I'd really like to devise a personal budget that keeps my income the same but forces everyone else to tighten their belts. Unfortunately I'm not Chancellor (don't have the eyebrows for it) and with my financial record, I never should be.
Next week there'll be a Budget. Duty on petrol, booze and fags will likely rise. VAT might increase too. The people I rent a lab from certainly think so because they've issued the invoice early for this quarter, which is nice of them.
So petrol duty, smoke duty, booze duty will rise and we pay VAT on those taxes, and that will rise too. Man with a Van will be absolutely ecstatic. He can add a quid or two to his prices and we won't worry about it. He's still paying the same over in Smokislavia or wherever he gets the stuff so it's pure profit.
Which reminds me - this weekend I have to refill the petrol can that runs my lawnmower. Okay, it's pennies of difference for me but pennies add up.
'Look after the pennies and the pounds will look after themselves'. A bit of Granny wisdom I once ignored, but no more.
As usual we will hear that more smokers have given up because of the price rise and that it is a Great Thing. Did they really 'give up'?
They did not stop smoking voluntarily. They stopped not because they 'gave up' but because they were priced out of the market. Or, they shifted from the much-lauded official figures to the unofficial figures held only by Man with a Van. Who doesn't publish his business data anywhere unless he's insane.
The same will be true of drinkers. Politicians will delight in declaring that drink sales are down, as proved by diminishing tax takes. In fact, more will be drinking dodgy stuff brewed and distilled in sheds and laced with industrial alcohol which is a seriously bad idea. That stuff is nowhere near pure. It's not even lab grade. But then, look at Iran, where alcohol is banned entirely. The people will drink what they can get. What they can get is dangerous but it's all there is so they buy it.
US Prohibition killed an awful lot of people with criminally-produced low-grade booze. Look at the current state of illegal drugs. What comeback do you have if your cocaine is actually drain-cleaning powder? None. Who gets arrested if a druggie snorts Vim? Nobody. It's chaos.
So when we are reduced to buying methanol-laced hooch and tobacco that might include carpet clippings, who do we complain to? The local Don? Not a great idea. Think about offers you can't refuse and waking up next to a horse's head (okay, we've all done that after a night on the house whisky but even so) and that's where the increased taxation is going.
Criminals love this sort of action. They delighted in the gun ban, they proliferated with the smoking ban, they are just waiting for prohibition of booze and they already have the infrastructure in place for it. Just as they did in the US before it came in. Criminals - proper ones, not Burberry-clad wasters with an IQ so low they can't spell it - are not stupid. I've met them. They are logical and calculating and they are businessmen. Not like those in films and TV. These guys do not go outside for a smoke and if you cross them, you become one of those mysterious skeletons that keep the archeologists busy. These guys are rarely caught.
Usually a sap takes the rap - sorry, showing my age there.
The sap does get paid for silence. A couple of years in the stripy hole or these days, a couple of weeks, and there's a nest-egg waiting and any family is watched over. They are not evil, these people. They are logical and in many cases more ethical than 'legit' business people. But then, if you annoy them, they can be a little on the harsh side.
The coming budget is going to be watched very carefully by some people I used to know in the past. They will already have made preparations. They will have made those preparations based on predictive logic, not on some populist agenda because they care not one whit what you or I think of them.
When you crush the market in any commodity, any at all, crime takes over. When it does it operates more efficiently than any government ever could. You want more criminal activity? It's easy.
Bans and taxes are meat and drink to crime. Ban things, tax things, and crime will flourish.
As far as I can tell, it's what our government wants. They fancy themselves as Al Capone but really, they have no idea.