Whilst the Murdock and News Corporation scandal rages, despite my personal satisfaction at his discomfort, the story is obscuring another newsworthy item.
There is a devastating drought and subsequent famine in the horn of Africa, literally millions of lives are at stake. And whilst nominally this is an environmental natural disaster, it is not something that occurs without a degree of predictability. A commentator can easily point to climate change as a factor possibly influencing the reliability of the rains, and that this particular region seems particularly prone to drought and famine. But charitable concerns have poured millions into this region, often with reasonably well thought out plans concerning how to implement programs to minimise the impact of such events.
Yet here we are again. It makes me wonder if the entire approach might be flawed. Of course drought and famine are not the only problem, facing the worlds poor, they are perhaps just the most obvious
It is almost axiomatic, in the current economic climate that despite all the economic difficulties and the calls for austerity measures in troubled economies such as Greece and Ireland, that the poor are the ones getting poorer whilst the rich are getting richer. The top 5% hold 95% of the world financial resources, and the gap is widening. It is almost as equally axiomatic that most of us blame the rich for creating the problem in the first place, ‘bankers’ (How often has the B been replaced by a W, I wonder) and their ‘bonuses’ being the first culprits that spring to my, and most other peoples, minds.
It occurs to me that one important theme in this issue is that, effective taxation of the rich in a global economy is actually quite difficult. When the issue of higher taxation of the wealthy is raised in Britain at least, it is rightly pointed out that, if they are expected to shoulder their share of the tax burden, that they will likely take their investment elsewhere, where taxation is more favourable to their personal accumulation of wealth.
Now I think I should be very clear that my biggest concern concerning the uneven distribution of wealth in the world, is not my own poverty, I am not rich, but life is not excessively difficult. For example I and my family have running water, an adequate supply of food, a roof over my head, a warm bed to sleep in, heating, gas to cook with, Electric lighting, TV Computer, washing machine, fridge, freezer, ect…. The normal acquisitions of a western lifestyle, the sort of things that most people in the west view as ‘essential’.
So when I think in terms of taxing the rich, it is not in terms of creating a better lifestyle for myself, or even for the majority of my immediate neighbours. Rather I think in terms of people who are struggling to find even water, as witness the current situation in the horn of Africa. Now in this context I am aware of the actions of Bill Gates and others to re-invent themselves as philanthropists, which is laudable and an admirable addition to an old and valuable tradition, witness the Nobel Prizes for instance. However I do not think relying on the good sense and generosity of the super rich is a viable path for the future.
Over recent months when this theme has come into my mind it has occurred to me that a solution, that would create a ‘level playing field’, would be a Global Taxation Policy. Not a outright dictation to nations about how they structure their overall tax revenue collections, rather a policy focused on the super rich, to ensure that they are subject to at least a minimum exposure to tax wherever they are in the world.
I can imagine various positive implications of this, not least that it would allow the richer nations in the world to fund their aid programs in ways which did not seem to place the burden on those of medium income.
It seems to me that it might also provide a stabilising influence, It seems logical to assume that if there was less to gain from moving to a less burdensome tax residence, that the other advantages of staying put might become more attractive.
It might also provide an opportunity for the creation of a global tax base to fund the United Nations, and it‘s programs to alleviate and reduce the suffering of the worlds chronic poor. A proportion of tax income say based on the proportion of global domestic product, a nations gross domestic product represents.
This last of course raises one specific issue, taxation without representation. However I think this is a red herring, nations already contribute to the UN, through the auspices of governments, and where democracy prevails these are representative governments. Now naturally formulating and implementing such a policy would require possibly interminable negotiations, between nations with vastly differing views, political systems and agendas, so I am aware that it represents a huge and difficult task. Prehaps it is something that falls into the purview of the United Nations, perhaps it is something that the new head of the IMF, Christine Lagarde, should be raising and pursuing, perhaps it is both.
The real problem however as far as I can see is that no-one appears to be even talking about this option, perhaps this is just evidence of the lobbying power of the super rich, or just an artefact of the logistical difficulties such a proposal might represent.
Any which way, I think it is an idea worth considering, and having thought it, I wrote it down here. I find it hard to believe it might be an original thought, and would love to hear from anyone who has seen an outline or a similar proposal from history. Have a think about it discuss it with your friends. Perhaps you think I am a dimwit for even thinking it?
But surely it must be worth having a conversation about, and surely in a global economy, with global communication, it can’t be a complete impossibility, surely.