Monday, 8 March 2010


The government seems to have been doing a bit of kite flying over the weekend about raising funds for its debt.

Extension of VAT seems to be the one that hits the headlines - whether it is on food, children's clothing or books.

Ignore food and children's clothing for a minute (that would eventually happen under Labour anyway to conform with the EU).

Tax on books and magazines...

In 1380's John Wycliffe created the first English Bible. So much was the outrage that 44 years after Wycliffe died, the Pope ordered his bones to be dug-up, crushed, and scattered in the river.

1517, seven people were burned at the stake by the Roman Catholic Church for the crime of teaching their children to say the Lord’s Prayer in English rather than Latin.

And so it continued until Henry VIII, and the English bible only really occured out of spite for the Pope than anything else.

What has this got to do with VAT on books and magazines?

Knowledge and the access to knowledge by the masses.

The outrage in letting plebs know exactly what was going on at a mass was due to power, concentrated power. Keep the sheep in terror of what awaits them, do not encourage them to question that authority.

Tax on knowledge.

I lived in Dublin when they still had VAT on newspapers and books. As a result, second-hand bookshops did very well out of me. I bought the Irish editions of english newspapers because, due to being printed in Northern Ireland, they were not subject to the VAT and were a good 20p cheaper than the Irish papers.

A price comparison: The Evening Herald was IR£0.55, the London equivalent, The Evening Standard, was at the time £0.20.

VAT on books and newspapers is a tax on knowledge. Add 17.5% onto a newspaper would mean that many would give up buying papers. Even if they only get the Sun, at least there is some awareness about what is going on in their world and elsewhere. Without this, where would the info come from? BBC News would essentially have a monopoly.

17.5% on the Independent would probably be the final nail in this struggling paper. The communion of ideas, disparate voices, that are available through all printed media at a realtively cheap price would disappear. We would be left with a monopoly of ideas and Heat/OK magazines.

For many people, university is not an option no matter what the government targets say. Either through financial cost, or through apptitude, some are not going to have formal education. So where will they get their knowledge from.

Although I do think the end of the Net price aggreement has been costly and only seems to have benefitted Waterstones, there is an incredible amount of literature, factual, fiction, available out there and quite often at reasonable prices.

Chuck 17.5% on them.

That's OK you can go to a Library, people say.

But hang on. In real terms, funding for Libraries has already been slashed and coupled with the barmy "learning centres" branding means there is already pressure on the book purchasing accounts. Add 17.5% on each book they buy/replace. There's going to be less books and more library closures.

I know many a person who are self-taught and knowledgeable through books but they are on limited means. If books go out of their price range and libraries cannot update their catalogues, what will happen to them?

VAT on printed material will mean a tax on knowledge, a tax on independent thought.

What about what history has shown us: The printing press and brave souls that defied papal edicts to bring the bible to the masses.

Enlightenment was designed to tear down the temple curtain.

If VAT does happen then there is a very, very high possibility of that curtain going back up, denying knowledge to the masses, taking away self-improvement for the plebs. Returning the jurisdiction of knowledge to the rich and powerful.

Knowledge is power, don't tax it.

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