There’s an island just to the south of Corfu called Zakynthos, and it is home to nearly 600 visually challenged Greeks.
A story of survival against the odds? Actually, more a case of the survival of ckeeky sods. All of them are sighted enough to be taxi drivers, shopkeepers and restaurant owners, farmers, hunters – and regular players of backgammon in the island’s cafes and bars. But all of them have been living for years on a blindness allowance to which none of them were entitled.
Sadly, they weren’t very far-sighted. When a new Mayor replaced the former crooked one, he saw the names of those registered ‘blind’ and realised he knew most of them….but had never noticed their sight problems – on account of them not having any.
So he’s turned them in – for which he got pelted with eggs and yoghurt in the traditional Greek manner. (Amazingly – considering their disability – very few taxpayers missed).
Hat-tip to the sharp eyes of Nick Squires at the Sunday Telegraph for spotting this one.
This is, of course, merely an honest Mayor doing his job. But when too many people rob the State, official snooping takes off. Jamaica now has a cheat line, and over the last year it has grabbed $176m back from those evading tax. They operate in varying sectors, including manufacturing, wholesale, retail, security as well as legal and medical services. That doesn’t leave many areas of life where they don’t cheat.
In East Germany – where Angela Merkel flourished in a manner she now prefers to deny
– they had denouncement lines for everything…with the result that grudges were simply fed by a State that wanted to know about everybody and anything. Once a culture heads south and cheats prosper, it’s an open door for the taxman and – in Britain since Jacqui Smith’s time – GCHQ to start watching, listening and monitoring 24/7.
I was given sight of some Troika ‘helpful tips’ offered to the Athens Government about collecting tax last month. Oddly enough, quite a few of them involved surveillance technology…with recommendations about German and US companies who would be only too happy to supply them with said snooping equipment. Imagine that.
The response of governments to feral teenage burglars and pissheads is not to tackle the parenting, educational and social reasons for this, but to stick cameras everywhere. It’s the same with tax evasion, benefit crime, white collar fraud and banking scams: what we get is an army of regulators and snoopers, as opposed to a recognition that the culture sucks. Once the police give up the fight (which here in the UK they did some ten years ago) then the circle of excuses is complete: “Well,” say the Theresa Mays, “We have to give GCHQ all this power and money because all these Underclass, unemployed and Islamist folks don’t know how to behave. Nothing to do with anything we did, goodness me no”.
It’s a great scam, and it will never end until more people like David Davis try to say ‘no’. But we too must shoulder the blame: if you think it’s clever to cheat the State, the State will simply get more clever still, employing more and more unproductive civil servants. Misbehaviour costs us all a fortune, and gives the control freaks a gold-plated excuse to spy on all of us.
As for tax specifically, a I’ve posted endlessly (to the derision of most readers) the only answer is to stop directly taxing incomes in any shape or form. Overnight, the vast majority of people would have the ability to cheat removed by default. But the short-term, easy answer is to start making Britain’s larger corporations pay their fair share.