The Rosett Report

Your UN: Tax Proliferators for the Planet

American taxpayers shell out billions to the United Nations system every year. So what does that money help pay for?

Well, one thing that U.S. taxes help fund is the UN’s quest for new ways to impose yet more taxes, which the UN would like to see collected and spent not by national authorities, but by some global authority, such as, well, the UN itself. These taxes would in turn help finance UN planning of the global economy — a process which, to judge by the record, would then generate yet more UN proposals for yet more taxes. As an exercise in proliferation, it’s almost elegant.

On this theme, Agence France-Presse produced a fascinating dispatch recently, summarizing one of the UN’s latest endeavors: “UN calls for ‘billionaires tax’ to help the world’s poor.” The article cites a new UN report, which lists a whole array of potential taxes that the UN considers worth exploring, and which it is considering as avenues to raise some $400 billion per year for “poor countries.”

The list was so extensive, so arrogant, so utterly over-reaching — it sounded like a spoof.

No such luck. I went looking for the original UN report, and here it is, from the UN Secretariat’s Department of Economic and Social Affairs, the World Economic and Social Survey 2012, titled “In Search of New Development Finance.”  Just scroll down to Section 1, pages 4-5 for the handy chart, listing proposals for everything from a global tax on billionaires (which the UN estimates might generate $40-$50 billion), to taxes on carbon, financial transactions, currency exchange, etc.

The potential mechanics alone raise all sorts of horrifying questions. How, exactly, would the UN determine who is a billionaire? Would we all be required to file tax returns with the UN? Would the U.S. federal government be expected to turn over individual tax returns to the UN? Would the UN — which has yet to master the art of auditing itself — set to work auditing the rest of us? We are now heading into the realms of science fiction, and not sci-fi of the warm and cuddly variety.

Another intriguing aspect of this report is its over-riding interest in finding ways to acquire money. The “poor” appear here as something of an afterthought, as the unnamed UN authors of this report note that there is of course the difficulty of finding the best ways to spend all this money they propose to tax away from the “donor” sources of the planet. But the big concern here is how to raise enormous sums of money. Then they can buckle down to the job of spending it.

This report was generated by the same Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA) within the UN Secretariat that housed the core planning group — a secretariat within the secretariat — for the Rio+20 conference the UN convened just last month in Brazil. Given the vast scope of the Rio+ ambitions, that conference by some accounts bombed; nonetheless, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton responded to the event by pledging another $2 billion in U.S. handouts for aid, and the UN bureaucracy profited at least to the extent of enjoying lavish trips to Rio, and the chance to generate plans for yet more conferences, and yet more tax proposals.

All this has almost nothing to do with the poor, for whom the real solutions lie in the direction of liberty, embodied in decent rule of law combined with free markets.  But those ideas, when put into practice, merely allow poor people to get rich; they don’t raise money for the UN. So, on we go — another season, another UN report on, as this one puts it, “the potential of innovative development financing.” It’s all about the money. Your money.