Golden Rule Tax Disobedience- more information

Our broken democracy and the rotten rules

A functioning, equitable democracy requires a fair and transparent political system which is genuinely representative, along with access to accurate information. Yet in our current “democracy” [8]:

  • Our politicians often serve vested financial interests, and lobbying by the resource-rich (formal and informal) is rife[9]
  • Party funding is unfair, and being further rigged to favour the political representatives of the wealthy [10],[11]
  • The first-past-the-post voting system means that comparatively few votes actually count[12], and proposed “frightening” changes to our democracy are further rigging the system[13]
  • Our media is dominated by non-dom billionaires with extreme rightist views[14] and a BBC uncritically embracing establishment discourses[15]
  • Think-tanks, academia and civil society are increasingly being captured by the powerful and the wealthy against the public interest[16]
  • Secretive tax havens are ruthlessly used to bend rules and hide dubious deals[17]  

Viable solutions to crises which would serve the public interest are commonly ignored[18], while the rules of “free market fundamentalism” (or “neo-liberalism”) are perpetuated as if they were “natural” and inevitable. These rules, designed to serve the corporations and the wealthy[19], are pursued with ideological zeal when convenient – for example:
1). Governments must not intervene
2). Cut and/or privatise public services and social security
3). Deregulate and financialise (increase debt)
4). Do as we say, not as we do (the hidden rule!)

These highly partial rules that currently infect our “democracy” and economy are fundamentally unjust[20] undermining our basic human rights by:

  • Creating a dangerously unstable economy[21] associated with a growth in debt
  • Threatening life on earth through climate change and environmental degradation
  • Creating gross and escalating inequality, which generates enormous social problems[22]
  • Downgrading and deliberately undermining public services, like the NHS and social security[23]
  • Bringing us into a state of almost constant war[24].

Increasingly, people are seeing through the sham, either rejecting the current system and calling for genuine alternatives[25], or else completely withdrawing from democratic life in bitter cynicism. In rejecting the rules imposed by free market fundamentalism, we are determined to pursue:

  • A genuinely democratic polity, with a process of ongoing democratic review and enhancement built into the system
  • A rapid transition to a zero carbon and zero waste world, with appropriate and effective laws for protecting people and planet
  • An economy that maximises well-being and minimises harm[26], inequality and exploitation
  • A significant increase in equality, and the protection and enhancement of public services
  • Relationships with other countries based on an assumption of peaceful co-existence

This tax disobedience initiative highlights the abject failings of our “democracy”, with its broken ethics and bias. Yet eminently viable alternatives exist
We call for laws and policies that will[27]:

  • Restore and strengthen our democracy: by reforming the UK media’s undue concentrations of ownership[28], the voting system, political-party funding and current lobbying practices, and holding a constitutional convention[29]. Tackling tax dodging[30], tax haven abuse[31] and the “finance curse”[32] so that the financial sector is stable and fit for purpose[33].
  • Protect life on Earth: rapidly moving towards a Zero Carbon Britain[34] and supporting an international Law of Ecocide[35] to prevent and mitigate harm.
  • Broaden prosperity: People’s “Quantitative Easing”[36] to invest in green jobs and affordable housing[37],[38],[39]; a citizen’s basic income[40], [41] and land value taxation[42].
  • Protect our NHS: An NHS reinstatement bill[43]  to be enacted
  • Strengthen peace and security: based on a comprehensive approach to security[44]  and the prevention of activities that fuel war[45]
  • Repeal or prevention of laws and policies that undermine the public good and basic living standards[46]. This will include measurement and reporting of the impact of acts of parliament on the health and well-being of UK citizens[47], and comprehensive monitoring of the scale of corporate subsidies[48] (“corporate welfare”)

The Golden Rule Tax disobedience is an uprising of people who care about democracy and justice. We want effective environmental protection, peace, prosperity and fairness – today and for future generations.


How the rulers rule and democracy fails

Free market fundamentalism was supposed to bring about a stable economy[49], share out power and minimise harm[50]. After 40 years of domination, however, it has been an astonishing failure – though it does provide copious benefits to the “Establishment 1%”[51]. Those wanting to speak for alternatives are commonly undermined[52] because:

  • Our democracy has been captured by “a corrupted political system, a prostituted media, a hijacked academia and a criminal tax-haven system” [53].
  • Those with considerable wealth have enormous power[54]. Some 90 per cent of the UK working population earns an average of around £13,000 per annum (hence the majority of people in poverty are also in work[55]) 
  • The media is dominated by extremist billionaire interests[56] and a BBC too often wedded to a neoliberal establishment discourse[57].
  • Political party donations, favour the current system and are and under current legislative intentions, are set to get even worse[58],[59].
  • Lobbying by corporations in the UK lacks transparency and is barely regulated[60],[61]. In stark contrast, Trade Unions and civil society interests are hampered by stringent and inequitable regulation[62],[63].
  • Laws are being changed which erode local democracy (for example, forced academisation), giving licence to polluters where no social licence is granted (e.g. fracking) [64],[65].

Unjust rules in action

Rule 1: “Government intervention is a bad thing – Competition is always good”
Climate change (and other forms of environmental degradation) are the biggest threats humanity has ever faced[66]. Our mitigation of further climate change is desperately inadequate compared to what is needed[67] and many current policies are moving in the wrong direction[68].

Currently, solutions to climate change are sought through markets[69]  and (often frightening) techno fixes[70] because the totem of “commercial viability” reigns supreme.  International co-operation, with legally binding agreement, is badly needed, alongside investment in renewable technologies[71].

Rule 2: “Cut and privatise public services, like welfare and the NHS”
Cuts to public services and welfare are driven by free market fundamentalism, while Government debt has continued to grow[72]. Privatisation commonly leads to increases in costs and reductions in service quality[73],[74].

The Welfare Reform Bill included measures such as the “bedroom tax”, removal of the Independent Living Allowance for disabled people and various limitations on benefits (regardless of need or the fact that rents are subject to rampant market forces), pushing many families and children below the poverty line[75]. Scapegoating and “divide and rule” tactics[76] have been used to push these changes. Disabled people have been particularly badly affected, and have experienced an increase in violence (by 213 per cent[77]). Some 90 people per month die having just been declared fit for work[78]. The United Nations is investigating the UK for human rights abuses[79].

The NHS was declared the best healthcare system by an international panel of experts[80]  who rated its care superior to countries spending far more money per head of population. Healthcare provision in the USA, where most money is spent, was castigated as the worst (care for many patients is denied because they do not have health insurance). Despite this, the transfer of NHS services to private companies is occurring at an alarming rate[81]  (privatisation by stealth), and services are being eroded and stretched to breaking-point[82].

Rule 3: “Deregulate and financialise” [83]  
Deregulation[84]  of the rules governing banks[85] continues, despite the 2008 financial crisis that resulted from this self-same deregulatory ideology. Protection of the public and employees[86] is being systematically weakened, with the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) [87]  being the single biggest threat. This is a race to the bottom driven by a “finance curse” [88].

We are fuelling our economy through excessive personal debt, leaving key human needs to the ravages of barely regulated markets. This latter is clearly seen in our housing crisis[89] where land and properties are bought up by speculators seeking a return[90] and government has an ideological prejudice against social housing.

Rule 4: “Do what we say, not what we do” (The hidden rule!)
Rules are clung to while they serve vested interests, and yet swiftly ignored when expedient:

  • £93bn is given to businesses operating in the so-called “free market” [91]. No rationale is ever advanced to justify such “corporate welfare”.  (Compare this to £85bn[92]  spent on state benefits[93]).
  • Government non-intervention excludes the banks, with up to £1.2trn in actual and implied subsidy[94]. This is far less than the banks pay back in taxes[95]. Effective nationalisation, and the socialisation of the results of poor or corrupt banking practices, are acceptable for the banks and finance capital, whilst comparable state support for manufacturing (e.g. steel) clearly isn’t.
  • The UK Government spends £26bn subsidising harmful fossil fuels and only £3.5bn subsidising renewable technologies[96]. The market here is rigged[97].
  • The deeply undemocratic TTIP is being negotiated in secret[98], yet a “Snoopers Charter” is on its way[99].
  • UK foreign policy fuels conflict and terrorism[100]. We sell arms to dictators and also help them hide their money[101].
  • When the rules don’t suit a rich individual or corporation, they can use a secrecy jurisdiction (tax haven) to hide what they’re doing, dodging the law and tax[102].

Rise Up!

It is time for us to rise up in justified outrage against these unjust and rigged rules. We have marched, boycotted, signed petitions, shared information and written to our MPs. While the latter have helped raise awareness, they clearly aren’t sufficient. History shows that change happens when people unite in acts of defiance and civil disobedience[103]. The Golden Rule Tax Disobedience is a peaceful act of civil disobedience calling for a genuine democracy and equitable rules; one which is able to provide urgent and appropriate responses to the multiple crises our civilisation is facing. It will begin when at least 5,000 UK citizens pledge to take part. Please sign & share this pledge[104].

Why Tax Disobedience?

When democracy is unduly compromised by the kinds of corruption and vested interests[105] outlined above, tax disobedience then becomes a legitimate form of protest and direct action. Tax disobediences has formed a key aspect of many successful struggles in the past:

  • The Boston Tea Party in American Independence[106]  
  • Gandhi’s Salt Marches in the struggle for Indian independence[107]
  • Suffragettes: no vote, no tax! [108]
  • The Peasants’ Revolt and poll tax rebellion of 1381[109]
  • The Poll Tax protests leading to the downfall of Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher[110]

When 500 people join this tax disobedience and withhold an average of £25 each, this will amount to £125,000 being diverted to grass-roots campaigns (bear in mind that a 6-hour bombing mission to Syria costs over half a million pounds) [111]. The UK Government spends about £500bn annually, so this disobedience would not significantly affect the public purse; the intention is dissent and protest that precipitate virtuous democratic change, not economic damage.

Principled tax disobedience is consistent with calls for tax justice[112]. This disobedience is in support of calls for tax justice. Tax rules in the UK are unfair and need changing, because:

  • Poor people pay a greater percentage of their income in tax than the rich[113].
  • Tax rules are skewed to serve the rich[114]. Value Added Tax (VAT) which hits the poor hardest has been increased, while taxes on the rich and corporations have been lowered[115].
  • There has been no serious attempt to tackle tax dodging and tax havens[116], which puts increased pressure on the ordinary taxpayer[117] and spreads corruption[118]; unpaid taxes can then be used as political donations[119]