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Can the Robin Hood Tax Forge a Fairer World?

I had just begun the post below when I paused to eat dinner and watch TV. The Australian Broadcasting Corporation current affairs program 7.30 moved from a local political scandal allegedly involving prostitutes to a report from Africa. The images of Niger in West Africa faces food crisis were too familiar: sick and dying children as a consequence of a food crisis; another famine; another late and slow response from the global community.

From the Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s transcript:

CHRIS UHLMANN, REPORTER: A food crisis is about to turn into a famine in the land-locked West Africa country of Niger unless the world acts. But as each crisis shows, help usually arrives late, after the world’s been shocked by pictures of starving children. Aid agencies have been pleading for early intervention in the region for six months, and as Africa correspondent Ginny Stein reports, they fear mass starvation is now inevitable.

Back to the post:

The campaign for the Robin Hood Tax, a financial transactions tax (FTT) to tackle poverty and climate change, has hotted up in recent months. Robin Hood was a mythical outlaw in England during the middle ages, best known for robbing from the rich and giving to the poor.

In Chicago nurses led a protest aimed at the G8 summit and NATO conference on Afganistan:

Thousands of nurses and other protesters gathered Friday at a downtown Chicago plaza for a noisy but largely peaceful demonstration demanding a “Robin Hood” tax on banks’ financial transactions, before a smaller but more raucous crowd broke away and began marching through city streets.
Protesters in Chicago call for ‘Robin Hood’ tax

The European Union Parliament has voted in favour of the tax, against a background of tension between new French President Hollande and British Prime Minister Cameron. The thread of Robin Hood’s legend that portrays him as fighting for the poor Saxons against the evil Prince John and the Norman overlords has been turned on its head:

David Cameron has warned French President Francois Hollande that it is not an appropriate time to push for a Europe-wide financial transaction tax, and that Britain would not accept the measure.

Cameron must thrive on conflict. Early in May Keith O’Brien, the Roman Catholic Cardinal of Scotland, “accused David Cameron of immoral behaviour and of favouring rich City financiers over those struggling on lower incomes” by opposing the tax.

What hope is there that we will get a FFT in the near future? Will the old adage about the golden rule apply, namely that those that have the gold make the rules? Will the big-end-of-town make sure that none of their ample booty goes to the other side of the tracks? Is it the City of London and Wall Street versus the rest of us? Is Rupert Murdoch the new Prince John? Can the Robin Hood tax deliver us a modern version of England’s Magna Carta but with the robber barons/bankers as the losers?

There is a long way to go to achieving global acceptance. At home, the Australian government is opposed to introducing the tax. That is no surprise given the backlash against its carbon pricing legislation.

Anglicord, an Australian Anglican international relief and development agency, is siding with the Catholics. They see the tax as a means to ‘provide for vital investment in much needed and underfunded public services like health and education, resource efforts to conserve our environment, aid the fight against global poverty and climate change. This money can help shape the future of our world.’

Perhaps a few viewings of this video The Banker might change enough minds. What about yours?

A final word from Oxfam’s Ian Sullivan:

If Gandhi’s chronology of ‘first they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win’ is anything to go by, the Robin Hood Tax campaign is getting close to its goal. When the campaign launched two years ago, the idea of taxing the banks was unimaginable; now its taken giant leaps towards reality. It’s been an amazing two years – and 2012 is full of opportunity.

Clip to Evernote

About The Author(s)



Kevin Rennie

Citizen Journalist

Kevin is a citizen journalist and blogger. He has been active with Th!nk About It and is a Global Voices Online author. He is a retired secondary teacher and trade unionist and has been an Australian Labor Party member since 1972. His interests include the environment, current affairs and the media, politics and human rights. Kevin also blogs about cinema and Australian women writers.

Comments (2)

  • Giedre

    The Robin Hood tax makes a lot of sense, and it could raise as much as 20bn British pounds – that’s around 30bn US dollars, if my counting is right – a year in the UK alone. The tax itself is tiny: 0.05-0.5 per cent on wholesale transactions, but banksters are allergic to it nevertheless.

    I totally support the Robin Hood Tax, or the FTT (Financial Transaction Tax), as it is officially known. However, I have one particular reservation regarding it. This is from my uni report on the topic:

    But there’s one problem that seems to escape the general debate on the subject: the self-proclaimed “too big to fail” always find ways to relegate extra burdens on their shoulders onto those whom the government won’t bail out – us, the people. “Sadly, given that taxes always mean that some live human’s wallet gets lightened, it won’t be the banks paying tax, for banks are corporations which do not, ever, pay taxes,” writes Tim Worstall for Forbes. “In the case of an FTT it will be consumers everywhere plus workers everywhere.”

    Reply
  • Kevin Rennie

    Giedre,

    I have had the same concern but the proponents of the tax argue that it will not directly affect ordinary people. Clearly it may well be passed on in higher prices or other charges. However, any money raised by governments has the same effect, so do we stop trying to get funds for socially responsible goals such as tackling poverty and climate change?

    Advocates of the tax argue on their website:
    “The Robin Hood Tax is justice. The banks can afford it. The systems are in place to collect it. It won’t affect ordinary members of the public, their bank accounts or their savings. It’s fair, it’s timely, and it’s possible.”

    Reply

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