Dad, I've decided what to do when I leave school. I'm going into business. I'm going to get rich.
What? What happened to environmental research?
That was okay but everyone's doing it these days - and there's no money in it, unless you can score some big grants from oil companies or developers. But we've banned oil exploration here so ...
What about the property developers though?
Nothing much from there either. They prefer to pay koha for consents these days rather than fight city-hall greenies and land-rights gangs.
The greenies run a big industry, son. Environmental impact reports will always be needed. It's a secure future you'd be giving up. What do your friends say about your change of heart?
They're not happy. They say saving the planet is far more important than personal wealth. But Marty Greiner's told me he's going to do accountancy like his old man. He's not coming out though. He's told me not to tell anyone.
That's very sensible of him. You know, we're no longer in the age of capitalism, son. We're in the age of equality and fairness and fair incomes for everyone. I'm worried you'll end up on the wrong side of history.
Dad, the brightest kids at school don't seem too worried about that. Profit's not a dirty word you know. Entrepreneurs make the world go around. What's wrong with that?
It's just that ... well ... profits ... particularly big profits ... are seen here as a bit ... you know ... grubby. We all just want to be equal and just get along in harmony, don't we?
No, Dad. I'd like my own jet and superyacht and a chalet in Aspen and ...
Now you're just being silly, son. You need to be realistic. Do you know how many people make the Rich Lists in Western democracies?
Yes, Dad. About 4 per cent of the population, actually.
Well, there you go. It's disgraceful, really. Why should such a tiny number of people have all that wealth?
Dad, Western democracies wouldn't run without them. All government revenue comes from taxing the wealthy.
I don't think so, Son.
Only 14 out of 100 people here pay more in taxes than they take out from government services and pensions and welfare and ...
Fourteen in 100? Who told you that? Everyone earning a wage here pays tax.
Yeah, they do. But they take more out of the pot than they put in. In Britain only five out of 100 taxpayers make a net contribution.
You can't believe all that capitalist propaganda, son. What have you been reading? Why would such a tiny number of people put up with such an unbalanced system like that? It doesn't make sense. Even you can see that, can't you?
I don't know what your mother's going to say when she hears about your crazy plans. She'd be so embarrassed if her friends find out. So would I if it got around in the Innovation Department in Wellington.
It's okay, Dad. I won't say anything.
That's good, son, that's good. Thank you.
So you're not worried about rumours the Government's going to introduce higher taxes here to pay for our budget deficit?
What rumours? What taxes?
Dad, the Government's looking at death duties, a wealth tax on household incomes over $75,000, luxury tax on cars like in Australia, capital gains on farm and share sales, an unoccupied buildings tax, that's our bach ...
Wait on, wait on. Taxes on our bach? A bach is something every hard-working Kiwi aspires to. It's a given. It's not a luxury, for heaven's sake. It has to be unoccupied at times because it's a holiday place. What are these people thinking? Why are you shrugging? What's the grin about? Do you think this is funny?
- Businessman Barry Colman is the former publisher of the National Business Review.