Friday, January 28, 2005

Just a little off the top 

One of my students reads here and sends me a note asking about a speech by Jacques Chirac at Davos seeking an international tax on, say, airline tickets to support efforts to halt AIDS in Africa (and elsewhere, I suppose.) The Economist pooh-poohs the idea; neither is the Guardian much enthused; Le Sabot Post Moderne says

Run. Flee. Never look back.

I imagine Dracula told Lucy it would be a one-time nibble, too. Is anyone unspeakably foolish enough to believe that once the bureaucrats of the world discover a new revenue source they'll stop with just this one "noble cause?"

My student said that Bill Gates, Bono, and George Soros were in the audience. Looks like there are some candidates...

Chirac, it's reported, put this speech together rather hastily after Tony Blair waxed on about his plans for bringing peace in our time. Chirac is borrowing the idea of the Tobin tax, an idea embraced by the late Minnesota senator Paul Wellstone. But the incidence of this tax would be quite regressive, charging $3 on each plane ticket everywhere. Many in the developing world find their local airlines transport them for relatively small sums as long as they have domestic-issued passports. And the idea was raised by the UN in 1995 and nobody has jumped on the bandwagon. They won't now either.