In the interests of a fairer society, why shouldn’t everybody reveal their earnings and their wealth? That’s a question that is increasingly being asked. Most people wouldn’t object. After all, the money that is spent on status goods and services they publicly display — their house, car, clothes, personal ornaments, restaurant meals, foreign holidays, etc — is usually up to the hilt. People need t show where they are, or aspire to be, in the social hierarchy.
Criminals who “evade” tax and who don’t reveal their income — nor even less where it comes from! — would be against disclosure, of course. But so would many law-abiding rich people who employ lawyers and tax accountants enabling them to “avoid” taxation legally by circulating their money in clever ways.
Interestingly, both criminals and also those who are far richer than their personal tax returns specify are usually not shy when it comes to buying expensive houses, cars or luxury yachts. All of these people are usually known to either the police or the tax authorities — or both — but whose wealth is too cleverly disguised.
Most people accept the idea that we are a pecking-order species and that, in principle, differences of income between different social levels are fair. What upsets them, and ultimately makes them angry, is if differentials from top to bottom are far too great and wildly disproportionate from what appear to be their job skills. As for their attitude to master criminals, people often have a soft spot for those because criminals are ‘honest’ enemies of government rather than effete tax avoiders!
It did no harm to leaders of the past, whether their power and wealth was denoted by the number of cowrie shells around their necks or the amount of feudal land they received rents from, to publicly display their wealth. Making the transient ownership of public money more transparent would be the equivalent today and could only result in a fairer society. Tax avoiders might have a point when saying that governmental taxation is far too high but that doesn’t justify their taking advantage of lawyers and accountants whom the bulk of the population can’t afford.