The Duke and Duchess of Sussex are doing up their new home with £2.4 million of taxpayer money.
Pretty much everyone who spends any time in the UK gives its government some of their money in the form of tax. Workers pay a percentage of their income. Business owners give over some of their profits. And as pretty much everything bought in the UK includes a tax charge - known as VAT - even tourists and pocket-money-spending kids can be counted as British taxpayers. Some of that tax money is spent on stuff everybody can use or benefit from (the NHS, say, or the police). But some of it is only spent on certain individuals or groups, to the exclusion of everybody else.
Generally, the rule of thumb is that these sort of exclusionary goodies go to people based on need. For example, unemployed and poorer people get welfare payments that richer or employed people do not, because they don’t have as much income to fund the things they need like food and rent.
But this is very much not the case when it comes to the Royal Family, who get given millions of pounds of taxpayer money to spend on things like airline tickets and rewiring their home, even though they are very rich. Prince Harry and his wife Meghan have just spent millions making Frogmore Cottage habitable for them and their new kid.
Lots of people get really mad about the idea that super-rich royalty should get free stuff from the government, especially after a decade of austerity cuts have caused big drops in living standards for many Brits.
Others say royal funding is less outrageous than it seems. The Royal Family spend most of their time working for the British state (representing them at global events, for example) or helping out charities (some would say their celebrity star power helps these causes raise more funds). They bring in some money to the UK by attracting tourists, although people disagree about how much money this actually is. They also pay tax themselves, including £343.5 million this year from the land and buildings they own.
So you could say that Harry and Megan’s refurbishing money was more like a tax rebate than a welfare payout. Of course, you could also say that because the UK is a democracy, the royal family has no business keeping hold of the land/buildings/wealth they acquired in the olden days of absolute monarchy, and they should turn the whole lot over to the British government.
…so how are all our groups and communities in society linked to together? On some level or another, we’re all governed by the same state, whether we like it or not – via paying taxes, using public services, or complying with regulation in our businesses and purchases… so how do we come to a consensus on what role the government should play in the economy?