Robin Hood Tax: the war of the words
Since the European Commission published its proposals for a Financial Transactions Tax (FTT), the problems that the Robin Hood Tax campaign had in getting the story into the papers – in particular the Financial Times – have melted away. Battle has clearly been joined. This is good, because even where the articles are negative, they are underlining some key arguments which favour our campaign. These are that FTTs are feasible, that they need to be carefully designed, and that they would tackle some of the worst features of the contemporary financial sector. Even better from a campaigning angle, the most vocal opponents of an FTT look the most partisan, self-interested and out of touch with ordinary life.
In particular, popular commentators like John Plender (£) at the FT, or Robert Peston at the BBC, have indicated that FTTs could play a popular regulatory role by making derivative speculation and high-frequency trading less remunerative. In the USA, liberal papers like the New York Times (not just Paul Krugman but now Nicholas D. Kristof) and unions like the National Nurses Union (part of the AFL-CIO, the TUC equivalent) are the main campaigners.
These commentators and campaigners are backed up by financial experts like Avinash Persaud and Sony Kapoor – and the 1000 economists who have signed our open letter, but it’s true to say that we haven’t got as many voices from the highest levels of the finance industry.
Of course that may not be a surprise: top financiers will lose out, and they’re not all Warren Buffett! But city apologists aren’t necessarily the best advocates of the anti-FTT position, either.
When they argue that FTTs are flawed, we can make that a debate about feasibility, which is good, because it undermines one of the most successful early arguments against FTTs which was that advocates were ‘nice but naïve’. A debate on detail is therefore one we should relish, because the very debate itself stresses that we are realistic and believable.
And when they argue that FTTs would damage the finance sector or drive financial institutions abroad, FTT opponents are in danger of looking out of touch (many people don’t think the finance sector could get any worse), representing a greed agenda or blackmailing the electorate.
So the argument so far is running well for the FTT – but there is a lot more to be done.