Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Tax oppression and Sweden's dirty little secret

French economist Pierre Bassard has published an interesting study on “Tax Oppression and Individual Rights in the OECD.” The paper measures: “The tax oppression index is based on 18 representative criteria measuring fiscal attractiveness, public governance and financial privacy in the 30 member states of the OECD.”

Remember the study is limited to the 30 OECD members only, but it is interesting none-the-less. Within the OECD, Bressard says that the most oppressive states, in regards to taxation, with the most oppressive listed first, are as follows:


Don’t get too excited because the United States didn’t make the 10 most oppressive tax regimes in the OECD. The US tied for 11th place with that other, increasingly-totalitarian nation, the United Kingdom.

Who are the ten least tax oppressive nations within the OECD? Here are the ten least oppressive states. The least tax oppressive of the nations is Switzerland, followed by:

New Zealand

Consider the relative positioning of the United States to the so-called “third way” nations of Scandinavia. It has pretty much always been a myth that the Scandinavian nations are the most tax oppressive. It really depends on who you are there. Business itself is not so highly taxed, but individuals are. I shall explain why shortly. But the US ranks as more tax oppressive than Denmark, Sweden, Finland and Norway.

There is an assumption that the welfare states of Scandinavia were high-tax regimes which tried to redistribute wealth from rich businessmen to the average person. This is not the case at all. One a whole the Scandinavia systems are meant to be redistributive states. Nor are businessmen the targets. Business is relatively lightly taxed compared to many developed nations. It is that the earnings of businesses that the bureaucrats want to control but people.

The Swedish welfare state, in particular, was designed so that the average individual was highly taxed. There was even the well-known case of Swedish author Astrid Lindgren, of Pippi Longstocking fame, who discovered that her tax bill was 102% of her earnings. Consumers are highly taxed, while business itself, not so highly taxed.

The reason for this is simple. Taxation is a means of control. The object of control in the Swedish system is not business, they produce the golden egg after all. The object of control is the individual. The Swedish system doesn’t so much redistribute your wealth but confiscate it and return it to you provided you spend it in ways approved of by the political elite.

Consider how this system works. Say you are taxed $100 on earnings of $150. The state may now say that can have $20 back in education vouchers for your children, $30 in health “benefits” and so on. If you choose to spend in other ways you will not receive the money back. In essence the Swedish system was created to take control of the individual Swedish consumer, not redistribute wealth from the rich to the poor. While some redistribution is inevitable that is not the reasons the system was created.

Swedish business is more lightly taxed because the government wants business to provide jobs for workers. Once the workers are employed the state can tax them and control their spending. Approved spending is subsidized with the tax money that consumers pay in, unapproved spending is not subsidized or may be heavily taxed. This system of coercive incentives is meant to regulate how people act.

While many in the world think that the “third way” of Sweden was a “socialistic” policy of helping the needy, the reality is closer to a “fascistic” policy of manipulating the consumers into behaving in ways that politicians want.

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