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Free Lunch: Easily Digestible Economics by David Smith

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9Paying the bill

Now that Marx has left us, it is time to start thinking about something that can ruin any meal – paying the bill. We are not quite at the end of our meal yet, and some might say this is a contrived title for a chapter about what governments do. But it seems fair enough to me. The government’s most important role in the economy is, after all, raising taxation, for which we all have to pick up the bill, and redistributing it in the form of public expenditure. The late Sir Leo Pliatsky, a senior civil servant at the Treasury and Department of Trade and Industry in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s, called his memoirs Getting and Spending, after Wordsworth’s ‘getting and spending we lay waste our powers’. So let us have a look at the government’s ...

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