In a very good post about workfare - one that if read without knees jerking contains much that Classical Liberals would agree with - Shuggy says the following:
... David Cameron can smoke weed and snort coke and all that happens to him is that commentators admire the way he deflects 'unjustified' questions about his 'private life'. But the left-behind society has no such privacy.He isn't explicit, but I assume he is talking about means testing, and the license that gives the State to investigate every detail of a claimant's life.
The first letter on this page puts this more directly:
The BBC news now tells me my benefits will be scrapped and I will be tested (I have been tested twice already). I will have to bare all my privacy in the hope of retaining the right to survive the winter.And that's true. This point is often made by the left. It is linked to dignity.
On the other hand, those whose income is taxed to pay for benefits are subject to what Adam Smith called "the odious examination of the tax-gatherers". Especially in the case of the self-employed, and most particularly when they are subjected to a tax examination, no part of their lives can be called their own. Far more than in the case of benefits claimants, every detail of their lives is open to enquiry.
Is an invasion of the privacy of a claimant more important than that of the people taxed to pay the benefits they are claiming? If it is not, then whatever form of government revenue can legitimately be raised, it does not include income tax.
My own position is that both claimant and tax payer have the same right to privacy. But the claimant has a duty of justification to those whose money is being taken on their behalf. This doesn't need to take the form of means testing, but it does need to be satisfied.
Therefore, while land and transactions can be taxed without an invasion of privacy, income cannot and should not be taxed. Equally, means testing is unacceptable, but if a claimant is capable of work, any work at all, and this is available, they have a duty (to their fellow citizens, the taxpayers) to take it.