Disastrous Financial Transaction Tax Gains Traction
By Staff News & Analysis - February 27, 2013

5 Reasons the World Is Catching on to the Financial Transaction Tax … It has been more than 70 years since John Maynard Keynes wrote about the value of a financial transaction tax in "mitigating the predominance of speculation over enterprise in the United States." A financial transaction tax works by levying a miniscule fee on the estimated $2.9 trillion of daily financial activity through the trading of stocks, bonds, and derivatives in U.S. financial markets, based on our analysis. The tax makes some of the most speculative unproductive trading unprofitable, thus steadying markets and promoting real investment while raising much-needed revenues. Though many countries around the world already have a financial transaction tax in place, the United States does not yet levy such a fee on trading. – American Progress

Dominant Social Theme: Wall Street parasites are simply a blight; taxing them is good.

Free-Market Analysis: Like a bad penny, the "financial transaction tax" keeps turning up and if this article is accurate, the tax is gaining momentum around the world and will eventually penetrate the United States as well.

And that would be too bad. Wall Street is basically a creation of central banking – the Federal Reserve, in this case. Without monetary stimulation, Wall Street would not be what it is today. And thus the entire emphasis of this financial tax is likely incorrect.

Instead of removing the facilities of modern monopoly monetary stimulation, those behind the financial transaction obviously want to capitalize on it. Buy it's a bit like the government and smoking. Government bureaucrats don't REALLY want to get rid of smoking because it is a cash cow. So they only pretend to dislike the practice while expanding taxes and tariffs whenever they can.

The financial transaction tax, perversely, will put governments around the world into a similar posture. Bureaucrats will denounce "wasteful financial speculation" while working behind the scenes to facilitate it. A financial transaction tax will make changing the system in any meaningful way even more difficult – which is no doubt what its supporters really want. Here's more from the article:

While the idea of a modest financial transaction tax—or FTT, as it is often known—has been around for a long me, with budget balances and economic growth strained in the aftermath of the Great Recession policymakers around the world are taking a new look at the tax. Below are five reasons why the world is catching on to the financial transaction tax as a smart policy tool.

A financial transaction tax would bring in much-needed revenue The U.S. government is currently operating at its lowest level of revenues in more than 60 years. A 2010 report from the International Monetary Fund identifies the financial sector of the economy—particularly in the United States—as substantially undertaxed …

Business and civic leaders support a financial transaction tax The idea of a financial transaction tax isn't new, but the chorus singing its praises is growing every day—from leading economists such as Nobel Prize winners Joseph Stiglitz and Paul Krugman to entrepreneurs such as Bill Gates and Marc Cuban, to financial leaders the likes of John Bogle, founder of the mutual-fund giant Vanguard Group. The financial transaction tax also has the support of unions for nurses and other health care professionals and service-sector workers …

A financial transaction tax helps stabilize volatile financial markets An astounding share of transactions on financial markets today consists of high-frequency trades made on the millisecond by computers programmed with sophisticated algorithms. The computers make large-volume trades based on tiny changes in prices—fractions of a penny—and, in so doing, reap tremendous trading profits. While economic theory might suggest that this would lead to slightly more efficient financial markets, the Bank of England's Andrew Haldane has shown that "high-frequency trading appears to have amplified" the markets' erratic undulations …

A financial transaction tax incentivizes investment for real growth The financial transaction tax by design increases transaction costs of financial trading, thereby encouraging investors to hold financial assets in their investment portfolios for longer periods …

Many countries already have a financial transaction tax The standard stalling tactic for bringing a financial transaction tax to the United States is saying that we should wait until other countries do it first. But financial transaction taxes already operate in at least 23 countries around the world—including in international financial centers such as the United Kingdom, Switzerland, Hong Kong, and Japan—and that number is about to grow …

Okay, let's comment on some of the highlights. First of all, the US government in particular doesn't need more revenue. Various US governmental entities already spend some US$3-4 trillion a year. This particular Leviathan should shrink rather than grow.

We don't see, either, how a financial transaction tax will stabilize volatile markets in a meaningful way. The problem with modern financial markets is that they are stimulated by a central banking boom/bust cycle. The best way to deal with the havoc caused by modern financial markets is to diminish irresponsible monopoly fiat money printing. As we've pointed out above, the financial transaction tax will actually – perversely – encourage and expand the current destructive system by giving governments more "skin in the game."

The article makes the argument as well that since because many other countries have adopted a financial transaction tax, the US should, too. But the US financial markets are the largest in the world and thus what is detrimental elsewhere shall be disastrous in the US. Foolish policies are not ameliorated by expanding them.

The biggest misunderstanding held by proponents of a financial transaction tax is that such a tax will somehow diminish Wall Street while supporting Main Street. In fact, this is a kind of middle-man prejudice. There is nothing wrong with speculation – theoretically, anyway: It has its place.

And as we often point out, because of fiat-money stimulation modern Main Street is just as distorted and unproductive as Wall Street itself. Promoting industrial distortions at the expense of speculative distortions doesn't improve the underlying economic situation a bit.

Bottom line: A financial transaction tax, like most government policies, will actually do the opposite of what it is meant to do. It will further solidify linkages between bureaucracy and modern central banking while providing Leviathan even more sources of revenue for additional forays into destructive regulation and enforcement thereof.

Once major Western countries adopt a financial transaction tax in force, the second part of this exercise will doubtless come into play – which is attempting to divert some of the funding stream to the United Nations.

After Thoughts

World government will come another step closer with the increased penetration of this tax. It is being sold to people as a progressive measure that will damp bad business practices. But the solution in this case is more destructive to civil society than the problem.

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