Journal of Social Policy

Articles

Why Was a Wealth Tax for the UK Abandoned? Lessons for the Policy Process and Tackling Wealth Inequality

HOWARD GLENNERSTERa1

a1 Department of Social Policy and Centre for Analysis of Social Exclusion, London School of Economics, Houghton Street, London WC2A 2AE email: h.glennerster@lse.ac.uk

Abstract

The distribution of wealth is widening in many countries and with it the growing importance of inherited wealth. In 1974, a Labour Government came to power in the United Kingdom committed to introducing an annual wealth tax. It left office without doing so. Using the official archives of the time and those of a key advisor this paper traces both the origins of the policy and its fate at the hands of the civil service. It explores two related questions. What does this experience tell us about the role of the civil service in the policy process in the UK and what lessons might be learned by those wishing to tackle the issue of widening wealth disparities today?