Editorial Spring 2015

mylesharrisThere is only one question to be asked at the next election. Who is going to pay at least a fraction of Britain’s £1.4 trillion pound public debt? It is four times larger than it was in 1998 and rising vertically. Traditionally state debt is serviced by taxes or further borrowing. Yet while more people are being employed the computer revolution means they often find themselves in jobs earning less money and thus paying less tax. Wages are further diluted by net immigration running at a quarter of a million a year. A good example of how the computer has, and will, steal your job is offered by the software application Uber and the driverless Google car. Uber allows you to summon a taxi on your mobile phone within minutes. It hugely expands the available taxi fleet thus cutting fares, and allows multiple passengers in a taxi. Today that taxi comes with a driver, but in five years, when you call one, a driverless car will draw up beside you at the kerb. Versions of Uber and the driverless car – EasyJet on the road – will steal the jobs of many a taxi, lorry and bus driver in the country. Computers will do the same to many jobs, from your GP, replaced in ten years by a computer mainframe and a TV set, driverless trains, automated shops, skyscraper window cleaners with ten arms and eight suction feet and behind those windows, electronic stockbrokers with a worldwide reach dealing at speeds of thousandths of a second independent of human control. The people replaced by these machines will pay no tax but nor will they be able to afford anything the machines produce. They will not be able to hire a taxi, invest in stocks or shop for anything but essentials. Nor will the government be able to raise the revenue to pay its bills. The old model of work, pay your taxes, spend what is left, and hope the government bails you out in thin times, is dying. Tax will become a matter between large companies like Google and government. As Google is often bigger than many government departments, certainly more organised and efficient, it may turn into an unequal struggle. Google-Uber will also cause a demographic shift in population. Why live in an overcrowded immigrant city if you can phone a driverless car to pick up your groceries from a supermarket miles away and bring them to your gated exclusive retreat in Shropshire? ‘White flighters’ will leave behind cities, which will become, thanks again to the computer, filled with newcomers. Technology can now, for little money, airlift the equivalent of entire Pakistani villages to London in twelve hours, imams, village seers and country midwives included, and settling them in east London where they can resume watching their favourite Urdu soap opera on satellite TV, popping out to buy their familiar foods in a Pakistani store around the corner. The jobs they do, the first £10,000 of earnings tax free courtesy of the taxes paid by you and me, are not in high technology, but in low income catering trades. The corner tailor to brain surgeon phenomenon – that from immigrants an educated middle class emerges – no longer holds true. When the new migrants have sufficient money to send their sons or daughters to university to obtain a degree in accountancy or medicine, they find the machines have got there first, as any English parent with an unemployed graduate loafing around at home now knows. Labour claims, with much class bombast, to be able to solve this by taxing capital. Miliband’s mansion tax is a taster, but capital can decamp overnight to more congenial climes. Taxes are for ‘little people’ not the rich who have many mansions everywhere. The Tory plan, built on piles of printed money, will also fail. We know that from the vote of no confidence in money printing made by the Swiss in January when their government uncoupled the franc from the euro and the franc’s value rose instantly by 30 percent. The Swiss were not just talking about the euro, they were thinking of that huge overhang of incomeless, unemployable people who have to be fed and amused or they will riot as they did in Greece. We are moving backwards to a late 19th-century world of a few very rich families living cut off from an undercapitalised mob controlled by an underfinanced government. Such governments tend to be brutal, often replacing food subsidies with doses of the water cannon. Whitehall recently bought a fleet. What is either party going to do about public debt, unemployment and immigration? If you have children or expect to live another decade, this is a question you must ask before you vote.

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