Friday, 13 November 2015

Day of National Jealousy

Every year a list of the nation's highest earners is published in the daily newspapers. The list also discloses the amount of income they made and how much taxes they paid. Last week Monday the Finnish tax authorities published taxpayers earnings and the newspapers promptly summed up the top earners.

This is something very Finnish, for I have not heard of this phenomena in any other country. Usually one's income is considered a private matter so data on income and taxes are not publicly disclosed in most countries. I myself don't really care how much someone else earns and I don't understand the need to post it in the newspapers.

The discussion for many people for weeks after will be why and how can one person make so much money. The implication being, that it is wrong and sinful to make more money than everyone else and that person must somehow be exploiting the system and others. One co-worker summed it up perfectly when she called it the day of "national jealousy". I guess that's basically what most people feel when they read the list of top earners. In a country where most people are middle class and where everyone should be equal, the fact that someone is earning much more than everyone else really sticks in the craw.

Here is a link to a news article about the list of Finland's top earners in English. According to this article publishing people's salaries may become a thing of the past, if new EU regulations limiting the dissemination of tax data come into play.
Finland's Top Earners

And here is a more extensive list and breakdown.
Big Tax Data Reveal

1 comment:

  1. The thing is: money is power, which makes it something that has relevance in the larger context of society. It also affects people's opinions and motivations. In an open, democratic and equal society people, that is something that people should know. Money really is a private matter only in the personal context.

    Those people, who always seem so very jealous of poorer people's tax-rates, like to frame it as "jealousy" when people think it's simply wrong for people to have so much when others have so little. You can only have so large a discrepancy between people before people are no longer equal. Money buys a lot of things that either promote or are the face of true inequality: time, health, justice, status, power, more money, etc. (The last three don't even necessarily require one to actually spend any money. It's often enough if you simply have more.) So, yes. People should know about these things.

    Also, there's a limit how much one can really earn. When you consider the accident of birth and everything associated with it, the actual amount of control people have over it is often not that much. As for meritocracy, the "merit" that income first and foremost measures is the drive and capability to make money for oneself, often with not much regard for (or even in place of) anything more productive. Should that really be rewarded?