A lot of Americans wake up in the morning and ask themselves an urgent question, "Is there anything more I could be doing today, personally, to help out the United Nations?" You probably don't run into these people on the street -- they're either taking their meds in a padded cell or out on their Montana ranch ruing the day they sold CNN -- but they do exist.
So just thank your lucky stars they're not running the country (one of them almost ended up in the White House last year, and only in the last few days has he been allowed to use razors again) -- because if they were, America probably wouldn't be vehemently sticking its tongue out at the most recent reiteration of a perennial terrible idea: a global tax to support the U.N.
If you thought we already did pay taxes to support the U.N. (just where do those U.N. dues come from?), you're wrong. Or rather, you're right -- but it doesn't matter to the bureaucrats who would govern the world. They don't think you're paying enough.
The global tax idea reared its ugly head most recently at the International Conference on Financing for Development, which took place this week in Mexico. The general idea, which was pushed by Britain, Germany and two Nordic countries, is that the U.N. or another international institution should tax something such as air travel, financial transactions or carbon emissions, to fund either the U.N.'s budget or development projects in the Third World.
While the idea was stripped from the conference's final report (with the help of Japan), Mexico's Usually More Reasonable President Vicente Fox revived the idea on Tuesday in an op-ed in the Washington Post.
In part, President Fox wrote: "[G]lobal taxes such as the one proposed on carbon emissions could be used to finance global public goods. This is based on a simple premise: fairness. The industrialized countries that generate a disproportionate share of carbon emissions into the atmosphere should pay accordingly, providing money for development and also a more efficient use of scarce resources."
Of course fairness has about as much to do with this proposal as Britney Spears does with astrophysics, but it's always a nice fig leaf when trying to redistribute wealth -- or provide "global public goods." (What are these? Subsidized abortions?)
When people keep trying to do the same thing, and keep giving you different reasons for what they're doing, they're pulling something over on you. Whether a global tax is dressed up as a way to compensate developing countries for dumping carbon on them, or whether it's dressed up as a tax on air travel or international finance, it has one effect: to take money from Americans and the citizens of other wealthy countries and give it to the governments of poorer countries.
Now, the usefulness of foreign aid is a debatable subject, but you have to remember we already provide billions of dollars worth of it voluntarily every year. All a global tax would do is provide more money to international bureaucracies, while making that funding less accountable to domestic political processes - and that we can do without.
Take the U.N., for example, the most likely recipient of funds from any global tax and an organization with a proven track record. What do we get from the U.N. for the billions we give it? We get endless complaints about the United States being delinquent in its dues payments, despite the immense contributions that we make in resources, personnel, and equipment (which never get credited). And we get far more than that.
We get a United Nations "Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance" in Durban where Israel is denounced as racist and countries around the world demand reparations for slavery.
We get Syria (one of the State Department's terrorist states) elected to the U.N. Security Council weeks after September 11.
We get booted off the United Nations Human Rights Commission in favor of the mass-murdering Sudanese regime.
At least, though, the U.N. has been extremely helpful during our campaign in Afghanistan. Or, no... That didn't happen.
Luckily the global tax is not a serious proposal. The United States would never assent to it, and the U.N. certainly can't collect any taxes from us without our consent (unless it sends a U.N. Collections Squad after us, which will need to borrow tanks and planes from... well, us).
But beware bureaucratic creep -- the diplomatic lounge lizards at the U.N. would like nothing more than to live on a steady stream of income, holding posh summits all over the world bashing Israel and America and capitalism and globalization. If anything, we should be cutting the U.N.'s funding until they have to buy their wine in boxes.