In March 1988, UK chancellor Nigel Lawson tabled his famous “tax reform budget.” Though the Thatcherite offensive against social democracy had already been underway for years, the document was in some ways the ultimate summation of its political project — legislating a bonanza of tax cuts disproportionately benefiting the wealthiest people in Britain. Slashing corporation and inheritance taxes, the pièce de résistance was undoubtedly a cut in the top income tax rate from 60 percent to 40 percent. As the late G. A. Cohen once observed, the cut “enlarged the net incomes of those whose incomes were already large, in comparison with the British average, and of course, in comparison with the income of Britain’s poor.”

That wasn’t how Lawson justified it, of course. “Prudent financial policies,” he argued during the budget’s tabling, “have given business and industry the confidence to expand, while supply side reforms have progressively removed the barriers to enterprise,” before promising to introduce “a number of measures designed to improve the performance of the economy still further, by changing the structure of taxation.”

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