Tuesday, July 10, 2012

"I'll give you a discount if you pay in cash..."

"I'll give you a discount if you pay in cash"

A tempting offer no doubt. Save money on some work you're getting done.

But what's going on here is that somebody is saying to you:

"Hey, you know that agreement that we have as a society where we all pay a set proportion of our income to fund the services that we all use? Yeah well I'm not going to pay all of the amount that I owe. But listen I'll split the difference with you by giving you some money off my charge. That way we both win." 

But everybody else loses. 

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Higgs Boson and the Beauteous Forms of Things

Yesterday evening a group of scientists discovered what they believe was the Higgs Boson fieldIt explains why all matter has mass. Quite breathtaking that humans have been able to discover this and a very exciting development.

As it happens, I was reading this old poem the other day from William Wordsworth. I don't know many poems but this is one of my favourites. I think what he says is worth remembering at the moment when we're so focused on the amazing intricacies that we've been able to discover about the nature of the world. Perhaps sometimes we need to close our books and enjoy the world without having to understand how it all works?

The Tables Turned by William Wordsworth

Up! up! my Friend, and quit your books;
Or surely you'll grow double:
Up! up! my Friend, and clear your looks;
Why all this toil and trouble?

The sun above the mountain's head,
A freshening lustre mellow
Through all the long green fields has spread,
His first sweet evening yellow.

Books! 'tis a dull and endless strife:
Come, hear the woodland linnet,
How sweet his music! on my life,
There's more of wisdom in it.

And hark! how blithe the throstle sings!
He, too, is no mean preacher:
Come forth into the light of things,
Let Nature be your teacher.

She has a world of ready wealth,
Our minds and hearts to bless—
Spontaneous wisdom breathed by health,
Truth breathed by cheerfulness.

One impulse from a vernal wood
May teach you more of man,
Of moral evil and of good,
Than all the sages can.

Sweet is the lore which Nature brings;
Our meddling intellect
Mis-shapes the beauteous forms of things:—
We murder to dissect.

Enough of Science and of Art;
Close up those barren leaves;
Come forth, and bring with you a heart
That watches and receives.

Monday, July 2, 2012

An open letter of thanks to the taxpayers of Ireland.

"It's all pissed against a wall. P.S the wall is now owned by NAMA."  
(A comment by 'MrMatisse' I found on Boards.ie in relation to how tax money is spent in Ireland. )
Dear taxpayers,

I've been feeling a bit bad for you guys lately. You see you've been paying tax for many years, and it has been spent in a variety of ways. Some would posit that it has been wasted, while some feel it was spent wisely. I'm not writing to get into a conversation about the wisdom of how your money was spent, or where your money was spent. That's a debate for another day.

No, the reason I feel bad is that you've been paying all of this money, and nobody has said 'thank you'. Nobody has even told you where your money is going. It just disappears directly from your paypacket every week, without a whisper. I posted recently about the lack of clarity around the TV Licence, but the lack of recognition of general taxpayers is at a whole other level.

When was the last time you got a note recognising your contribution to the country we live in? When has anybody ever given you an indication of where your money is being spent and what difference it is making to our country? Do you have any idea what impact your contribution makes?

The idea of taxation has somehow been construed as a burden. The very word, 'taxing', has negative connotations. The Beatles have a song about it, painting the taxman as the bogey man.

 "Don't ask me what I want it for, if you don't want to pay some more"

How did it come to this? A lot of it is probably due to the origins of taxation, as a payment imposed by a Lord on peasants. But in a democracy it shouldn't be this way.

Imagine a group of people coming together for the first time. Their land is barren and they have no basic services. They have two options: (1) Every man for themselves, let's try to build stuff individually and see how far we get. (2) Let us all pool our resources according to our ability to pay, and build shared roads, services and provide a range of supports for members of our society.

We're basically living in option number 2, but what should be a voluntary decision to contribute our fair share to the society around us (to contribute towards the roads that we use, towards the education of our neighbours and towards a safer society) has become a burden on our pay packet.

Fine Gael TD Eoghan Murphy and Senator Catherine Noone have raised this issue, and information like the below has been compiled to give a sense of where the money is going. But how ridiculous is it that you have to come along to a blog like this to get a sense of where your money is being spent?

So, while everybody else is waiting around, I thought I'd take this opportunity to offer my thanks. Hopefully, in time, we'll develop transparent and open systems. I believe that as the custodians of our money, the government have a responsibility to tell us what they are doing with it, and even more importantly, the government has the opportunity to engage taxpayers in how they spend the money. 

Maybe soon we will see where our money is going, we will see the impact that it is making, and won't feel so bad about that mysterious number in our paycheck. Here's hoping. 

Is mise le meas,

Darren Ryan

Appendix - After I posted this blog, a friend asked me how our spending compares to other countries. Here's a sample breakdown of expenditure from Canada for 2010 - 2011, breaking up every dollar that they get in. It's a nice way of displaying the info.