The disposition to admire, and almost to worship, the rich and the powerful, and to despise, or, at least, to neglect persons of poor and mean condition is the great and most universal cause of the corruption of our moral sentiments.
Adam Smith (1723-1790)
The news that Nick Clegg thinks that the rich should pay slightly more in tax has prompted the usual nonsense about “the politics of envy” and the need to nurture wealth creators, notably from Bernard Jenkin MP, on the Today programme this morning.
The rich and powerful do not, for the most part, create wealth. They take it from others by force or fraud. The expansion of credit, for example, does not create wealth. It re-distributes it, usually from the poor and middling to the very rich. This is why so many people cannot now afford to buy a house.
It is inequality, not envy, that poisons our public life. The latest edition of Tax Justice Focus, edited by Kate Pickett and Richard Wilkinson, the authors of The Spirit Level, provides a useful introduction to reality for Tory MPs and the unfortunates who take them seriously.