I hate the word phrase “wealth creators”.
It seems to come from the Republican Party in America which has created this myth of the “wealth creator”. In this myth, the rich constantly think about improving their businesses, investing in worthwhile projects, looking at ways to create jobs and generally propping up the country against the onslaught of evil socialists, red tape, eco-nuts or whatever it is that might be the enemy of the day.
This myth has transplanted itself into the UK – though thankfully not to the same degree but manifests itself when David Willet’s comments on the 50% tax rate for example, words like “immoral” thrown around or talk or “stifling enterprise.”
Despite all this huff and puff, the fact is that the rich in the UK, simply don’t do enough and they haven’t been doing enough for many many years. The problem comes from the fact that the rich no longer feel an obligation to give their money to those that most need it, to sponsor social projects or to support worthy causes.
For all the talk of philanthropy and charity from the “right” – the facts show they don’t do it. Take 2010 as an example year. According to the Coutts Bank Million Pound Donors Report in 2010 which analyses the largest charitable donations made in the UK each year discovered that the total value of the largest donations was around £1.548 billion.
Yet the Sunday Times Rich List for 2010 calculated that the richest 1000 alone were worth around £333.5 billion. So the total value of large donations in 2001 was only around 0.4% of their total worth of the 1000 richest individuals. Hardly impressive. And the figure is unlikely to be any higher if the 50% rate was got rid of.
These days, like many parts of our society, the rich avoid responsibilities if they can do so. If you don’t tax them, they won’t invest in new jobs (at least directly), donate to charity or support social improvement – they’ll avoid it. They don’t see why they should give their “hard earned” money up for anything and they have no loyalty to either the society that has enabled them to get that wealth in the first place or a moral belief in helping the less fortunate.
Defenders may point to the amount they pay in tax, but again that is money that we force them to pay. They cannot receive moral support for an act which they have been forced to do. It would like applauding a driver who paid a parking fine – we expect people to fulfil their legal obligations.
I respect the work of our entrepreneurs and business owners (many of whom aren’t particularly rich), and the Conservative Party is right to champion hard work, creativity and innovation.
But the richest also owe responsibilities, and so far they are failing to meet them.
So, it is about time that instead of always leaping to the defence of the rich that we started to put more pressure on them to give more, to become “social capitalists” as well as “wealth creators”. We need to build a new moral norm that says that the richest have an obligation to give up as much as they can for the betterment of general well-being and not to just accumulate large amounts of wealth – and that we’ll hold them to account (socially) if they do not.
They have their chance through social impact bonds, investing in social enterprises or donating more to charity. I hope that they take it, and I hope that if they don’t, instead of keeping quiet the “right wing” blogosphere will hit them hard.