Nicholas Ruiz III on Wed, 9 Dec 2009 15:15:09 +0100 (CET)

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<nettime> Paul Krugman: Taxing the Speculators ( - aka 'Tobin Tax')

many thanks for the article...(posted to nettime)

...who gets to decide what is 'socially useless'? ...there are already a myriad of barriers of just this kind that serve only to protect the financial traffic of the ultra rich, while effectively serving to prevent smaller players (e.g. individuals) from benefiting from the Market in ways that the Aristocracy would like to preserve for itself.

Instead, why not simply harness the earning potential of the Market for the greater good?

In the US, we need to harness the power of the financial Market (i.e. Wall Street) for the Public - as in a 10% issuance of public shares of all publicly traded companies, and a 10% issuance of all tradable derivatives (e.g. crude oil, gold, etc.) for the financing of public interests (e.g. healthcare, education, social security, etc.). The financial bailouts of 2008-2009 have proven that we have the political will to connect the Market sphere to the Public sphere in ways previously unimaginable, for the benefit of financial stability and reinvestment in American interests. If the American government (i.e. public) can help to support the financial markets, the financial markets can reciprocate the favor. The Market should work for the Public, as well as the reverse.


 Nicholas Ruiz III, Ph.D
NRIII for Congress 2010
Editor, Kritikos

Tobin Tax redux: "First they ignore you; then they laugh at you; then they
attack you; then you win."  - Mahatma Gandhi

New York Times/ Intenl Herald Tribune, Nov 27/29, 2009.
original at:

Taxing the Speculators

Should we use taxes to deter financial speculation? Yes, say top British
officials, who oversee the City of London, one of the worldâs two great
banking centers. Other European governments agree â and theyâre right.

Unfortunately, United States officials â especially Timothy Geithner, the
Treasury secretary â are dead set against the proposal. Letâs hope they
reconsider: a financial transactions tax is an idea whose time has come.

The dispute began back in August, when Adair Turner, Britainâs top
financial regulator, called for a tax on financial transactions as a way
to discourage âsocially uselessâ activities. Gordon Brown, the British
prime minister, picked up on his proposal, which he presented at the Group
of 20 meeting of leading economies this month.

Why is this a good idea? The Turner-Brown proposal is a modern version of
an idea originally floated in 1972 by the late James Tobin, the
Nobel-winning Yale economist. Tobin argued that currency speculation â
money moving internationally to bet on fluctuations in exchange rates â
was having a disruptive effect on the world economy. To reduce these
disruptions, he called for a small tax on every exchange of currencies.

Such a tax would be a trivial expense for people engaged in foreign trade
or long-term investment; but it would be a major disincentive for people
trying to make a fast buck (or euro, or yen) by outguessing the markets
over the course of a few days or weeks. It would, as Tobin said, âthrow
some sand in the well-greased wheelsâ of speculation.

Tobinâs idea went nowhere at the time. Later, much to his dismay, it
became a favorite hobbyhorse of the anti-globalization left. But the
Turner-Brown proposal, which would apply a âTobin taxâ to all financial
transactions â not just those involving foreign currency â is very much in
Tobinâs spirit. It would be a trivial expense for long-term investors, but
it would deter much of the churning that now takes place in our
hyperactive financial markets.

This would be a bad thing if financial hyperactivity were productive. But
after the debacle of the past two years, thereâs broad agreement â Iâm
tempted to say, agreement on the part of almost everyone not on the
financial industryâs payroll â with Mr. Turnerâs assertion that a lot of
what Wall Street and the City do is âsocially useless.â And a transactions
tax could generate substantial revenue, helping alleviate fears about
government deficits. Whatâs not to like?

The main argument made by opponents of a financial transactions tax is
that it would be unworkable, because traders would find ways to avoid it.
Some also argue that it wouldnât do anything to deter the socially
damaging behavior that caused our current crisis. But neither claim stands
up to scrutiny.

On the claim that financial transactions canât be taxed: modern trading is
a highly centralized affair. Take, for example, Tobinâs original proposal
to tax foreign exchange trades. How can you do this, when currency traders
are located all over the world? The answer is, while traders are all over
the place, a majority of their transactions are settled â i.e., payment is
made â at a single London-based institution. This centralization keeps the
cost of transactions low, which is what makes the huge volume of wheeling
and dealing possible. It also, however, makes these transactions
relatively easy to identify and tax.

What about the claim that a financial transactions tax doesnât address the
real problem? Itâs true that a transactions tax wouldnât have stopped
lenders from making bad loans, or gullible investors from buying toxic
waste backed by those loans.

But bad investments arenât the whole story of the crisis. What turned
those bad investments into catastrophe was the financial systemâs
excessive reliance on short-term money.

As Gary Gorton and Andrew Metrick of Yale have shown, by 2007 the United
States banking system had become crucially dependent on ârepoâ
transactions, in which financial institutions sell assets to investors
while promising to buy them back after a short period â often a single
day. Losses in subprime and other assets triggered a banking crisis
because they undermined this system â there was a ârun on repo.â

And a financial transactions tax, by discouraging reliance on
ultra-short-run financing, would have made such a run much less likely. So
contrary to what the skeptics say, such a tax would have helped prevent
the current crisis â and could help us avoid a future replay.

Would a Tobin tax solve all our problems? Of course not. But it could be
part of the process of shrinking our bloated financial sector. On this, as
on other issues, the Obama administration needs to free its mind from Wall
Streetâs thrall.

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