From the TUC

Robin Hood gets Red Tory backing

04 May 2010, by in Economics, International

Omnipresent poster boy for thoughtful and iconoclastic Conservatives Philip Blond has backed the Robin Hood Tax. He did so at a debate tonight hosted by Unicef UK and Tory progressives Bright Blue. He argued that it would be a small pro-free market levy for social purposes, and would build “the externality of the real economy” into short-term damaging speculation.

Philip (who puts a lot of effort into being interesting) was clearly the most interesting speaker. But whilst he supported a transactions tax, he fudged many of the key questions like the expected scale of the income (as he said, opinion is divided). When he could tear himself away from (erudite and – again – iconoclastic) reflections on the role of rigged markets and monopolistic rent seeking in the banking crisis, he accepted the argument that transactions taxes could shift the balance between short-term speculation and long-term investment. A Robin Hood Tax would penalise damaging activity by “pricing in the externality of the real economy”. On global co-ordination, he said that something was going to be agreed globally, so a Robin Hood Tax would be as feasible as any other.

Lord Newby, Liberal Democrat Treasury spokesperson, expressed support and said “the good news is that bank taxes are on the agenda … and the Robin Hood Tax seems to be feasible and workable”. But he noted that everyone has their own competing version of a bank tax, and he expressed concern that the tax might be spent on other things than global poverty (surely one of its strengths – broadening its appeal – a point Philip Blond made). His main warning was: “don’t take your eye off the domestic ball” which surely makes the point. But he also noted that the banks have so far been more effective at global initiatives than politicians, not least blackmailing us all by threatening to go elsewhere.

Patrick Nolan, Chief Economist of the Think tank Reform, correctly described himself as the Sheriff of Nottingham – but he was too Sheriff-like, a cartoon and ineffective villain. He claimed that the ends were fine but the means flawed (he supported regulation rather than taxation). He said it wouldn’t raise the money claimed for it, and what it did raise would be passed on (the incidence argument). He used some pretty hackneyed – and in some cases frankly bizarre arguments (apparently the UK Stamp Duty doesn’t raise much – barely £3 billion! – because it exempts many transactions… Er….). Dr Nolan comes from the “tax is bad” camp and his arguments are too easy to rubbish.

Dave Hillman of Stamp Out Poverty put the case as ably as ever for Robin Hood, but had to spend most of his time knocking down the straw men Patrick Nolan had shoddily set up.

4 Responses to Robin Hood gets Red Tory backing

  1. Tweets that mention Robin Hood gets Red Tory backing — Topsy.com
    May 4th 2010, 7:09 pm

    [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by ToUChstone blog, Matt Genner. Matt Genner said: RT @touchstoneblog: Robin Hood gets Red Tory backing http://bit.ly/cqhprv [...]

  2. Tim Worstall
    May 12th 2010, 12:41 pm

    Dearie me….you’re reduced to claiming Phillip Blond’s support now? The man who wants to revive Chesterton and Belloc’s near Catholic Fascism of Distributionism?

    Come on now, “pricing in the externality of the real economy” ….what does that actually mean? Externalities are things which are not taken account of in market pricing. To claim that markets don’t price in the existence of markets is rather disappearing up one’s own rhetorical fundament.

    “But he also noted that the banks have so far been more effective at global initiatives than politicians, not least blackmailing us all by threatening to go elsewhere.”

    Snigger. You can only blackmail someone with something of value. If they’re threatening to go is blackmail then their presence must be of value. Which in turn means that deliberately shrinking them (which would be the same as some leaving and some staying….what you call blackmail) would be the destruction of value.

  3. Owen Tudor

    Owen Tudor
    May 12th 2010, 1:37 pm

    If you want to know what Philip means, ask Philip. And if you think blackmail has to involve ACTUAL value, you show a terrible lack of imagination. All you need is something that people THINK is of value. They may well be wrong.

  4. Robin Hood, the prequel: a defence of feudalism? « Freethinking Economist
    May 18th 2010, 9:02 am

    [...] power, and its importance in economic relations.  For me (predictably) it weakens the right of the Robin Hood Taxation people to use that image in their campaign.  As Tim Worstall and I have argued tirelessly, such tiny [...]

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