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The Rule of Law v the Rule of Man

With huge concern over tax avoidance, tax officials are the latest to be given increased discretion. Philosopher Jamie Whyte asks if the rule of man is undermining the rule of law.

With huge concern over tax avoidance, tax officials are the latest to be given increased powers of discretion. They will be able to penalise people who have obeyed the letter of the law, but who have contravened the spirit of the tax code - as determined by the officials themselves, based on certain criteria. The use of official discretion is now applying across the UK's legal systems, from areas such as tax and finance to crime and hate speech.

Philosopher Jamie Whyte asks: is this growth in the Rule of Man undermining the Rule of Law? If officials can punish you, despite the fact that you followed the rules on the books, doesn't that raise the danger of injustice?

Even though few tears are being shed for tax avoiders, couldn't the lack of legal clarity lead to uncertainty? Would that drive business away from Britain? Jamie unravels the methods of sophisticated tax lawyers, and speaks to academic thinkers and legislators. He asks if we are we creating a culture where it pays to cosy up to officials. And he explores the deeper philosophy of the Rule of Law and whether it is being diminished in our uncertain times.

Producer: Mukul Devichand.

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30 minutes

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