21. All states shall support SDGs, tax wealth and financial transactions, and redistribute funds equitably.

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1. SDGs and the Redistribution of Wealth for “Saving the World in a Hurry”

Rapporteur: Shane Roberts

The six threats of the Project to “save the world” are described as “causally inter-dependent” and requiring “systemic change”. This points to a complex world, where any problem, cause, effect or solution related to each threat may be given a simple label that masks an underlying complexity, e.g. in a mesh of chicken-and-egg dilemmas about where to start: everywhere at once?

So it is with the Project’s roster of solutions, wherein plank #21 in part states that “All states shall support SDGs” and in so many words arguably calls for a redistribution of global wealth. Between the SDGs and the notion of redistributing wealth, we have landed in a sea of complexity – theoretical and practical. To start with, what are the SDGs, and what might one mean by “wealth” and mechanisms for its redistribution?

In 2015, the General Assembly of the United Nations approved a historically ambitious 35-page plan entitled Transforming Our World: the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. It comprises 17 “Sustainable Development Goals” or “SDGs” (listed below) along with 169 associated targets that are sweeping in scope and call for actions to raise the quality of life for people in both developing and developed countries, and to secure a decent future for all of us.

The SDGs are a constellation of entwined objectives for making a better world for all – a multi-pronged approach to interlocking problems confronting societies in greater and lesser degrees around the globe. While achieving any Goal will have monetary costs, the Goals in the first instance, i.e. as stated, are effectively non-monetary ‘instruments’ (means and measures) for transferring to have-nots various non-capital equivalents of “wealth” tied to quality of life. At the same time, the aim of many Goals is to empower individuals and communities to be able in the future to earn/acquire wealth (or what it can buy) on their own and maintain an ongoing capability to do so (e.g. see how instrumentally #4 is tied to #s 2, 3, 5 and 8) all the while in an eco-sustainable way.

So how could the SDGs stave off any of our six existential threats?

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2. Universal Basic Income

Rapporteur: Robin Collins

Why UBI?

For the purposes of this short introduction, we see UBI as one of several mechanisms that can be used to fundamentally stabilize living conditions, and thus alleviate factors that contribute to several existential threats in the Platform for Survival, including climate change and conflict that can lead to war/nuclear war. As economist Myron Frankman points out,

“’Everyone’ seems to be talking about basic income, but generally at the level of sub-national units and with at best a very hesitant pilot project with conditionalities and exceptions. These rarely lead to the establishment of a full-blown commitment. There is no conviction that this should be a right of residents or citizens of a well-defined political unit, whether local, sub-national or national. Meanwhile many types of employment are disappearing. Environmental displacements of human populations are becoming more frequent with diminishing opportunities for resettlement. The Mediterranean Sea has become a veritable graveyard. We barely trouble to do more than shake our heads when we read of the latest genocide, such as that of the Rohingya.

“A planet-wide unconditional citizen’s income and open borders should be seen as critical conditions for human survival in a world where we are connected electronically but physically separated by border walls and increasingly subjected to unpredictably destructive natural forces which humanity has unleashed. ‘When the dust finally settles, we may realize that the attainment of substantive global democracy, peace, and justice was the cultural impact of the electronic process.’ Basic income and open borders facilitated by the ‘electronic process’ may well be the only option to humanity to weather the unpredictable disruptions that lie ahead.”(1)

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2. The Tobin Tax is One Painless Way to Redistribute Global Wealth

Rapporteur: Robin Collins(14)

Tobin’s Tax in brief

Much human interaction has been increasingly globalized. That includes participation in financial investment, communications and trade, some of which involves negative planet-wide environmental, military and development impacts. Yet taxation has overall remained in the domain of national jurisdictions – primarily because national governments have been reluctant to give up their sovereign control over tax revenues. There are political implications to international taxation being levied by international institutions, although no more so than the international spheres already commanding virtually every other human activity. As was pointed out in one 1996 study on the potential for generating international taxation revenue, “economic liberalization and the internationalization of markets, especially that of financial markets, have affected the taxation capacity of nation-states. Global taxes, such as the Tobin tax, applied across all countries, could help restore some of the taxation power governments have lost in these globalization processes.”(15)

James Tobin, in 1972 at Princeton University, proposed a levy on international currency transactions as a way to “preserve some possibilities of autonomy in national or continental monetary policies” that were wracked by the anarchy of money markets. He initially proposed that a 1%, and later a 0.5% tax on currency conversions should be considered a means to deter rampant quick-turnaround currency speculation, and as a bonus, also a way to generate significant revenue through a relatively small penalty.

The problem of currency speculation worsened dramatically since the days when Nobel laureate Tobin’s idea was given an admittedly poor reception. In the early 1970s the global daily turnaround in foreign exchange markets added up to US$18 Billion. Twenty years later, the average daily movement of currency exchanges was $1.3 Trillion. In 2016, it was US$5.4 Trillion. To highlight the speculative aspect and scale of this movement, one can compare the annual global trade in goods and services – in other words, real products – which in 2017 was US$23 Trillion.

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One man’s opinion of capitalism

Big business interests are definitely pulling governmental strings—some of which extend further to our police and military—to access land and/or the accompanying natural resources, perhaps to which they perceive a political-economic thus ethical right.    

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Fair redistribution of funds?

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Governments should “re-distribute funds equitably”? Sure. But how can we citizens make them do it? Even long-standing democracies have become more and more unequal for several decades. Occupy Wall Street (see photo of their General Assembly) showed that almost all the benefits were going to the top one percent.

Biden, are you listening?

Personally, I supported Andrew Yang’s platform for Universal Basic Income. I wish Biden would implement something like that should he be elected President of the United States in 2020…

After all, income distribution in the United States is incredible inequitable. Here’s a figure from 2017.
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Why the Response to COVID-19 Should Include Universal Basic Income

By John Rose

John Rose argues that universal basic income should. (and he hopes WILL) be adopted as a by-product of COVID-19.

We already know capitalism is failing in the face of COVID-19; it has been failing for generations. The latest crisis simply elucidates this fact. Canadians have been signaling their impending plight–ranging from unemployment, to mounting debt, to accessing essential services.

Meanwhile, bailouts are the talk of the town. The Alberta energy sector is asking for one, while the provincial government led by Jason Kenney decided a multi-billion dollar investment was a prudent economic decision to keep the dream of the Keystone XL pipeline alive. One must wonder if he is aware that the value of Alberta WCS oil is less than that of a barrel of monkeys.

From airlines, to cruise lines, to auto-makers, to Bombardier and banks, it seems as though most major corporations or capitalist institutions beg for bailouts when times are tough. It is remarkably ironic how often these groups demand governments to keep their meddling hands out of the private sector and reduce regulation, and yet when the slightest crisis hits, they come begging for state intervention. How very laissez-faire of them.
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I feel that the Canadian government has been doing a pretty decent job in supporting people through CERB, and CESB programs so far! I’m glad they’ve done it, given how so many people have lost their jobs.

I actually disagree. So many people are claiming government grants that there’s no incentive for them to go back to work- they can just sit at home and receive government money! What about the government deficit? Are we not worried about that?

COVID-19 has affected everyone everywhere, regardless of wealth, status, power, or race. I believe that the Universal Basic Income would be a more equitable way of redistributing wealth. Everyone deserves help, and we need to lift each other up in these hard times.

Lucifer for President!

The blind, even illogical, reactive Western hostility towards effective fiscally progressive measures is formidable … As a somewhat humorous example of such anger (albeit on a fortunately small scale): Just the concept of socialists having any power anywhere on the planet causes distress to a local man here who’s vocally vehemently opposed to liberalism. On a couple occasions he became so narrow-mindedly enraged that he, with his tightened fist trembling before him, uttered to me, “I’d vote for the devil himself if that’s what it took to keep those Godless socialists out of office!”

No more big-business-as-usual Democratic Party

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Blindly voting for the establishment-forwarded Democratic candidate no-matter-what, regardless of his/her neo-liberalist corporate-interest ideology, should no longer be expected of an increasingly financially struggling electorate. Therefore, before such vast progressive electorate support is given, there most notably needs to be genuine progress on the socio-economic inequity/inequality file, which apparently is only getting worse.

When I vote in a federal election and/or write a letter, I do my best to make them state, No More Big Business As Usual!

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The Tobin Tax

The case for a tax on international monetary transactions.
AUTHOR(S): James Tobin
April 1, 2011

This article is based on a speech delivered in 1995 at a CCPA conference in Ottawa by U.S. economist James Tobin, who died in 2002 at the age of 84. A prominent supporter of Keynesian economics and winner of the Nobel Prize in Economics in 1981, Prof. Tobin is now widely known for his suggested imposition of a tax on foreign exchange transactions. Such a tax, he argued, would reduce speculation in the international currency markets, which he saw as dangerous and unproductive.

Some people have reacted to my proposal for an international tax on currency exchange transactions as if it were some kind of quack medicine – particularly the people who might have to pay the tax. So let me explain, in as close to lay language as possible, what it’s all about.

Economists, bankers, central bankers, exporters and importers have been dissatisfied with the international monetary system for a long time, particularly since the collapse of the Bretton Woods system in 1971-73, and the shift to flexible, floating exchange rates among the major currencies.

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Some people consider it bad manners to complain about inequality. Strange.