Battle lines!Christian Aid is one of those horrible organisations with an implied claim to moral superiority over us lesser mortals, pontificating how the rest of us should live our lives. Of course, they’re entitled to do so, after all isn’t God on their side? Bring on the Inquisition.

This week this pompous band of moral busybodies published a report “Death and Taxes: the True Toll of Tax-dodging,” in which they claim that more than five million children could be saved in the developing world if the “super-rich” and the world’s “largest companies” paid their “fair share” in taxes. Going even further, no doubt with an eye to grabbing a few headlines, they claim that “[tax dodging] is so widespread and damaging that it is tantamount to a new slavery.” If you could wank your brain this is the sort of gunk that would come out of it.

Christian Aid thinks that governments in the most impoverished countries are “being cheated” out of billions each year due to tax dodging. And there was me thinking that shitty governments in the aforementioned countries were to blame for most of that. They argue that up to $11 trillion might be stashed away in tax havens. Of course they freely acknowledge that tax-evasion and tax-avoidance are different – with the former being illegal and the latter perfectly legal. In the latter a company or individual can use some fairly ingenious ways to get around (as opposed to break) the rules and protect their money, typically by using what we call tax havens. In the eyes of Christian Aid “the pursuit of profit outweighs all other considerations, including good citizenship and social responsibility.”

In the line of fire stand some high-profile individuals: Formula One racing driver Lewis Hamilton, pop star Phil Collins and U2 lead singer Bono. For the record I’m glad Bono is getting his ass burnt a little – not for his money-stashing, but rather for his moral hypocrisy. Isn’t this the man who stands up in front of millions of people much less well off than he is and screams for them to give more of their money away? Rich men telling much poorer men that they should give more out of their small income is becoming the charitable mechanism of choice for the Bonos of this world, who never quite manage to practice what they preach.

The fundamental argument of Christian Aid is that the money stashed away in tax-havens should be freed up in order to benefit “the poor.” This argument has both strong utilitarian and socialist roots: socialist because the idea involves taking money from those deemed to have excess and given to those who need more; utilitarian because taking the money is justified on the basis of some good that results – helping the poor – outweighing the loss for those from whom the money is taken. Christian Aid is going well beyond the typical remit of a charitable organisation by advocating greater government redistribution rather than voluntary donation.

These kinds of arguments are certainly in vogue these days and find some of their best formulations in the work of philosopher Peter Singer. Singer argues that we have a moral imperative to sacrifice our money and possessions up to the point at which to give anything more would mean sacrificing something of equal moral worth.

Such an argument has ramifications that go much further than its advocates typically expect. Peter Singer himself is nowhere near the point of sacrifice that he prescribes for those of us who earn enough to meet our basic needs and more. In his book “Practical Ethics” this otherwise atheist thinker calls on the Biblical notion of tithing – giving one tenth of one’s income – and his justification for this is little more than the fact that 10 is a nice round number. Define “rigour” Mr Singer. Of course such types always want to show us how extra special (and thus how much more morally superior) they are compared to lesser mortals, so Singer gives 1/5 of his salary to charitable causes. Now, I don’t know how much money Singer earns, but as a top academic at a leading university, widely published author, and in demand speaker I suspect he doesn’t need to go out busking in the streets or washing cars to make sure he can feed his family. So, when he gives 20% away his remaining 80% is certainly nowhere near the point at which he would be sacrificing something of equal moral worth (whatever the hell that is anyway).

But, lets return to Christian Aid. I wonder how many of their employees live the life that their ethical principles demand. How many of them have televisions, DVD players, or MP3 Players? How many of them splash out on restaurants, cinema trips, sporting events? Telling Bono “if you gave a bit more money away we could save lots of cute little black kids” isn’t an argument that applies only to Bono. It is, in effect, a call for each and every one of us who lives above mere subsistence to live in a perpetual state of agonising guilt. Do I really need this computer upgrade or should I donate the money to help build wells in Zambia? Should I buy that new television or help 30 kids get vaccines in Kenya? Should I go to the cinema only once a month or is once a fortnight OK? Should I go at all? Isn’t going to the cinema putting leisure above the lives of people suffering malaria in Uganda?

The thinkers (if they can be so described without emptying that word of all meaning) at Christian Aid must be in a state of constant moral dilemma – not only about how we should use our money, but also our time, energy and resources. It’s the kind of dilemma that doesn’t even disappear if we decided to give all we have, because then we must choose which is the most worthy cause: blind people, poor people, Africans, Asians, children, animals, cancer charities, heart foundations, hospices…


Maybe we should give it to lunatic asylums, since at least we’d stand a chance of benefiting a little ourselves once we lose our minds from living such a guilt-ridden, conscience-breaking, emotionally-draining, pathologically-fretful, morally debilitating, hypocritical, pragmatically impossible existence.

Christian Aid’s principle is part of the wider scheme of things: namely that self-sacrifice for the good of others is not only a moral imperative but one of the highest goods. And not only do they value voluntary sacrifice – they here advocate involuntary sacrifice through the tax system. To my mind they would do much better to oppose the tax system rather than singing its praises and calling for more and more money to be caught up by it. Obviously the folks at Christian Aid don’t trust people with their own money so it must be taken from them. They fail to acknowledge that money and possessions belong to someone – usually those who created and earned it through their own efforts. It’s intellectually bankrupt to claim, as Christian Aid does, that by trying to hang onto as much of the product of your own efforts as possible you are either robbing poor people of what is rightfully theirs or else you are morally culpable for the deaths of 1000’s of impoverished children as if you had run amok in an African village butchering kids with a machete.

To claim that the money is rightfully someone else’s is blatantly false, while blaming Bono for killing African kids by stashing his cash rather than giving it up to governments is both morally obscene and hypocritical, not to mention being a cheap, crude, insidious little exercise in emotional blackmail.

The world seems to be dividing rapidly into two factions. There are those who buy into the impossible demands of Singerian ethics; and there remain those who unashamedly reject the debilitating ethics of the self-appointed moral elite with their unending call to self-sacrifice. These are the people who see their own life as inherently worth living to the full, who believe that honouring themselves is virtuous, who accept the freedom and responsibility to use the product of their efforts as they see fit, and who refuse to be forced onto the alter of altruism to have their blood drawn by High Priest Singer or anyone else belonging to the Cult of Unnatural Never-ending Tyrannical Self-sacrifice: or C.U.N.T.S for short.

With battle lines drawn I stand firmly on the side of the individual’s right to use his money for whatever purposes (charitable or not) he so desires and against those who would abrogate our values and impose their own wishes by force on those who dissent. And the battle cry must therefore be: Down with the C.U.N.T.S.