The United Nations is proposing a worldwide tax on billionaires to help poor countries.
What a great idea! By all means, let’s give the Despot Debating Society in New York the power to tax us – and to give that money away to poor countries without any regard for what made them poor and is keeping them that way, what kind of government they have, or how much of that money might magically filter down to the people from their corrupt leaders’ sticky fingers.
Back in the days of The Gong Show, they used to “gong” that kind of sour, sorry act within seconds.
When the United Nations is even approaching the subject of taxation, it’s time to leave. The United Nations has no authority over Americans and no access to our wallets, save for the misbegotten dues our government sends it. And it never will.
“An annual lump sum payment by the super-rich,” writes French news agency AFP, “is one of a host of measures including a tax on carbon dioxide emissions, currency exchanges or financial transactions proposed in a U.N. report that accuses wealthy nations of breaking promises to step up aid for the less fortunate.”
Let’s talk about that.
First of all, on the high seas they denote such “taxation” with the more applicable word “piracy.” Simply taking money from someone because he or she has it – without some agreement to provide a service in return – isn’t “taxation.” It’s theft.
Suits and ties and titles and diplomatic niceties aren’t capable of changing the complexion of stark-naked robbery.
Secondly, such thinking completely ignores the possibility that some of the “less fortunate” nations of the world may be victims of more than bad luck. Could it just be that there’s a link between prosperity and freedom? Aren’t the richest countries in the world more free than fortunate?
We invite the United Nations to explore that possibility before resorting to the point of a pirate’s foil.
And should they discover that, indeed, freedom is the key to being “more fortunate,” then why don’t our friends at the United Nations start trying to spread that around? Shouldn’t they be doing that anyway?
Evidence of the link between prosperity and economic and political freedom is as abundant as the soil, and just as underfoot. But it’s even spelled out in a report titled “Economic Freedom, Prosperity, and Equality: A Survey.” Authors Steve H. Hanke and Stephen J. K. Walters use a ton of data to prove it. There is even a link between freedom and life expectancy.
“Relatively few scholars doubt that economic freedom is a necessary condition for prosperity,” they write. “The link between liberty and prosperity appears so strong, and the effects of prosperity on the quality (and length) of life appear so favorable, that it might be reasonable to ask: Why would anyone consider a development strategy that does anything other than enhance economic freedom?
“For too long, policymakers have overlooked economic and political institutions that are crucial preconditions for economic growth. As a result, funds allocated to international development agencies and programs have produced extremely low rates of return; in some tragic cases, the returns have actually been negative.
“Consider, for example, U.S. foreign aid expenditures. Though some of America’s $12 billion annual spending on foreign aid is for humanitarian aid and security assistance, about 62 percent is earmarked for various types of development and economic aid. Sixty-seven less-developed countries have been receiving such aid for 35 years or more. Of these, 19 (28 percent) have shown negative growth in per-capita income since 1965. In every case, these increasingly impoverished countries show very low ‘freedom scores’ on the various surveys of economic liberty discussed in this survey.”
Absent economic freedom and property rights, Hanke and Walters argue, “no program of development assistance will meet its goals reliably and consistently.” That includes “taxing” billionaires to throw money at problems that aren’t caused by the lack of it.
In fact, they write, aid may only help prop up the leaders and institutions that are getting in the way of freedom and prosperity.
But because discovering the link between prosperity and freedom won’t keep our U.N. bureaucrat friends busy for long, we have two other fun and exciting activities for them!
First, take a good, long look at the U.N.’s butterball bureaucracy and see if there aren’t some savings to be squeezed out of it that the U.N. can instead share with the “less fortunate.” In a 2009 story titled “A Bloated U.N. Bureaucracy Causes Bewilderment,” The New York Times writes of the United Nations that the “size and structure still bewilder many of its own employees.”
“In Geneva alone, the United Nations held 10,000 meetings in 2009,” the Times writes. “In these difficult economic times, as many countries reduce their own services, critics are asking whether there is a case for putting this army of civil servants to work in a smarter, more streamlined manner.
“‘There’s huge redundancy and lack of efficiency,’ said Mark Malloch Brown, deputy in 2006 to the secretary general at the time, Kofi Annan.
“The frustration is often most pointed among those with exposure to the private sector, like Jean-Pierre Lehmann, professor of international political economy at the I.M.D. business school in Lausanne, Switzerland.
“‘Generally, the U.N. has been a terrible disappointment compared to the ideals with which it was established’ after World War II, he said. ‘It serves as a gravy train for a very bloated employment system, and, yes, there is huge overlap between the agencies.’” Dare we say billions?
Who is the United Nations to give financial lectures to anyone?
A second fun and educational activity for our U.N. friends might be to study how generous Americans already are. Again, it’s quick and easy! Here’s a tip to get them started: A poll by the U.K.-based Charities Aid Foundation last year ranked Americans the most generous among 153 nations polled. Americans scored a “60” on the poll’s scale – and “the average score for all countries included in the survey was 31.6,” according to one account.
Even in the financially disastrous year of 2010, giving by America’s largest corporations rose 13 percent.
We don’t need the bloated bureaucrats of the U.N. to tell us the first thing about fairness or finances.