Saturday, April 21, 2012

Take that Ms Toynbee

One of the best things that happened to the Telegraph is that it acquired Tim Worstall as columnist. I am rather astonished that the editor had the good sense to offer Tim a slot. He and I do not necessarily agree every time but we do dislike the same people, Polly Toynbee being high on the list, though I do realize that it does not place us into a particularly select group.

Yesterday's column had an interesting title: Let's give Polly Toynbee the Britain she wants. I have always assumed that Polly Toynbee envisages a kind of Soviet society where she and her friends and relations would be exempt from the poverty and misery that she would like to inflict on everyone else and have always enjoyed the thought that in the Soviet Union even the bosses had a constrained life that was much poorer than average existence in the West.

However, Mr Worstall has gone one better: he has taken Ms Toynbee at her word. Apparently the silly cow Grauniad columnist has expressed the wish of seeing the same social and economic balance that one can find in the Nordic countries.

She clearly knows nothing about Nordic countries. Presumably she did not read Graeme Leach's paper on economic lessons from Scandinavia that might have surprised her about the level of taxation and regulation in those countries.

Perhaps she will read Mr Worstall's collection of facts as opposed to myths so beloved by the Guardinistas.

Let's change policy to achieve that laudable aim. We should copy the Finnish education system, for example – it is, after all, the number one such system in the world. There they divide into academic and vocational at 16 and there's none of this nonsense that all must go to university – that's reserved for the small fraction that are indeed academic. Or the Swedish system of education vouchers. Parents decide on the school they want children to go to and the local council stumps up the fees – whether it's a public or private school.
From Denmark we'll take a couple of policies. Privatise the ambulance and fire services certainly. They've been working well there for nigh on 90 years. We'd want their taxation system as well: the national income taxis 3.76% and the top national rate is 15%. True, total income taxes are high but the rest is levied by the commune, a political unit as small as 10,000 people. At that scale, taxation is subject to the Bjorn's Beer Effect. If you know that it's Bjorn who levies your taxes, Bjorn who spends your taxes and also know where Bjorn has his Friday night beer, then he's going to spend your money wisely. Otherwise he can't go out for a beer on Friday, can he?
From all of them we'll take the abolition of the national minimum wage, fornone of the EU Nordics has one.
Sweden has also abolished inheritance tax, gift tax and the wealth tax. Those sound like three excellent ideas to copy.
We'll have to raise VAT as well, of course: for this is something that people don't seem to realise about Nordic tax systems. In many ways they are more regressive (yes, regressive, not progressive) than our own. This is because those countries follow the basic economics of taxation. You need low corporate and capital taxation, moderate income taxation and high taxes on consumption.
I suspect Ms Toynbee will have fit if she reads that. I also suspect that she will go on peddling her nonsense without bothering to find out any facts.

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