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The IMF, Rio, and the UN's Tax-Exempt Elite

Christine Lagarde, managing director of the International Monetary Fund, recently gave an interview to a British newspaper, The Guardian, in which she criticized tax dodgers in Greece. Then Lagarde became a target of criticism herself, when The Guardian reported on Tuesday that as head of the IMF she paid no taxes on her yearly salary of $467,940, or her accompanying annual allowance of $83,760.

The next day, CNBC rushed to Lagarde's defense, with an article pointing out that Lagarde's tax-exempt status is standard for employees of the United Nations family of organizations, which includes the IMF. Quoting the Vienna Convention on the immunities of "diplomatic agents," CNBC noted that, like her predecessor, Lagarde was merely enjoying privileges that were hers by right:

"Protest against her, and you protest against thousands of UN employees throughout the years."

Well, come to think of it, what a great idea!

Diplomatic immunities have their place. But they derive from an earlier age of the world, when diplomats concerned themselves chiefly with representing their own countries, and there was no vast family of globe-girdling multilateral organizations trying to cook up rules for all, while draped in diplomatic privileges. Today, in the age of the UN alphabet soup, and a global hive of "international civil servants" plotting 5 and 10 and 15 and 50 year plans for the planet, diplomatic immunities have come to provide cover for a growing elite bureaucracy -- the 21st century version of the old Soviet nomenklatura, communism's administrative patrons, who dished out to the peons the stifling rules from which they themselves were substantially exempt.