Judging the rich is like judging the poor: if you’ve never been in their situation, you don’t know what you’d do if you were. But we like to think that the reason people have too much money is that they are morally flawed, and that the world of finance is so morally flawed that it’s almost impossible to understand. You’d have to be incredibly greedy or have a personality disorder even to find it interesting.
And we all like to hear of a big pot of unpaid tax that could be put to good use. All we have to do is lever it out of the hidden hands of the morally repugnant. Just as the left pretends that every penny of dodged tax would otherwise have been spent on hospitals (by George Osborne?), the right, I presume, has it earmarked for weapons and the bankrolling of the private sector.
Because conservatives especially bemoan immorality. They would have us believe that a creeping and recent venality is blighting capitalism’s good name. Greed and sharp practice have replaced philanthropy and propriety, goes the narrative.
In fairness to conservatives, they have a long tradition of economic intervention that stands in contrast to the economic‑liberal theory that everything sort of sorts itself out somehow. Tories are close enough to capitalism to know that it doesn’t actually work – not without a lot of help. They also know it has nothing to do with morals. In a market-driven society, it is a tribute to human decency that anyone behaves with any morals at all.
Furthermore, while it’s fun to point out that the worst tax-dodgers are always Tories, when Conservatives put financial gain before everything else, they are being entirely true to their principles.
Jeremy Hardy is a comedian and writer who regularly appears on BBC Radio 4's The News Quiz and I'm Sorry I Haven't a Clue.