Tax Authority for the United Nations
By Nathan J. Muller, For the Cause, July 31, 2006
Tax Authority for the United Nations by Nathan J. Muller - firstname.lastname@example.org For the Cause - forthecause.us
The United Nations plan for a global tax has been in the works since at least 2001 and is proceeding along two tracks.
One track is a tax mechanism for the redistribution of income from wealthy nations to poor nations to achieve a variety of goals: reduce poverty, improve education and health care, eliminate diseases, and prevent environmental degradation -- all by the 2015 deadline set by the U.N. General Assembly in 2000.
The other track calls for a global tax as an independent source of financing UN operations. The idea behind this proposal is to take politics out of the funding process so that the UN can get on with carrying out its very important intitiatives, one of which is putting into place a system of taxes to redistribute wealth.
What's not to like?
The chief sticking point on any global tax is the United States. To make the "tax pill" easier for Americans to swallow, the UN has proposed a number of ways to disguise the taste.
At the U.N. Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) held in Brazil in 2004, that country's president, Lula da Silva, suggested and still suggests the need for a tax on speculative financial transactions, especially those conducted in international "tax havens." Since not many middle class Americans engage in such activities, who would object except the filthy rich?
Why not tax all currency transactions? This would provide a double bang for the buck -- decrease currency speculation and provide more resources for democratically decided "good issues." This sounds very appealing indeed.
How about an arms tax? If just one percent of arms sales were paid each year into a global fund, administered by the United Nations, it would raise hundreds of millions of dollars. Part of that money could then be used for post-conflict rehabilitation and government building in the least developed countries. Sounding better?
And then there's the "polluters tax" whereby companies that extract natural resources would pay a percentage of the value of the wealth they earn. That money would go into a UN fund and be used to improve or restore the environment in poor countries. Now that global warming is upon us, why not such a tax?
There are at least a dozen other tax proposals floating around the UN, all calculated to get Americans on board. In fact, the taxes are so deftly presented that many of our own sleazy politicians may be hard pressed to object.
Take the proposal to tax email... E-mail users would pay a tax of about $.01 for each "megabyte" of data they send. Given the volume of email involved -- assuming the complexity of management and collection could be overcome -- this scheme could generate tens of billions of dollars a year for the UN to redistribute toward narrowing the "digital divide" between rich and poor countries.
Other proposals include a tax on commercial fishing, international travel, satellites, use of the radio spectrum for broadcast and two-way communications, and even one for international advertising. A system of fines is also under consideration for offences such as ocean dumping.
If all these tax proposals were put into effect, the UN would have an estimated $7 trillion to redistribute annually, according to the United Nations Development Program (UNDP).
Unworkable, even dangerous
Aside from falling mainly on U.S. citizens, any tax plan would have serious ramifications that make it unworkable and even dangerous.
First, a global tax for providing an independent revenue source for UN operations would make the organization less accountable, more corrupt, and even more resistent to reforms than it is now. The redistribution of such vast amounts of money would require bureaucratic machinery of unprecedented scale.
A tax intended to redistribute wealth would not accomplish that goal because most of the money would merely by used to entrench and enrich corrupt regimes that stay in power by keeping their citizens poor, unhealthy, and under-educated. The UN's own "oil for food" program for Iraq demonstrates how ingeneously money can be diverted from its intended purpose, the amounts so lucrative as to encourage the complicity of France, Germany and Russia.
The problem of corruption is so pervasive around the world that the UN even acknowledges it in various documents, including the ambitious plan outlined in the Monterrey Consensus issued in March 2002, which among other things calls for the "eradication of poverty" through an inclusive and equitable global economic system. That report admitted, however, "Corruption is a serious barrier to effective resource mobilization and allocation, and diverts resources away from activities that are vital for poverty eradication and economic and sustainable development."
The United Nations Commission on the Private Sector and Development notes that developing countries have $9.4 trillion "in private financial assets that cannot be fully mobilized because of corruption and inadequate legal protection for property and contracts."
Take the impoverished country of Angola, for example... The World Bank's Cost of Doing Business survey estimates that starting a business in Angola requires $5,531. This equates to more than eight times the per capita income there. By comparison, starting a business in New Zealand requires about $28, which is far less than 1% of per capita income.
In the four years since the 27-year civil war ended, Angola is still in the grip of rampant corruption. While the country's immense oil wealth is finally contributing to economic growth, the International Monetary Fund says the long term outlook for the economy is still "subject to significant risks."
Angola is actually better off than than 60 other countries, which demonstrates the magnitude of the corruption problem around the globe and the poverty it spawns.
While fighting corruption is a stated "priority" of the UN, there seems to be no plan in place to deal with such dysfunctional states. If the United States returned from primitive Somolia battered and beaten after projecting enormous power and resouces there, ostensibly for the purpose of "nation building," what chance does the United Nations have anywhere else?
Finally, and perhaps most pernicious of all, any tax that is implemented sets a precendent that encourages more taxes. Ruby van der Wekken of the Helsinki-based Network Institute for Global Democratisation (NIGD), which favors giving the UN tax authority, noted in 2002 that once one tax is in place, "other forms of global taxation could easily be set up."
In fact, one UN paper proposes that the tax rate on currency transactions start at "an extremely low rate" to get initial buy-in from rich countries and then be increased incrementally over time so as to dampen opposition against further tax hikes.
We could even expect "temporary" taxes, justified to mitigate the global impact of a natural disaster, or even a man-made catastrophe like a monetary crisis, whether real or engineered. If the history of our own country is any indication, we could even expect those temporary taxes to become permanent and diverted to purposes not originally intended.
The end game
The power to tax brings with it the power to destroy and well as the power to build. Giving the United Nations the power to decide who gets what and when invites corruption. And with an independent source of funding, the UN would become a world power to be reckoned with.
World government would not be far behind. What if some countries submit themselves to UN administration in order to become qualified to receive financial aid that is not forthcoming from any other source? A corrupt dictator might see the UN as a ready source of cash and just hand over his country for administration by the UN. Or a hoplessly impoverished country might see the cash-rich UN as its only chance for a better future.
Why would the UN go along with such scenarios? To demonstrate the wisdom of world government through "proof of concept" and talk up the idea until it achieves mainstream acceptance. With a system of global taxes, it would have the funds to set this process into motion.
Americans have good reason to eye the United Nations with suspicion. Its dismal track record in dispute resolution and armed intervention speaks for itself, to say nothing of its tendency toward corruption. Allowing this organization to implement global taxes of any kind will make problems everywhere worse, not better, and stimulate the growth of new problems that may not be solvable through mere negotiation.
A few in Congress understand what's at stake. According to Congressman Ron Paul (R-TX), "The UN continues to build the foundation for global government, and a worldwide tax is the key to their entire agenda. The UN has established a system of international laws and international courts; now it needs an enforcement mechanism in the form of an international army. If UN bureaucrats succeed in creating a worldwide tax, they will become totally unaccountable to national governments and their citizens."
Others in Congress have come out against the UN tax scheme, but the secrecy with which the Bush Administration has been pursuing the expansion of NAFTA toward a North American Union -- with its subordination of our sovereignty to international commissions, tribunals and courts -- indicates a preference for all things global.
A UN tax is by no means a dead issue, despite what those in Congress may say, how loudly they say it and how frequently they say it. Such assurances ring hollow because Congress long ago abdicated its "checks and balances" responsibilities to the Executive Branch. It may never get them back, no matter how great the cause.
Nathan Muller is co-founder of For the Cause and the author of 26 books and numerous articles on political, regulatory, legal, management and technology issues. He is a frequent speaker at seminars and other events.
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