The man behind Corbynomics, the economic policy championed by Labour’s new leader Jeremy Corbyn, has reiterated his belief that there is no such thing as taxpayers’ money. Rather, there is only government money. Taxpayers’ money, he has stated, “is the money they have the absolute right to enjoy after they have paid their tax.”
Richard Murphy is not a well-known figure on the public stage so far, but all that is set to change. As the man behind Corbynomics, his ambitions to see Britain engage in large-scale renationalisation projects paid for by printing money are likely to provoke widespread debate across society.
A chartered accountant by trade, Murphy is one of the founders of the tax justice movement via his organisation the Tax Justice Network (TJN) which over the last decade has waged a war on not just tax evasion, but legal tax avoidance. It’s a movement which has seen much success, bringing international NGOs such as Oxfam, ChristianAid and Save The Children on board.
His ideas have even found support from Prime Minister David Cameron, who made championing Murphy’s ideas on transparency as a way to kill off tax havens one of his three key aims during his presidency of the G8 in 2013. “Please don’t say campaigning does not work,” Murphy crowed in response.
He has made no secret of his opposition to what he calls “neoliberalism” – the idea that “individual self-interest is at the heart of economics, that economic activity must be shifted from the public to the private sector, that government spending must be reduced, subsidies must be limited, the market must take priority, taxes must be constrained and be at low rates, the rights of private property must be paramount and that regulation should be limited.
“Fundamentally, it was this philosophy that John [Christensen, director of TJN] and I realised that we were opposing in the tax justice campaign.”
A Quaker, last year Murphy delivered the Salter Lecture to the Quaker Socialists Society on the subject of Tax Justice. There he set out his extraordinary beliefs.
“We don’t as such pay taxes,” he said. “The funds that they represent are, I suggest, in fact the property of the state. After all, if we give the state the power to define what we can own, how we can own it and what we can do with it – and we do – then I would argue that we also give the state the right to say that some part of what we earn or own is actually its rightful property and that we have no choice but pay that tax owed as the quid pro quo of the benefit we enjoy from living in community.”
He continued: “There is no such thing as ‘taxpayers’ money’: it is the government’s money to do what it will with in accordance with the mandate it has been given and for which it will have to account. It is the government’s money precisely because we owe it to them in accordance with the laws that we, by consent, have agreed to comply with and which underpins the society of which we are a part and in which we wish to live in reasonably peaceful harmony.”
Since the lecture was delivered he has been challenged on this view, prompting him to take to his blog site to reiterate: “let me make clear that there is taxpayer’s money: it is the money they have the absolute right to enjoy after they have paid their tax.”
“It seems some don’t get such things,” he lamented, adding: “Public discourse and understanding is all the poorer for it.”