Time For A Tobin Tax


John Quiggin says that with the 99 percent out in the streets demanding justice, it’s time for a Tobin Tax — a tax on financial transactions.

I agree and want to add one consideration to the ones he offers. When you talk to people in the corridors of power about this idea, you get a peculiar kind of runaround. They don’t raise any objections of moral principle or fundamental logic. Instead they tell you that it’s more logistically complicated than it sounds, and requires difficult international coordination. Then instead of pivoting to a story about rolling up sleeves and getting to work on the logistics, you tend to get derisive remarks about the shallowness, naiveté, or opportunism of the people calling for the tax.

Nothing in that analysis is wrong, but to me that’s exactly the kind of situation where a little mass protest politics is exactly what you need. It’s not a question of better policy analysis or doing better persuasive work. It’s simply the fact that the people with the authority to make it happen prefer not to do the work that would be involved and don’t want to be hassled about it. Which I take to mean that if enough people are persistent enough in hassling them, they may ultimately decide that doing the work is the most expedient route to getting the hasslers to shut up. So hassle away. An FTT is not a panacea for the ills of the financial system, but it raises some money in a good way and it makes the right enemies.