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Corbyn's Good Idea: Transaction Tax

by John Powell

posted in News and Society

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The question has been asked before: why when poor people greatly outnumber the wealthy and every citizen has a vote, do electorates not put in power a government that will address the great injustice of extreme inequality? Could Jeremy Corbyn's success be due to the fact that he has convinced many people that he is ready to take action on this fundamental issue? If so, the proposed transaction tax would appear to be a powerful means of pursuing this end, and a policy likely to attract many more votes from those many people who are tired of suffering austerity at a time when the already wealthy are continuing to swell their fortunes.
It has been widely reported that the collapse of the banks in 2007/8 was due in part to the banks gambling with deposited savings by means of uncontrolled high speed computer trading in stocks, shares, commodities and currencies. These unproductive and destabilising transactions would certainly be slowed down if the computers were programmed to make an automatic tax deduction on every deal. If they did not, funds would flood into the national treasury at a rate to make any finance minister's eyes water.
Critics of a transaction tax say that if it is introduced in one country the traders will merely switch their dealing to another country where there is no tax. This is said to be what happened when the scheme was tried in Sweden. For this reason, efforts are to be made to work towards an international system in which there would be no escape route. However, negotiating such an agreement will take a long time and in the meantime Corbyn's supporters will grow restive.
It is doubtful if Jeremy Corbyn would want to tax genuine longer-term investment deals that benefit the economy but trading for instant profit, if allowed at all, could be the target of a transaction tax not only to raise money for the exchequer but also to put a brake on the activity. Slowing down computer trading has been an objective of governments since the collapse of the banks. Separating high street banks from their investment activities and preventing them gambling with savers' money has been a stated objective of governments in recent years. The enthusiasm of the mainstream political parties seems to have waned and the banks have been allowed to return to their old ways, but this drift could be reversed by Corbyn.
About the Author: John Powell
John Powell weaves a tale of tension and intrigue into the lives and loves of Kwame Mainu and his family and friends, against the rich social, cultural, economic and political background of the first four decades of Ghana's independence, in his two novels: The Colonial Gentleman's Son and Return to the Garden City.
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