Before the idea of narrating this story of Welsh Governmental oppression occurred to me, I had an abundance of opportunity to observe the way in which the proponents of double-taxation went about their work.
Those who advocated penalising second-home owners tended to be leftwing politicians, leftwing media pundits and those individuals who were busy making the transition from the latter to the former.
Given that, when this kind of policy got implemented, it was going to hit us hard, I looked carefully at their public statements, in order to better understand the substance of their arguments. After all, if one finds oneself in the process of being transformed into a guilty or transgressive category of human being, it behoves one to fully comprehend one’s sins, in order to avoid the supplementary offence of reaction. Within their utterances, there was the usual commentary about unfairness, centring on the inability of locals to afford local housing. Then there was a supplementary layer of invective, usually directed at those parties who were blamed for the phenomenon, all lumped-together in one category (‘second-home owner’), as if they were all equally guilty of some fundamental crime against humanity.
In terms of a rational argument, the proponents of double-taxation, didn’t appear to exert themselves. Indeed, the different component parts of their polemic rarely seemed to join up, but that didn’t matter, because what smoothed the whole thing over was a kind of insinuation. The great thing about insinuation is that, later on, it is largely deniable – but in the immediate context, it has a profound impact upon opinion.
I discovered this fact when, briefly, I entered, tentatively, into a bit of public debate on social media. The first thing I learned was that any attempt to argue that double-taxation for a certain category of the population was undemocratic, was treated as an attempt to defend the indefensible – as if I were suggesting that we should give Hitler a bit of break because he was kind to his pet Alsatian dog. That kind of reaction is usually, in my experience, the byproduct of a highly reductionistic view of the world – and such a perspective doesn’t happen by accident. Of course not. What then followed was the realisation that a certain set of epithets were swiftly attached to someone like me, who finds themselves owning more than one property:
- “Typical bl**dy capitalist” (and what might that be, one wonders?)
- “You English colonial types” (I’ve lived in Wales nearly all my life, what does that make me?)
- “If you can afford two houses, you can afford the extra tax” (Given that the doubling of Council Tax is not means-tested, how would anyone actually know?)
There were other, less flattering terms used, but all of them were consistent with the same kind of mindset, one which had accepted the notion that someone who owned a ‘second property’ was something other, a person who was not eligible for a kind of basic respect, who had no legitimate point of view. Someone, who, basically, deserved everything they got. In fact, some of the proponents of double-taxation seemed to welcome the prospect of tripling the going rate – not because of the benefit to the homeless, but rather because of the damage it would do to “people like you”.
Now this is both disturbing and intriguing, because this kind of viewpoint is taught, it doesn’t evolve in a kind of worldview petrie-dish, in isolation from ideological input. Whilst the leftwing politicians and pundits took care to tailor explicit crassness out of their public statements, by the time their message had percolated into the collective consciousness of their followers, this is what you ended up with. As Richard Weaver argued in his excellent 1948 book, Ideas Have Consequences. Yes they do. A policy decision which rests, presuppositionally, upon the demonisation of a synthetically-crafted class of people, inevitably works its way through to this kind of binary, divisive view of our society, one where one class of person is entitled to do things to another class of person, simply based upon how people are assigned to each class.
It is at this point, where one sees, clearly, that the topic has now progressed beyond simple economics, or concepts such as fairness. This is about the ideological re-engineering of our culture, where the concept of community is broken down into the partisanship of ‘them and us-ness’. In such a culture, the ubiquity of ad-hominems is an essential tool, as the ideologues relentlessly slice and dice according to their own political objectives.