Anglophone settler society working class discourses vary considerably, with left and right wing discourses, religious and secular discourses, national or racial and cosmopolitan discourses.

However, the working class right in the past 80 years has a discursive fixation on the taxation powers of the state. These powers are viewed to be income limiting as opposed to other arguments against tax; and, the state and its taxation powers have not been viewed as "social" or under democratic control, but rather construed as an uncontrollable other.

Examples: A key, obvious, and internationally known working class discourse here is the Tea Party's grass roots. Correspondingly, there is a working class anti-tax discourse in the cultures of working class support for the Australian Liberal Party (and prior to that, in the support for anti-labour parties). Anti-taxation is a position held by both the declining former "middle class" Tories as they were reduced to proletarian economic relations, and of course of the working class Tories themselves. These are discursive: they don't form a separate movement or faction. Even the Tea Party is a cross-class alliance, where leadership was given over without contest to bourgeois anti-tax politicians.

(Correspondingly, the left of working class discourses tends to view taxation as income generating through horizontal redistribution, and tends to demonise in particular capital for income limitation through wage fixation; and has a bizarre fantasy that the state could be meaningfully subject to working class interests and proxies for a genuinely "social.")

We can see this discourse is immediately different to middle class or bourgeois discourses on tax—tax isn't viewed as either a measure like inflation that destroys capital ("wealth"), nor is it viewed as an impediment to production. Tax is clearly felt by right-wing workers as a limitation of personal expenditure. Identification with the bourgeoisie is limited—the "what if I won the lottery and cared about capital gains tax" type argument isn't as keenly put as the "take home pay" issue.

And this seems common across anglophone settler countries, you can spot the discourse in Australia, in New Zealand, in the UK or US. It is true across radically different configurations of the control of the working class, unionisation, and GDP returned to labour either through income or social programmes (compare Australia to the US in the examples).

Why is tax a fixation in this discourse? Other right wing working class discourses such as catholic social unionism (the Australian Democratic Labor Party for example) haven't been anti-tax, nor was mainstream labourism until the 1990s.

Discussions of bourgeois parties aren't really necessary, unless you can demonstrate the party is controlled by or fundamentally responsive to working-class discourses—petits bourgeois and bourgeois anti-tax perspectives aren't relevant. Nor is a "false consciousness" answer, it has no causative power as false consciousness covers a variety of other fixations as well, such as nationalism or anti-secularlism.

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    In the US, at least, tax issues are a fairly easy way to 'rally the troops' and, as such, is likely an issue due to PR/Spin more than anything.
    – user1530
    Commented May 1, 2013 at 3:45
  • @DA. I guess I'm suggesting that "spin" isn't a sufficient answer—you can "spin" nationalism to rally the troops. The question is more, when someone rallies, why do people answer the call? What produces a working class culture that seems authentically outside of, or different thinking to, dominant ideology that hates taxes so? Commented May 1, 2013 at 5:10
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    This seems more like a rant than a question. Could you, in a comment, give an example what an answer might look like? I'm not asking you to have a fact, just what an answer would like if you had a fact to answer it. Commented May 1, 2013 at 16:58
  • An answer might look like [process arising from production or class culture] generates [broad working class opinion] which when run through [right-wing working class assumption] views tax as income limiting. Another answer could be [process] directly generates [element of right-wing working class politics] which produces [coherent ideology] that views tax as income limiting. Yet another could be the question asserts [term] [process] [relationship], however due to [scholar] or [theory] the [process] seems universal, the [relationship] is dubious, and [alternate ground]. Citations are a plus. Commented May 1, 2013 at 21:13
  • Ideally a question would also explain why its explanation of the process resulted in a large sustained public discourse on the matter, and why an apparently genuine working class sentiment is being voiced through the press: the "Tea Party" might have been organised by the rich, but the workers in it express their own genuine sentiment through it, and that sentiment seems on the matter of tax to represent their real feelings (for example). Or that the Daily Telegraph's computation of wages lost to tax for a policy represents real feelings, in a way other articles (by reception study) don't. Commented May 1, 2013 at 21:27

1 Answer 1


In Chapter 17 of "The Prince" (titled "Why it is better to be feared") Niccolo Machiavelli makes an interesting observation. He warns any would-be feared tyrant not to take a man's property if at all possible, even suggesting it is better to kill a man's father than to take his wealth.

... but above all things he must keep his hands off the property of others, because men more quickly forget the death of their father than the loss of their patrimony. Besides, pretexts for taking away the property are never wanting; for he who has once begun to live by robbery will always find pretexts for seizing what belongs to others; but reasons for taking life, on the contrary, are more difficult to find and sooner lapse.

The impact of this quote has a natural extension into taxation. People hate having anything taken from them. Psychology has shown that on average, people would rather avoid loss than gain a reward.

With taxation, there is, in fact, often a reward. Indeed, as this Planet Money podcast shows, Americans are actually, on average, pretty well accustomed to an income tax, and gladly pay it for it the benefits it provides. (Be sure to see Donald Duck - patriotic American - teaching people to pay their taxes!) The problem is when taxes seem to be collected unfairly.

Thus, in sum:

  1. People hate loss
  2. People hate unfairness


  1. People hate taxes.

Whether or not this is strictly Anglophone is, however, dubious.

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    I hate taxes... I would rather give more money to places that will not waste it than to give it to the governemt to fund the bureaucracy... what does that make me. Commented May 31, 2013 at 19:48
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    @Chad There's your explanation. Would you hate taxes if they weren't 'wasted'? If not, then you hate waste. Commented May 31, 2013 at 21:00
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    @DJClayworth - If it wasnt for waste they wouldnt need the taxes Commented Jun 1, 2013 at 0:34
  • 1
    Of course not. Because nobody needs armies, police or roads. Commented Jun 1, 2013 at 3:03
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    @DJClayworth - Police should be funded by local communities and governments, aside from small FBI (you know, like they did in beginning of 20th century). No ATF. No IRS paramilitary. Armies are a smaller proportion of outlays compared to social spending.
    – user4012
    Commented Jun 19, 2013 at 1:14

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