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Time for the Robin Hood tax!

Written By: - Date published: 8:22 am, August 20th, 2011 - 21 comments
Categories: capitalism, International, tax - Tags: , , , ,

The Robin Hood / Tobin / Financial Transactions tax. We’ve written about it before here at The Standard. Earlier this year 1000 economists wrote to the G20 leaders – here’s an extract from their letter:

This tax is an idea that has come of age. The financial crisis has shown us the dangers of unregulated finance, and the link between the financial sector and society has been broken. It is time to fix this link and for the financial sector to give something back to society.

Even at very low rates of 0.05% or less, this tax could raise hundreds of billions of dollars annually and calm excessive speculation. The UK already levies a tax on share transactions of 0.5%, or ten times this rate, without unduly impacting on the competitiveness of the City of London.

This money is urgently needed to raise revenue for global and domestic public goods such as health, education and water, and to tackle the challenge of climate change.

Given the automation of payments, this tax is technically feasible. It is morally right.

We call on you to implement the FTT as a matter of urgency.

One of the very few possible arguments against this tax is that it less effective if it isn’t widely implemented (i.e. by most of the major economies).  Fortunately that argument is going to be a lot weaker in future! France and Germany are leading the way, and a Europe wide implementation could be the next step. Naturally the “financial sector” are squealing:

European markets hit by eurozone Robin Hood tax plans

Stock exchange shares and main indices lose ground as German chancellor Angela Merkel and French president Nicolas Sarkozy propose new financial transaction tax

Fears of a Europe-wide financial transactions tax sent tremors through the City and other European bourses after Angela Merkel and Nicolas Sarkozy backed the idea of a new levy.

Shares in banks and other financial institutions were hardest hit in downbeat London trading amid concerns that the tax would add to the cost of doing business and drive firms overseas.

What a pack of whiners these bankers are. They’re being asked to pay a fraction of one percent on each transaction. A tiny amount for any given trade or trader, but because there are so many (the volumes of such trades are so huge) it will raise a substantial sum for cash-strapped governments. Lest we forget, in 2009 governments (we the taxpayer) bailed out these same institutions to the tune of €3 trillion in Europe, £1.5 trillion in the UK, and $4 trillion in America.  I’ve lost count of how many more trillions have followed, but some estimates put the totals involved much much higher.  And now in return these same institutions are trying to dodge a very fair and much needed tax?  Shame on the lot of them.

New Zealand should be a very fast follower indeed on Robin Hood.  As Europe moves to implement it, so should we.  Labour has shown leadership and courage on the capital gains.  They should speak out again on this tax.  Use the income for social programmes, green infrastructure projects, or to reduce GST.  There is so much that could be done…

21 comments on “Time for the Robin Hood tax! ”

  1. John Dalley 1

    Interesting, if i remember correctly this was a ociasl Credit policy way back when.

    • Developments in Germany and France are worth watching. Financial transactions taxes are like other taxes. If you have them in only one place, they encourage participants in the affected industry to go elsewhere. But if they’re broadly adopted everyone is better off.
      Deutsche Welle had a useful analysis of the Germany-France discussions earlier this week. Commentators point out that discussion is heavily couched in terms of ‘willingness to entertain proposals’. But it’s still a courageous first step.

      • aerobubble 1.1.1

        I disagree, sure in a globalized economy pumped up by cheap high density energy.
        But now the tide has gone out, those countries like Germany who produce
        high quality goods and services are actually the price setters now. The market
        under cheap oil could do the dictating. It does not follow that an absolute rule
        actually is absolute or even relevent anymore. Its about where we will be in thirty
        years time, will the financial markets dominate when they don’t work today under
        the existing rules, they have to change and they will not do it under their own
        steam. The end of quantity and the retrun of quality. We do not need people
        who shift risk off the books, we need people who hold risk and are reward
        for retaining risk on books. The Thatcher years will be seen for what they truely
        were a mutated period of excessive stupidity and irrationality.Daylight became
        darkness, Night became the new Dawn. Zombies walked the land.

      • Bill 1.1.2

        “If you have them in only one place, they encourage participants in the affected industry to go elsewhere.”

        Dunno about that. It’s what financiers always threaten to do. But when it comes down to it they are in the game of making money and so can’t but help themselves to gather around like flies no matter the composition of the shit.

      • Colonial Viper 1.1.3

        Deglobalising speculative capital flows and building up local reserves of capital would be a good start.

        At the moment the banksters can take any government hostage simply by threatening to pull hundreds of billions of liquidity away from a country in two or three short days. A country can go from being liquid to total credit lock up overnight. Its loan payments denominated in foreign currencies will mushroom as the local dollar collapses.

        This is what Max Keiser calls ‘financial terrorism’. When sovereign nations are taken hostage by financiers.

    • mikesh 1.2

      I think it was a transactions tax that Socred advocated in days gone by., not an FTT. However I believe they are now backing the latter.

      • mik e 1.2.1

        Pay off the debt would be my top priority its costing $4billion a year just to pay interest. freeing up that kind of money would be enough to get rid of unemployment and poverty and our slide down the OECD .FUNNY how the RIGHT wing rubbish these policies all the time now we have three European right wing leaders advocating left wing policy Merkel and Sarkosy on FTT and Berlusconi on tax dodgers and raising tax on the wealthy. Maybe Key might steal some of these policies no out cry from the Trolls surprising that!

        • Colonial Viper

          Simple way of paying off NZ’s govt debt is to not issue any more debt and for the NZ govt to self fund by printing the money it needs interest free.

  2. Oligarkey 2

    IMO this doesn’t go nearly far enough. Until the major countries of the world get rid of private banking sector, nothing much will change because, as history shows, they always end up manipulating governments and society in to servitude through the issuance of debt, using reserves that they don’t hold (fractional reserve lending). It’s a fundamentally unjust system, and it beggars belief that most people simply accept it without question. Let’s have a democratically-run economy instead.

    • mikesh 2.1

      I’d say let the private banking sector continue to exist, but stop them producing counterfeit money.

      • Colonial Viper 2.1.1

        All basic utility functions of the banking system should be owned and controlled by the Government. It is far too important a function to give to private banks.

        The Bank of North Dakota, which is owned by the state of North Dakota, and which the state does all its business through, is the right idea.

        • DS

          Yes, North Dakota is an interesting one. It hearks back to the early decades of the twentieth century when North American farmers in the prairie states were radical populists and hated the eastern banking interests (it’s also why Canada’s major left-wing party, the NDP, was born in the prairie provinces). Of course, that radical tradition is long gone now, but North Dakota’s state-owned bank is a surviving relic of that.

    • Draco T Bastard 2.2

      …and it beggars belief that most people simply accept it without question.

      I’m of the opinion that most people have NFI that fractional reserve banking exists. I’d like to think that it’d be removed if they knew just how the banks are stealing from us.

  3. Thomas 3

    Sweden and Brazil abandoned their FTTs. I wonder why.

    I don’t think this tax has been well thought out. It seems distortionary.

    For one, it will support the creation of monopolies—companies that can ‘trade with themselves’ will have an advantage over smaller companies that need to pay the tax on their transactions.

    • Colonial Viper 3.1

      Sweden and Brazil abandoned their FTTs. I wonder why.

      Links please.

      I hear Swedish top tier income tax rate is 61% or thereabouts. Are you suggesting that their tax system is one we should follow.

      I don’t think this tax has been well thought out. It seems distortionary.

      The pros and cons of FTTs have been discussed and examined for decades. It is a very well established concept.

      What is distortionary is the % of GDP that unproductive financial services now represent. What is distortionary are the HFT (high frequency trading) antics in the financial markets manipulating and controlling price movements and trading volumes.

      An FTT would move financial markets back towards a far fairer footing.

      NB less than 30% of trading in the US and European stockmarkets are performed by humans now. The vast majority is run by HFT programmes.

      For one, it will support the creation of monopolies—companies that can ‘trade with themselves’ will have an advantage over smaller companies that need to pay the tax on their transactions.

      You’re definition of monopoly is completely made up.

  4. Bill 4

    Apart from the Mana Party, are there any other parliamentary parties committed to introducing a tax on financial transactions? The Greens perhaps?

    So, if it’s considered a big deal and an idea whose time as come by those on the left, then erstwhile Labour voters who ‘get it’ will be casting a vote for Mana or the Greens instead?

  5. randal 5

    MY preference is for Alabanian style autarchy, all money belongs to the state and no more leaf blowers or hardly davisons.
    then the government would know exactly where every penny was and people would have to base their lives on spirituality and not external referencing and posessions.
    Fat chance.

  6. HC 6

    Given the fact that France and Germany are seriously looking at introducing this tax, and that they are going to work on convincing other countries belonging to the EURO zone about its benefits, I think the idea is worth looking at.

    It would only amount to a fraction of a per cent and be applied universally on all financial transactions.

    Those that have favoured this tax have so far thought or realised that it is best to introduce it in as many countries – ideally globally.

    Of course certain businesses, particularly banks, share issuing and finance companies would view the tax as an unwelcome burden, and they would in some cases look at relocating their business operations to countries, where such a tax would not be levied.

    Consequently such a tax should ideally be introduced in co-operation with Australia, as that is our nearest trading partner and a nation we have very close ties with.

    Apart from that the French and German governments would hardly follow adventurous or foolish ideas, because they are advised by many more tax, financial and economic experts than NZ and Australia have combined.

  7. muzza 7

    Sadly if you think the G8 or G20 are going to implement this you are out of luck. Germany & France is all about the tighter consolidation of what was the consolidated EU. There is no evidence to suggest that a Tobin Tax or FTT or anything of the sort will be levied against the bankers. Why would turkeys vote for Christmas, its just not going to happen.
    What will happen is the fall of a major European Bank or possible two very soon, my pick is actually one from France and or Germany, take a guess..

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