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Why I am voting for Razem

Posted on Thu 05 November 2015 in misc • 7 min read

On 25th October 2015 Poland held its 8th free parliamentary elections after regaining independence. With a lot of discussion on the country's situation and the previous ruling party (the Civic Platform) clearly stepping down, I decided to make my voice heard. The following text is a translation from Polish with several sentences expanded for more clarity, created with a great help of Piotr Nowak.

EDIT: A few months before the elections a new political party, called Razem (Together) was brought to life. Their formation is completely grassroots and they made a point of not accepting any of the politicians from other parties, just activists from all over the country. Quoting Wikipedia:

The party advocates labor rights and opposes deregulation and privatisation of public services. Among its main goals are strengthening redistribution, adopting a 35-hour workweek, raising the income tax threshold to 12,000 PLN (ca. $3,200), establishing progressive corporate tax, and creating a healthcare programme funded directly from the state budget. It also wishes to completely remove special economic zones from Poland. The party's economic program is partially inspired by the Nordic model.

Several people asked me why I am voting for Razem party

As you probably know, I'm a young software developer and an aspiring freelancer. Not as in 'creative tax-evasion specialist', but a dynamic, mobile freelancer working between Warsaw, Berlin and London.

I'm 24 years old, I've just dropped out of college and I believe it's just the beginning of my career. I earn three times less than my colleagues from Germany or UK. Even though - and based only on what I've achieved by myself - I belong to 1.30% of best-earning citizens of Poland (according to the data the Ministry of Finance sent Razem party this year).

The ceiling for my career is quite low, isn't it?

Polish people are poor. That's a fact many of us forget.

I have no way of selling my applications, web pages, games and webapps to Poles. They just don't have money to pay me the market rates! They're too often worried about their basic needs, paying rent and bills. And contrary to what most of libertarians say, it's not purely their fault.

I am aware that by being born in a specific family and picking specific interests I was just lucky. Of course I put a lot of work into learning and developing my skills, but I don't believe I've worked harder than someone whose goal was to become a teacher or a nurse. And they got paid three times less than me.

Low wages aren't always caused by laziness, lack of elasticity or ignorance. I don't believe I should have any more right to healthcare than other, less lucky people. I don't want to have to choose a private hospital to be sure my appointment will be imminent and the quality of treatment will be of the highest standard. I believe that everybody has a right to this.

That's the reason I want to pay higher taxes in Poland. And with further development of my skills and the rise of my income - even higher.

As a freelancer I see a lot of shortcomings of Polish tax system, I'm worried about loose guidelines for tax offices, I'm irritated by omnipresent need for paper documents. I would love to see some Estonian facilities' ability to send documents to any kind of office over the Internet, free digital signature, the state doing my taxes automatically.

However I know that it's not the main problem. I'm not pained by the tax rates - when I was setting up my company I looked around Europe's various tax systems and I have to say: Polish company taxation is one of the lowest in the region, lower even than Estonian 20% CIT.

Costs of living in Poland are really low. You can rent a decent flat in the center of Warsaw for just $600 a month. I don't understand why someone being in the top 1.30% of best-paid workers of a country - will pay lower taxes in Poland than Germany!

Instead I would like for teachers, physicians and nurses, policemen and tax office workers to earn more. To have enough money to stay motivated and not think about getting a second job. To have time for personal development and improving their skills. I would like my country's infrastructure to be better, for the trains to be faster and more frequent, for the classes at school to be smaller and better suited for the students' needs.

I believe this is the way for us - the nation - to become richer. Not by borrowing money and setting up a new standard, sterilized and insulated from our reality, then selling it abroad - but by building the country evenly and for everyone. I want to be able to sell my products to Poles, too - and I need them to have money for that in the first place.

Paying a tax feels to me similar to contributing my code to an open source project - so that other people can use it, improve it, and it will come back to me far better than the original.

I have a soul of an open source believer - meaning both a libertarian and a socialist. I share because I want to and because I see that it's the most cost-effective thing to do. I also don't want to be forced to use any singular solution to solve my problems. A lot of libertarians I know keep insisting that only free market outside of any government control can assure that.

I'm under impression that they keep forgetting something.

In a totally free market, wealth tends to accumulate.

It's not only the government trying to control the market, forcing some specific solution. It's not only the government forcing us to lose money - be it taxes or in some other way. I would like to point to the international corporations, equaling whole countries and way above regular players. They have no problem swallowing temporary losses to dominate a local market. They can freely afford to force smaller companies to do their bidding.

And corporations will always optimize for profits. They don't have any other goals. Musk may be a brilliant visionary, but he's not responsible for every decision of his company - and he can be called off, should the shareholders feel he's causing losses1.

Corporations will always pay their employees the lowest possible wage - to get the highest profits. That's the reality of thousands of Polish workers at Żabkas, Biedronkas, Empiks and other chains. Their managers' main job is to see that no money is wasted and if the job can be done cheaper - it will.

I would like to look at the argument of predatory taxes in that context. Many libertarians tell the story of a family working for several decades to build a business and then be robbed of profits by the state. Is that so common in Poland? How many multi-generation businesses do we have? Families, where one member earns more than half a million zlotis a year?

Or would the progressive taxes affect those high managers, paid to optimize the company processes, earning dozens of regular worker's worth themselves? People who devise new ways to cheat an emission test or make their employees subcontractors with no health insurance?

The question amounts to a simpler one: do we believe that one person's work - no matter how skilled - can be worth and awarded multiple times more than of any other - working equally as hard, just in different environment?

I see the government as a defensive mechanism not only against enemy armies, but also enemy economic actions, and I definitely count most of corporations' activities as such. I've just finished reading Confessions of an Economic Hit Man by John Perkins. Many critics accuse him of exaggerating - although I haven't yet heard a voice saying that the mechanisms he described aren't real and aren't working to get whole countries and economies dependent on corporations.

And unlike the governments, we - as citizens - don't have any control over them. A corporation can afford a lengthy lobbying campaign to change the law. It can offer people short-time gains just to get a special treatment, Special Economic Zone or tax exemption. In order to change such company's course we would need to buy its shares (and gaining a control package is often impossible).

Does anyone believe, that we can really protest and not buy anything produced by a megacorporation or not use any of its free services such as Microsoft's, Sony's or Nestle's? It's really hard to hit such a big company being just a consumer.

That's why I want to have a strong State setting limits to the market on which I can work as an entrepreneur. No corporation's monopolies, price fixing and special treatment of the giants.

With government I can have more influence as a citizen. I can vote, I can take part in lobbying, finally I can protest to achieve my goal.

I would like my parliamentary representative to see the biggest threat not in the Church, not in the neighboring countries, but in monopolies and price fixing. I want them to talk about TTIP (which got quarter a million protesters in Berlin, being absolutely omitted in Poland), not local red herrings.

That's why I will vote for Razem. For such a voice to be heard.

I don't think they'll get majority in the Parliament anytime soon - although I believe that our country desperately needs such a voice, pointing the real threats. Pointing to the Special Economic Zones, tax evasion and regular citizens being evicted from their homes.

I can live without an electronic signature in my ID for several years more.

  1. Actually, Musk's situation is a little bit more complicated. According to Wikipedia he possesses just 22.25% of Tesla Motor's shares. His political position however is much better than many CEOs around, since he is also the company founder and most of the shareholders are his close friends. It's also worth noting that the optimized value is the shareholder value, not net income, as the company may be worth a lot despite drowning in debt.