Only as Thick as a Prison Wall

Economics and Business Studies in secondary school did little for me at all. Such classes were always thought to be for the students who professed the ambition of becoming ‘businessmen.’ Girls were never encouraged to take them. They had Home Economics. I never wanted to be a businessman. Pin stripe suits and bowler hats never impressed me as a kid. So unimpressed with Economics was I that I can only remember two things the teacher ever said. One was that the reason for poverty in the Developing World was the Catholic Church’s ban on contraceptives, and the other was that the line between tax evasion and tax avoidance was only as thick as a prison wall. Both of these nuggets of third-class teacher wisdom are profoundly untrue. In fact they are just lies. Bare faced lies. Poverty south of the equator was the result of various historic thefts collectively known as colonialism and imperialism, and the terms tax evasion and avoidance are synonyms used in a legally fictitious way depending on the social class, political power, or economic importance of the accused. The former I knew to be a lie at school because I preferred History, the latter I learned from the news.


All this Right2Water business has exposed a great deal about the nature of the social divisions in Ireland, and I have gotten to see this in the heart of Dublin’s Liberties. The patronising language of the tourist maps’ descriptions of the area would have us believe that the Liberties are where Real Dubs live, and that this part of the inner city is the most historic part of the Mediaeval City. Again, both statements are untrue. What is a real Dubliner? The truth is that the Liberties have, like any other part of the city, some wonderful people, but it suffers a great depth of poverty and social exclusion as a result of that poverty, a drugs crisis resulting from that poverty, and prejudice resulting from that poverty. My neighbours and myself here are being asked to pay for water at the exact same rate as the wealthiest people in the country, and so it will have a more significant impact on our standard of living than it will on the rich. Our government dismissed out of hand the idea of increasing the income tax rate by a single percentile – a measure that would have been easier for poorer families to bear. This tax avoidance has always been the way. In the nineteenth century, when rates were introduced by Dublin Corporation for the upkeep of the city, the wealthy fled to the suburbs; making the atrocious conditions in the inner city even worse for the poor – who all worked in the factories of the rich.

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