J.K. Rowling on welfare and patriotism

by Chris Bertram on April 14, 2010

Surfing around, listening to Neil Young, and thinking that, perhaps, someone should buy Bryan Caplan some Edith Wharton novels (or, failing that, Terence Davies’s film of The House of Mirth), when I came across J.K. Rowling’s magnificent piece in today’s Times about what it was like as an impoverished single mother under the last Tory government, how her life changed when she became one of the richest women in Britain, her attitudes not so much:

I chose to remain a domiciled taxpayer for a couple of reasons. The main one was that I wanted my children to grow up where I grew up, to have proper roots in a culture as old and magnificent as Britain’s; to be citizens, with everything that implies, of a real country, not free-floating ex-pats, living in the limbo of some tax haven and associating only with the children of similarly greedy tax exiles.
A second reason, however, was that I am indebted to the British welfare state; the very one that Mr Cameron would like to replace with charity handouts. When my life hit rock bottom, that safety net, threadbare though it had become under John Major’s Government, was there to break the fall. I cannot help feeling, therefore, that it would have been contemptible to scarper for the West Indies at the first sniff of a seven-figure royalty cheque. This, if you like, is my notion of patriotism. On the available evidence, I suspect that it is Lord Ashcroft’s idea of being a mug

{ 93 comments }

1

Nick 04.14.10 at 8:54 pm

If she feels indebted, there is nothing stopping her from writing a cheque to the treasury. But she would probably be able to help people more effectively if she sent it towards ‘charity handouts’ instead. Less money creamed off to spend on developing Britain’s surveillance infrastructre and two wars.

Tax avoidance is a moral obligation.

2

Ombrageux 04.14.10 at 8:59 pm

Crackin’ article!

Nick – If you can’t help yourself polluting the planet, please have the decency at least not to poop on this blog!

3

gmoke 04.14.10 at 9:17 pm

Now I believe in magic, a wealthy woman who hasn’t forgotten how it felt to be poor and acts on those feelings.

4

Phil Ruse 04.14.10 at 9:19 pm

So just to get it straight, it was under John Major’s government that J.K. required help, and from her own account got it?

The wonderful thing about exceedingly rich socialists is that regardless of the punitive tax system put in place, they’ll remain exceedingly rich. It’s the rest of us who suffer.

5

s 04.14.10 at 9:38 pm

Sounds like the NHS waaaahmbulance service could use some improvements.

6

Maurice Meilleur 04.14.10 at 9:43 pm

Phil, not sure I get your tone: are you disappointed that Major couldn’t destroy enough of the British welfare system to leave Rowling in the gutter? I mean, I thought the first two books of the series were terrible, but come on.

7

bert 04.14.10 at 9:46 pm

I remember someone on the Economist suggesting that if you had an inclination to be socially useful and a sizable chunk of disposable cash, your best course of action would be make a mound of it in your back garden and set it on fire. The resulting contraction in the money supply would keep a lid on inflation, and would therefore benefit everyone in the most equitable manner possible. What’s more, the benefit would scale progressively, depending on the proportion of an individual’s income devoted to the payment of shopping bills.

8

mpowell 04.14.10 at 9:46 pm

How is it possible that a Lord and member of the opposition party could be non-domiciled for tax purposes? That is a disgrace and should be illegal.

9

Harry 04.14.10 at 9:48 pm

A piece like this tempts me to read Harry Potter.
No, I’ve heard even better things about her than this piece reveals, and I still haven’t read them…

10

Rich Puchalsky 04.14.10 at 10:02 pm

Did anyone else read the comments on her article? I sorted them by oldest comments first, and then basically couldn’t get past the first page. Comment after comment saying something “Nice article, but of course most single mothers just have kids to get government handouts. You elitist.”

11

politicalfootball 04.14.10 at 10:09 pm

I have read all of the Harry Potter novels and have not yet followed the link, but I can say with confidence, from the sample provided by Chris, that this is the best thing I have read that Rowling has written for publication.

12

Rich Puchalsky 04.14.10 at 10:10 pm

I’ve read all the Harry Potter books, and the best thing about them is their near-anarchist attitude towards adult authority in general. Their prose is undistinguished and repetitive, their concept unoriginal and overdone, but they do feature a well-meaning government that permits its country to become a death squad state, and an individual Churchillian leader who turns out to be a liar and a sellout just like everyone else in charge.

Second-best thing about them is that the chief good wizard with an unreasonable penchant for keeping secrets turns out to be a closeted gay. It added a note of psychological depth to an otherwise annoying “Why isn’t Dumbledore just telling Harry this stuff? Well, because the plot would wrap up too quickly otherwise, I guess.”

13

harry b 04.14.10 at 10:51 pm

Rich — it gets worse (the comments section, not HP, about which I know nothing except that various things are brilliantly snatched from other child-ish books).

14

Def Att 04.14.10 at 11:06 pm

Somebody needs to do a study on why newspaper comment threads are universally filled with angry cranks. Something to do with not leaving the home to work and distrust of the youth, I suspect.

15

Bloix 04.14.10 at 11:19 pm

Harry – I read the first three HP books out loud to my children, and I celebrated Book 4 because by then they were old enough to read to themselves. I really don’t see the attraction of adolescent wish-fullfillment lit for adults.

If you’re looking for an equivalent series for grown-ups, try Patrick O’Brian’s Aubrey-Maturin novels (all 20 of them). It’s a similar conceit – a confined, regimented space (shipboard not school), buddies (no girl, unfortunately, but some decent female characters), an evil enemy (Napoleon not Voldemort), spies and treachery, and all sorts of special knowledge that verges on magical, with the added attraction that it’s real. And it has the same repetition-plus-progession that HP has – the story progesses book after book, but each book has similarities in structure that give one the pleasure of familiarity. All this, and it’s genuinely well-written, too. Read O’Brian and leave HP to the under-12 crowd.

But this essay is spectacularly well written – someone should give her a column.

16

sg 04.14.10 at 11:26 pm

I quite liked the first couple of HPs. I thought they had a good pace, a nice sense of anarchy, and they walked a fine line between having no respect for the adult world but not being impudent. I also really liked the boarding school imagery, even though everyone knows it’s not really like that (we all know that girls in boarding school wander around at night in gauzy white dresses, being libertines, right? This doesn’t happen in HP book 5, does it?)

I don’t get why so many intellectuals have to be so hoity-toity about a simple, fun read. That’s what books are for! And it’s nice to see someone of Ms. Rowling’s moral calibre getting the cash (and paying the tax) rather than an Archer or an Ashcroft.

17

P O'Neill 04.15.10 at 12:07 am

On the other hand, rising taxes may be hurting the ability of fans of English soccer teams to cheer for extremely well-off men playing in the Champions League.

18

Keith 04.15.10 at 12:35 am

Tax avoidance is a moral obligation.

Nick, do you by any chance enjoy rubbing elbows with elderly people waving poorly spelled signs? Because you sound like a Teabagger.

Tax avoidance wouldn’t end the wars. Our leaders will ensure those go on and on and on. What it will ensure is that the roads and bridges fall apart and basic services like police, fire fighters and public libraries are underfunded. The things you don’t like will always be funded because they are big, foolish and impressive demonstrations of state authority and power. But by paying your taxes, there will be some money left over to fund all those other things that benefit society but aren’t flashy and impressive.

19

Nicholas Weininger 04.15.10 at 12:43 am

From an anarcho-capitalist point of view, this piece neatly confirms two of my existing prejudices at once: first, that conservatives are generally ill-informed moralizers who, whatever their claimed devotion to liberty, get off on lecturing and regulating and feeling superior to people whose challenges they don’t understand; and second, that patriotism is a fundamentally evil concept because, among many other things, it feeds the collectivist confusion between wanting to help those you sympathize with and wanting to force others at gunpoint to do the same.

20

MikeJ 04.15.10 at 12:48 am

On the other hand, rising taxes may be hurting the ability of fans of English soccer teams to cheer for extremely well-off men playing in the Champions League.

Even though Spain has higher taxes than the UK, that’s hurting Man U in bidding against Real?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Income_Taxes_By_Country.svg

21

Salient 04.15.10 at 12:58 am

Given the vitriol Nick has drawn so far, I’m surprised nobody has accused him of objectively supporting Hitler.

That link is fantastic. “Ay laddie. It’s your dough. But it’s your war, too.”

Also: “For it is your taxes, my taxes, our taxes, that run the factory.”

22

Anderson 04.15.10 at 1:02 am

I dunno, I thought Rowling was learning to write as she went along. No. 5 was genuinely affecting. But then, I cry when Han Solo says “I know” in Empire Strikes Back.

23

Tim Lacy 04.15.10 at 1:08 am

Awesome. Absolutely awesome. Thank you very much, Chris, for underscoring this piece here. – TL

24

rea 04.15.10 at 1:20 am

“. . . listening to Neil Young . . .”

Neil Young on Welfare Mothers:

25

sg 04.15.10 at 2:12 am

Anderson, that’s beautiful. You’re so romantic!

26

poco 04.15.10 at 2:25 am

Salient@21
That link is absolutely fantastic! Taxes will keep freedom and democracy on the march! No wonder all the conscientious objectors of yore became the tea partiers of now.

27

P O'Neill 04.15.10 at 2:46 am

Even though Spain has higher taxes than the UK, that’s hurting Man U in bidding against Real?

Ley Beckham.

28

nick s 04.15.10 at 2:54 am

If she feels indebted, there is nothing stopping her from writing a cheque to the treasury.

British libertarians really are like Johnson’s dog, walking on its hind legs: it is not done well; but you are surprised to find it done at all.

29

Brian 04.15.10 at 3:19 am

If she feels indebted, there is nothing stopping her from writing a cheque to the treasury.

I think that’s exactly what she did. Then she wrote an essay about why in the Times.

30

Ian 04.15.10 at 3:42 am

Did anyone else read the comments on her article?

Oh yeah. The strangest thing was the frequent accusation of being a “champagne socialist.” It seems a particularly inept attack on Rowling, who has kept the same political outloook as she’s moved from being poor to rich–it’s as though they’re scandalized that someone so wealthy could still believe in the welfare state.

31

David 04.15.10 at 4:01 am

Compare and contrast with Arthur C. Clarke, whose stated reason for decamping to Sri Lanka was to escape punitive taxation. A surfeit of little brown boys certainly had nothing to do with it.

32

mcd 04.15.10 at 4:18 am

The concepts of “champagne liberals” “limousine liberals” etc are the modern day equivalent of the wealthy calling FDR a “traitor to his class” in the 30s.

33

nick s 04.15.10 at 4:45 am

Once thing I do know about JK Rowling is that she’s fiercely loyal to the people who had faith in her at the beginning of her career — people with talent, not wealth or privilege — and as a result, those people have done pretty well. And probably pay more in taxes than the noble Lord Ashcroft.

34

rm 04.15.10 at 4:49 am

The righteous anger and moral rhetoric of this Times piece are there in the Potter books. The outlook here is one with the portrayal of British society in the novels. It is astonishing how much the readers blame the victim, and it’s shocking to me in that it’s a slightly different flavor of victim-blaming (not even “victim,” just innocent-blaming, really) than I’m used to from our U.S. wingnuts.

I’ll condense my long defending-the-Harry-Potter-series rant to something concise: it has the virtues Rich describes in #12; and while the sentences are not wonderfully crafted, it does a great job with setting and Christian/Arthurian/alchemical symbolism; and its re-use of multiple tropes from fantasy, school-stories, and “family romance” hero myths is not, in my opinion, merely derivative because it’s done so well. Alchemy rather than imitation. And it’s a good reply to C. S. Lewis’s less appealing traits. It has limitations and flaws, I freely admit, but I think that combining all the different virtues it has is an achievement.

35

David Moles 04.15.10 at 4:50 am

A surfeit of little brown boys certainly had nothing to do with it.

Yes, because the only reason a gay man could have for leaving the country that killed Alan Turing is the complexion of the English rentboy.

36

Ian 04.15.10 at 4:53 am

The concepts of “champagne liberals” “limousine liberals” etc are the modern day equivalent of the wealthy calling FDR a “traitor to his class” in the 30s.

In my experience, “limousine liberal” refers to someone who has always lived a life of such privilege that they can afford to be a liberal–i.e., only someone who is insulated from the real world could hold such beliefs. Obviously Rowling doesn’t fit such a stereotype, which makes the attack more like the class traitor model you propose.

37

ceabaird 04.15.10 at 4:55 am

Of course, the ultimate definition of a libertarian — or even a conservative at this stage — is “Believing in having just enough government to protect one from one’s slaves.” Also requires a healthy dollop of the “I’ve got mine, so fuck you” attitude. These people also seem to believe that Taxes (public schools, roads, highways, bridges, police & fire departments, airports, trains, buses, stadiums, libraries, etc) = theft.

Nice to see that some people (JKR) manage to get lucky in life, but hold on to their beliefs, and appreciate what they have and why.

38

Neil 04.15.10 at 5:41 am

David, the claim is that the brown boys were the attraction of Sri Lanka, not a repellent from England. It is the age and not the gender that is the problem here.

39

novakant 04.15.10 at 6:03 am

Tax avoidance wouldn’t end the wars. Our leaders will ensure those go on and on and on.

Well, if many people refused to pay taxes in protest against war, it certainly would. If we were all really serious in our opposition against war, we would do just that and face the consequences, but we’re not.

As for Edith Wharton films, I can highly recommed The Age of Innocence, an underrated masterpiece (generally I like Scorsese’s “smaller” films the most, e.g. “The King of Comedy” or “Bringing out the Dead”).

40

Mrs Tilton 04.15.10 at 6:28 am

Shorter Nicholas W. @129:

1. Conservatives, who hypocritically ape patriotism from base venal motives, are tools.

2. Non-conservatives who genuinely love their countries are tools, bcause their folly interferes with the satisfaction of base, venal motives.

41

Mrs Tilton 04.15.10 at 6:33 am

Bloix @15, re Jack and The Doctor (no, not that one):

Yes, in italics with triple underscoring.

A long time ago I characterised the A/M novels as “Tory porn”, and there is something to that (Britannia ruling the waves, a proletariat that knows its place, giving Johnny Foreigner what for, and plenty of ship’s boys’ bare bottoms being spanked). It’s great stuff for all that, and I’m really overdue for another round through the cycle.

42

alex 04.15.10 at 8:27 am

Ahem. Only Wikipedia, I know, but before you run around accusing dead people of evil crimes…

“On 26 May 2000 he was made a Knight Bachelor “for services to literature” at a ceremony in Colombo.[12][38] The award of a knighthood had been announced in the 1998 New Year Honours,[11][39] but investiture with the award had been delayed, at Clarke’s request, because of an accusation, by the British tabloid The Sunday Mirror, of paedophilia.[40][41] The charge was subsequently found to be baseless by the Sri Lankan police.[42][43] According to The Daily Telegraph (London), the Mirror subsequently published an apology, and Clarke chose not to sue for defamation.[44][45] Clarke was then duly knighted.”

43

Tim Worstall 04.15.10 at 8:58 am

“A second reason, however, was that I am indebted to the British welfare state; the very one that Mr Cameron would like to replace with charity handouts. When my life hit rock bottom, that safety net, threadbare though it had become under John Major’s Government, was there to break the fall.”

That’s really rather strange. For when her life did “hit rock bottom”, the separation and the baby, she was living in Portugal. And was taken in by friends, that private charity which is so disdainfully sniffed at. I know people who know those that did take her in.

Of course that’s nothing to do with the desirability of a safety net (just for clarity, yes of course there should be one) nor the admirable consistency of her views and her willingness to pay for others to enjoy a better state safety net than she enjoyed.

44

Jeffrey Katz 04.15.10 at 10:10 am

Nice try Tim Worstall, [XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX – redacted]

She was actually in Scotland during the “rock bottom” period you mention, which was after her stay in Portugal to teach ESL, and after her marriage ended. She got divorced in November 1993, then moved back to Scotland in December 1993 and had to go on welfare.

You ought to be ashamed of yourself, but of course you won’t be. You are, after all, a libertarian.

[Jeffrey – I’ve edited this post and deleted your next. Please try to conform to our comments policy and avoid being personally defamatory or insulting to other commenters.]

45

Pete 04.15.10 at 10:29 am

Random obvious point on trying to do tax evasion as political protest: well, it worked quite well with the Poll Tax, but you can’t really do it with income tax as most people pay it through PAYE.

46

Jeffrey Katz 04.15.10 at 11:55 am

Sorry, I just found Tim Worstall’s post to be disingenuous and incredibly unsavory.

47

Gareth Rees 04.15.10 at 12:17 pm

friends, that private charity which is so disdainfully sniffed at

Yes, this is disingenuous. When people criticise the idea of using private charity as a substitute for public welfare, they are in no way criticising the support of friends and family. In fact, the idea that looking after one’s friends and family counts as “charity” probably does not occur to them.

Wikipedia: “normally charity denotes giving to those not related, with filial piety and like terms for supporting one’s family and friends. Indeed, treating those related to the giver as if they were strangers in need of charity has led to the figure of speech ‘as cold as charity’ — providing for one’s relatives as if they were strangers, without affection.”

48

Enzo Rossi 04.15.10 at 12:23 pm

It is a great piece. But the first few comments on the Times site are absolutely obnoxious.

49

Barry 04.15.10 at 12:46 pm

Enzo Rossi: “It is a great piece. But the first few comments on the Times site are absolutely obnoxious.”

Which tells one a lot. Even if somebody disagreed with her, she’s clearly putting her money where her claimed principles are.

50

alex 04.15.10 at 12:46 pm

@48 – not to worry, soon it will all be hidden behind the Great Paywall of Murdoch.

51

Tim Worstall 04.15.10 at 12:52 pm

“You ought to be ashamed of yourself, but of course you won’t be. “

Why? I spent years living in Cascais where she had been living. I know a number of people who knew her in this period. Where’s the shame in simply pointing out a fact?

52

Barry 04.15.10 at 1:12 pm

It’s when one very, very, *veeeerrrryyyyy* carefully leaves out facts which would hurt one’s case.

53

tigris 04.15.10 at 1:44 pm

Even though snarking is a base motive, or so I’ve read, I wonder if on reading Rowling’s piece Caplan would agree that citizenship and paying taxes are voluntary, and voluntarily-accepted constraints do not infringe liberty?

54

Joey Maloney 04.15.10 at 1:57 pm

@14 –

Somebody needs to do a study on why newspaper comment threads are universally filled with angry cranks.

Because online community management is hard work, and no newspaper is willing to spend that kind of resources on their website, which they mostly view as an annoying but necessary adjunct to their core business of mixing wood pulp with dioxin.

55

CJColucci 04.15.10 at 2:51 pm

Being childless, I’ve never had occasion to crack open a Harry Potter book. Is this essay a fair sampling of Rowling’s prose style?

56

rm 04.15.10 at 3:20 pm

CJ, I reluctantly admit that this is better writing than you find on most pages of her books. But it’s the same anger. I recommend the books if you’d like to see angry satire blended with fantasy and moral allegory.

57

Anderson 04.15.10 at 3:35 pm

Is this essay a fair sampling of Rowling’s prose style?

You don’t read Rowling for her style, though I think she does improve as the series goes on. She is gifted in what Coleridge called “fancy,” and her plotting is pretty good.

58

Ahistoricality 04.15.10 at 3:40 pm

“A real patriot is the fellow who gets a parking ticket and rejoices that the system works.” — Bill Vaughan

As much as I agree with Rowling here, and appreciate her perspective, I’d be even happier if she’d start acknowledging some of her literary debts.

59

Anderson 04.15.10 at 3:47 pm

I’d be even happier if she’d start acknowledging some of her literary debts

Not something that most authors are particularly happy about doing, or honest about when they do it. Why should they supplant the critics’ livelihoods?

60

nick s 04.15.10 at 5:09 pm

Because online community management is hard work, and no newspaper is willing to spend that kind of resources on their website

It’s not quite so simple: the Graun’s Comment Is Free spends a fair bit, with very smart people working behind the scenes, but the sheer volume of comments combined with the wide readership of a newspaper/broadcaster’s website means that bad drives out good.

61

Warren Terra 04.15.10 at 7:21 pm

@ mpowell:
“”

How is it possible that a Lord and member of the opposition party could be non-domiciled for tax purposes?

“”

It isn’t so obviously an example of personally scummy behavior as a lord and leading political figure who avoids paying taxes, but I rather enjoyed learning that the British government had, in order to raise money in the short term, sold the buildings that house their immigration and revenue ministries and now rent them back from their new owners – and they sold them to companies that are offshore for tax purposes (in the tax-protected British Channel Islands). Literally, the British tax ministry (I know that’s not its proper name, but I can’t recall the correct one) pays rent to a tax cheat.

P.S. Some html is not working in the Preview (a hyperlink to the original comment, which I removed as it destroyed the whole comment in the Preview, and a blockquote, which doesn’t look properly blockquoted, although adding double quotation marks had at least some effect). We’ll see if the blockquote works in the actual comment, but either way something is wrong. Some simpler html (italics) is working in the Preview.

62

bjk 04.15.10 at 7:31 pm

“The main one was that I wanted my children to grow up where I grew up, to have proper roots in a culture as old and magnificent as Britain’s; to be citizens, with everything that implies, of a real country.”

What is this talk about a “real country” and “a culture as old and magnificent as Britain’s” — is she writing the ad copy for the BNP? Doesn’t she know the only values are diversity and tolerance?

63

Substance McGravitas 04.15.10 at 7:34 pm

Magnificent history includes a bunch of foreigners as royals.

64

bjk 04.15.10 at 7:44 pm

Upstairs Downstairs will never be the same again.

65

JLR 04.15.10 at 7:49 pm

“Magnificent history includes a bunch of foreigners as royals.”

Give them credit. Most of the foreign families assimilated within a century or two.

66

mollymooly 04.16.10 at 12:06 am

Not all single mothers are equal. The moral cline, from deserving poor to undeserving poor, is as follows:

war widows; widows; divorced housewives; divorced working mothers; single working mothers; single unemployed mothers of one; single unemployed mothers of two; single unemployed mothers of two by different fathers.

I’m not sure where to shoehorn in prisoners’ wives.

67

Bloix 04.16.10 at 3:05 am

#41- Mrs Tilton, if you’ve never listened to Patrick Tull reading them (on cd’s) I implore you to give them a try.

68

Anderson 04.16.10 at 3:13 am

Molly, you left out divorced lesbian moms, the lowest of the low.

69

nick s 04.16.10 at 4:07 am

What is this talk about a “real country”

The comparison is to the enclaves and statelets that tax-exile expats call home, such as Monaco. As Rowling is a resident of Scotland by choice, there’s also a tacit ‘CU Jimmy’ to Sean ‘I’m staying in the Caribbean to protest the cause of Scottish independence’ Connery.

70

sg 04.16.10 at 4:17 am

no anderson, that’s single turkey-baster lesbian black mums with a disability

71

Tim Worstall 04.16.10 at 8:46 am

“How is it possible that a Lord and member of the opposition party could be non-domiciled for tax purposes?”

The same way that a Lord, member of the ruling party and Privy Councillor could be non-domiciled for tax purposes. Lord Paul.

There’s no actual requirement that a Peer be either domiciled nor even resident for tax. Just as there’s no requirement for an MP to even be a UK citizen (which obviously means that they don’t have to be domiciled).

MEPs, since the last euro election, don’t even pay UK taxes on their Parliamentary salaries. They pay the special EU rate. Government has said that they’ll do something about this but so far they haven’t.

The Inland Revenue deal went to Bermuda, not the Channel Islands.

72

Mrs Tilton 04.16.10 at 9:52 am

Warren @61,

the British government had, in order to raise money in the short term, sold the buildings … and now rent them back from their new owners – and they sold them to companies that are offshore for tax purposes. Literally, the British tax ministry … pays rent to a tax cheat

Up to a point. Tax-benefitted leasing deals are nothing new. The structures change in response to developments in tax law, but they are done all the time. And the Inland Revenue’s counterparty is not a tax cheat. That’s the whole point of such transactions. As a former colleague who did nothing but that sort of thing once put it: “These deals are a blizzard of documentation whose effect, once the last sheet of paper has fallen to the ground, is that nobody’s real position has changed at all, but some national revenue collecting authority has been done out of a great wodge of money — perfectly legally”.

An anecdote. A few years ago the city where I live was contemplating a sale-leaseback of its metro with a US counterparty. There were protests against the plan, led by attac, who also collected signatures for an anti-leaseback petition. A friend of mine who knows a bit about these transactions said that, no, he wouldn’t sign because he didn’t see any harm in it for the city (indeed, the city would gain some much-needed cash — it is perpetually skint). “But the deal would mean the Americans could sell our metro to whomever they like!” objected the attac dude. My friend explained why this was not so. “But they could jack up the fares without limit!” Again, no. “But they could carry out one of their horrible American down-sizings! Break the unions! Shut down less-profitable lines!” No, no and no; and then my friend explained what these deals really entail. “But that’s horribly unfair to American taxpayers!”, the guy from attac exclaimed. Yes, it is, my friend agreed. But US tax law allows it.

73

alex 04.16.10 at 12:00 pm

Which is why tax law shouldn’t be written by people who take donations from large corporations, and ought to include provisions making schemes where the aim is to avoid tax liability illegal… And I of course would like my pony now, but one can hope…

74

marcel 04.16.10 at 1:46 pm

I’ve been looking through the previous comments for the sentiment that I am about to express. If someone has already made it, I missed it and I apologize. With that said, let me get to the point. It’s perfectly obvious to this (& I hope any) completely and totally unprejudiced, clear thinking, staunch, stalwart, responsible, upright and self-supporting observer, that without the incentive from the Tory single-mother policies, Rowling would never have written her oeuvre. Whether the world should therefore rejoice in the outcome of this policy is not something I will address, although it is clear from her sales that it does.

75

marcel 04.16.10 at 1:47 pm

Goddam open html tags!

76

Lian 04.16.10 at 4:02 pm

Marcel (#74), there is a great deal of difference between the remnants of a policy put in place before the Tories were in power (JKR’s actual implication) and a policy actively supported by the Tories.

As an analogy, one cannot credit G.W. Bush with the children who received immunizations and other health care through in-school health service programs while he was in office. Those programs existed before his administration, and should be credited to those who created and significantly improved them. His administration attempted to choke those programs by cutting off administrative funding necessary to run them. He should not be given credit for looking after the health and welfare of poor schoolchildren with this policy. That would be tantamount to giving him credit for failing, heedless of intent.

Your implication that the difference is inconsequential does not stand up to scrutiny. She benefited somewhat from a policy that had been substantially weakened, in spite of rather than because of the government that presided at the time.

I also object to your implication that anyone can be totally unprejudiced and clear-thinking. Anyone with enough cognitive development to think clearly must necessarily be biased. The only way to be truly unprejudiced is to know nothing at all.

77

Anderson 04.16.10 at 4:56 pm

single turkey-baster lesbian black mums with a disability

… who blog.

78

mds 04.16.10 at 5:55 pm

single turkey-baster lesbian black mums with a disability

… who blog

… at 4chan.

79

marcel 04.16.10 at 8:22 pm

Lian @ 76:

Oops. Unless you are outdoing me in snark…

I realize that snark is often hard to convey on the internet, but I had hoped that the long list of self-attributed high-minded characteristics was sufficiently silly to make my attitude clear. Next time I’ll use emoticons;)

80

hix 04.17.10 at 8:29 am

“MEPs, since the last euro election, don’t even pay UK taxes on their Parliamentary salaries. They pay the special EU rate.”

Erm, they work in Belgium and should therefore pay their taxes in Belgium…..

81

Alex 04.17.10 at 4:09 pm

Having been actively involved in UK politics recently, as a prospective MEP (it’s like standing in a local election but without all the canvassing!), Tim, are you actually domiciled in the UK for tax purposes?

82

Bloix 04.17.10 at 9:25 pm

Mrs Tilton – the sale-lease back arrangements you’re referring to are not allowed any more and many of the older ones have been successfully challenged. See, e.g.,
http://www.usatoday.com/money/industries/banking/2010-01-11-wells-fargo-tax-lawsuit_N.htm

83

David 04.18.10 at 2:14 am

@David Moles and Neil. I should have been clearer that it was underage that was the issue, complexion and gender being matters of preference. However, he did mask his actual compelling legal problems with the tax dodge excuse.

84

hix 04.18.10 at 3:58 pm

Many municipalities lost money with sale lease back in the end during the financial crisis.
There were requirments to guarantee the contract by someone with an AAA rateing. All kind of stupid since the municipalities involved were de facto AAA rate themself, but well they signed the stupid hundreds of pages long contract. There was no real risk involved, so AIG etc would do the guarantee for a very small fee. But after all those guarentee givers lost their AAA rateing, it was the municipalities risk to find a new guarantee giver, which was almost impossible. In the end, many bought US bonds as coleteral )-:.

Looks like the attac types were not so wrong after all with their doubts about the sale back contracts. Those hundreds of pages long contracts based on New York law didnt just look scary, in the end some of them turned out to be scary. Not a good idear to do business when such a huge information asymetry is involved.

85

engels 04.19.10 at 12:34 am

‘Somebody needs to do a study on why newspaper comments threads are universally filled with angry cranks’

It could be part of a wider study of why the internet is full of angry cranks.

86

Tim Worstall 04.19.10 at 8:23 am

“Tim, are you actually domiciled in the UK for tax purposes?”

Yes.

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JoB 04.19.10 at 9:52 am

85- keep it silent but it is my plan to lure all of them behind a PC – and then electrocute them, in one sweeping move; the problem I’m having is that too many of them are involved in Tea Party physical gatherings (the last national rally had a total of 2000 attendants; we can’t miss those!)

88

ajay 04.19.10 at 2:18 pm

The same way that a Lord, member of the ruling party and Privy Councillor could be non-domiciled for tax purposes. Lord Paul.
There’s no actual requirement that a Peer be either domiciled nor even resident for tax. Just as there’s no requirement for an MP to even be a UK citizen (which obviously means that they don’t have to be domiciled).

The difference, which Worst is carefully not pointing out, is that Lord Ashcroft said he would move his domicile to the UK if he got a peerage, and then didn’t, while his mates in the Conservative Party (who have since said that they will force all MPs and Peers to be UK domiciled if they get into government) lied and/or obfuscated about whether he was a non-dom or not. I’m not aware of any such conditions attaching to Lord Paul.

89

Salient 04.19.10 at 2:50 pm

a study of why the internet is full of angry cranks

Because the bars aren’t open yet, and even when they are, a beer’s what, four bucks? Being an angry crank at home is more economical

90

Tim Worstall 04.20.10 at 10:12 am

“The difference, which Worst is carefully not pointing out, is that Lord Ashcroft said he would move his domicile to the UK if he got a peerage, and then didn’t, “

Not quite. He said he’d become resident for tax purposes. Residence and domicile are not the same thing.

91

ajay 04.20.10 at 10:34 am

90: well, that’s what not what the scrutiny committee thought he had said.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2010/mar/22/lord-ashcroft-papers-key-correspondence

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Tim Worstall 04.20.10 at 4:10 pm

91: True, but then he went off and asked Treasury (I think) what they actually meant he had to do. And the answer came back “residence”.

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Danielle Day 04.20.10 at 10:08 pm

Completely off-topic, but, agree or disagree with the comments posted, it is a pleasure to read posts wherein the authors know how to spell (or at least pay attention to the spell-check) and are aware of the basic rules of grammar, syntax, and punctuation. Americans stop paying attention in school around 7th grade. No wonder Rowling wanted her kids to grow up in Britain.

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