As Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell whinge away about how rich David Cameron’s family is, they might consider that in the last six years he has funded schools ’n’ hospitals to the tune of £402,283. How much have they put in?
Since wealthy ancient Athenians loved to boast about the vast sums they contributed via property taxes to the public benefit, they would have been amazed that Cameron did not long to reveal how rich he was. The 5th-century BC thinker Democritus argued that there was nothing like the rich giving to the poor to produce concord that strengthened the community. The Greek orator Hyperides (389–322 BC) pointed out that Athenians allowed statesmen and soldiers to make large ‘personal profits’, provided they ‘were used in the people’s interests, not against them’. One could hardly walk down a street anywhere in Greece without bumping into an inscription, often with statue, thanking someone for their generous funding of a public benefit of one sort or another.
The Romans were just as enthusiastic about spreading their wealth about. An inscription publicly thanked Lucius Betilienus Varus for constructing in his home town of Aletrium ‘all the street-paths; the colonnade, along which people walk to the stronghold; a playing-field; a sun-dial; a meat-market; the stuccoing of the basilica; seats; a bathing-pool; a reservoir by the gate; an aqueduct about 340ft long leading into the city and to the height, with arches and good, sound water pipes’.
Pericles pointed out that there was nothing disgraceful in the admission of poverty: ‘The real disgrace lies in refusing to take active measures to escape from it.’ Wealthy MPs will be proud to display how much they subsidise schools ’n’ hospitals. True, last year the Mayor of London contributed a paltry £276,505 in tax, while McDonnell-Corbyn helped out cash-strapped hospitals with a fabulous £14,253 and £18,912 respectively: self-sacrificing heroes both. Will this endlessly self-righteous pair ever make more money, pay more tax and be of genuine use to the country? No fear. Too busy whining.