France, Germany, The Guardian, the FTT and the “coalition of the willing.”

On Sunday I pondered whether the editors of The Observer lived in fantasy land based on their editorial supporting the Financial Transaction Tax (FTT), a tax sometimes referred to as the Robin Hood tax. The Guardian Comment is Free has joined in the madness championing the tax with its own article written by Ha-Joon Chang, a Cambridge University economist, and Duncan Green, a researcher for the charity, Oxfam.

The authors believe that the “time has come” for such a tax and that “The benefits of a tax on financial transactions are now so widely accepted that future generations will ask what took us so long.” The authors do not comment on the harm the tax will do to Britain. I guess they simply run out of space to include such information. What they do say is the following:

Although the French government, which chaired meetings of the G20 finance ministers and the IMF/World Bank member states last weekend, supports a global FTT, American opposition means that initial progress is more likely within a smaller “coalition of the willing”, including France, Germany, and South Africa. French and German support may ensure that the eurozone is the first international forum that agrees a FTT.

The choice of term, “coalition of the willing,” is an interesting one. It was most famously used by former President George W. Bush in November 2002 in reference to countries that would join with the United States in disarming Iraq. The United Kingdom, under Tony Blair’s leadership, joined that coalition. France and Germany disgracefully declined to do so. It would appear that those very same countries now favour the introduction of the Financial Transaction Tax. I would be very happy to let them go it alone and implement such a tax in their own countries. It would benefit the UK, because financial transactions would be more likely to be executed through a London based company as opposed to a company based in Paris or Frankfurt. The UK would be comparatively more competitive.

Just as France and Germany had no moral qualms in telling the United States and Britain to get lost in the run up to the war in Iraq, so the United States and Britain should have no moral problems in telling the French and Germans that they are not prepared to join a “coalition of the willing” for the implementation of a FTT.

Given how aggressively the Observer and the Guardian seem to be pushing for this tax, I feel it is time for a major newspaper to take a stand and fight back. What comes to mind is the headline that The Sun used on November 1, 1990.


This article is written by the author in a personal capacity and the views expressed, which are his personal views, do not necessarily equate to the views of any organisations with which he is associated.

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