15 April 2010

Rowling’s Patriotism

The Times of London, a right-leaning newspaper but eager as any media outlet for a superstar byline, just published this essay by J. K. Rowling on why she dislikes the Conservative Party platform.

Even more important, Rowling explains why she pays taxes on her many millions of pounds in income in Britain when many other subjects with incomes nearly as high—including, it appears, the deputy chair of the Conservative Party—live outside the UK for most of the year in order to pay less. It’s a little something called patriotism.

the first time I ever met my recently retired accountant, he put it to me point-blank: would I organise my money around my life, or my life around my money? If the latter, it was time to relocate to Ireland, Monaco, or possibly Belize.

I chose to remain a domiciled taxpayer for a couple of reasons. The main one was that I wanted my children to grow up where I grew up, to have proper roots in a culture as old and magnificent as Britain’s; to be citizens, with everything that implies, of a real country, not free-floating ex-pats, living in the limbo of some tax haven and associating only with the children of similarly greedy tax exiles.

A second reason, however, was that I am indebted to the British welfare state; the very one that Mr Cameron would like to replace with charity handouts. When my life hit rock bottom, that safety net, threadbare though it had become under John Major’s Government, was there to break the fall. I cannot help feeling, therefore, that it would have been contemptible to scarper for the West Indies at the first sniff of a seven-figure royalty cheque. This, if you like, is my notion of patriotism.
Rowling goes on to say, “Child poverty remains a shameful problem in this country, but it will never be solved by throwing millions of pounds of tax breaks at couples who have no children at all.”

Indeed, I like to think that the guiding purpose of a democratic government should be to provide more equal opportunity in an unequal world, for the benefit of future generations. Which gives me an opportunity to note that this is National Library Week, and public and school libraries are one great equalizer.

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