The tragedy of poverty

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I read yesterday's reports of poverty afflicting the lives of more children in the UK with sadness. As a parent of young children it was hard not to.

Amazingly there is one parent of a young child with the power to influence this who last week denied that poorer people in the UK pay tax. In truth they have the highest relative tax burden of any group in UK society. Tony Blair's ignorance on this issue cannot, I feel, be unrelated to this outcome.

One of the principle purposes of taxation is to redistribute wealth. That's a duty of government. Markets cannot do this. They can only exacerbate the problem because of unequal starting points. That is why any government in the UK should be committed to progressive taxation where tax burdens rise as a proportion of income as that income rises. It's a travesty of justice that we do not have such a system.

I also believe it's a principle reason why despite increasing material well-being we are no happier now than in the 1970s. You can't be when if you're wealthy you spend your time fearfully protecting your wealth as the void between you and the rest of society increases (a fact from which you might seek to take pleasure at the same time as you appreciate the pain it causes, so increasing your stress) and if you're amongst the poorest you can only see your relative well-being declining.

To put it another way, anyone who wants to increase well-being in the UK has to commit to seriously progressive taxation.