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

Rapporteur: Shane Roberts

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

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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Rapporteur: Robin Collins

2. Universal Basic Income

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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Rapporteur: Robin Collins(14)

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

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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