Monday, 3 November 2008

Maybe we need a Real Taxpayers' Alliance?

Thinking a bit more about the Taxpayers' Alliance, what annoys me about them is the way that they subvert real and legitimate taxpayer concerns to support their own ideological agenda. Really we ought be able to rely on organisations such as the Audit Commission and the IFS to provide an independent perspective and public spending and government projects. But unfortunately the TPA have (currently) hijacked the space for a taxpayer voice. What's more papers like the Mail and the Telegraph will understand completey that the TPA comes from a libertarian-right perspective, but cover their reports anyway as though they were produced by disinterested researchers.

So we have a real problem that the 'taxpayers' voice in bits of the media is actually a partial reading of what the state does channelled through the distinct ideological perspective of the libertarian right. Ever seen a TPA report that highlights what the state does well, call for greater public investment in a given project, or praises the public sector? I doubt it, why would you? These things shouldn't happen in TPA-land because the public sector is inherently flawed. All their reports start with the answer and work backwards. They 'know' that the state is wasteful and inefficient so their reports are an exercise in confirmation bias. That's why, for example, they don't know what pensions public sector workers should have, they just know that must have worse ones than those they have currently.

Needless to say this isn't a good state of affairs for those who are genuinely interested in taxpayers' money being well spent. So perhaps the alternative is to create a Real Taxpayers Alliance - an organisation that looks at government expenditure and projects but without the ideological baggage and inherent antipathy towards the public sector as a whole. Clearly this is politically a bit risky since it may add weight to the TPA propaganda campaign. However to be honest I think there has to be quite a lot of space between the TPA's ideological assault and a refusal to consider that the state might waste money.

I have no ideas about how it might be funded, or by whom (though I'm sure it would do less well from right-wing business and city folk than the Right TPA does). Or maybe we need to think of another way of addressing this problem. But it seems to me that we need to take some action. The libertarian Right is not a significant political force in the UK, and if anything I think its influence over the Right is going weaken in future. Therefore I can't see any reason why they should be allowed to monopolise the position of taxpayer advocate and misrepresent issues is support of their own agenda.


Charlie Marks said...

Speaking of taxes, have you seen this short film...

It is excellent and really gets the message across re: tax avoidance (which, no doubt the corporate backers of the Taxdodgers Alliance do a bit of...)

Tom P said...

cheers Charlie, will take a look. is it by the Tax Justice people?

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