat of paint on the existing structures while doing nothing to change their substance; that we can have a more just world that works better than it does now. It takes some bold thinking to jar most people into seeing beyond the current reality to that better one – but that thinking has to be practical and workable.

Tax is an immensely emotive subject for political activists on all sides.  The logical side of the human brain generally dies an unhappy death in such circumstances.  It would be nice to think we could be as rationally inventive in establishing a fair and just – as well as efficient – regime of tax policies as we are in doing the state out of what some of us might argue (more here from Peter Watt) is its just recompense.

Ideas are a good start.

Knowledgeable brains working in good faith are now needed.

For it may actually be that we have the tax systems we have precisely because, as Steve suggests, they actually benefit the rich – despite all their wailing.  If that is the case, far more radical measures need to be taken than simply calling on all contributors to pay their fair moral whack.

Nothing more nor less than a total overhaul of that status quo he mentions.