Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Occupy Vancouver: Completely Out To Lunch

One of the criticisms of the Occupy movement is their lack of a coherent message. Vancouver seems to have solved this problem. Home of Adbusters, the anti-capitalist magazine that started this movement, Occupy Vancouver marched downtown last Saturday in support of a "Robin Hood" tax. What is this tax? What will be its effects? Is giving the State more money going to solve our problems?

Or has the Occupy Vancouver movement been co-opted? Or was it ever really a grassroots movement to begin with?

Let's just say the "Robin Hood" tax isn't helping the movement shake off the image that these are a bunch of unemployed Liberal Arts grads carrying around copies of The Communist Manifesto.

Vancouver Sun: Vancouver demonstrators... demanding that G20 leaders institute a Robin Hood tax on currency trading and speculative financial transactions. "The main proposal out there is for a tax of a fraction of a per cent... on transactions of stocks, on foreign exchange and financial derivatives," explained Canadian Union of Public Employees economist Toby Sanger to a cheering crowd.

Whenever Toby Sanger shows up, economic illiteracy is bound to flourish. In fact, if your protest is finding support with public unions it's time to back off and reexamine what you're fighting for.

"So, most of that is being used for speculation, and that was a big cause of the financial crisis that we've gone through." Sanger added, "The idea is from a small tax like this - it could generate hundreds of billions of dollars."

Speculation played a major role in the financial crisis, but it was not a "big cause." Speculation plays an important role in a market economy, it helps stabilize prices that have a tendency to fluctuate rapidly (like farm produce or dairy). The problem Sanger is talking about comes from the Federal Reserve. Their artificially low interest rates fueled the speculation that helped contribute to the financial mess the West finds itself in.

To paraphrase Peter Schiff: "Bush said that Wall Street got drunk. But why were they drunk? Who supplied the alcohol? Alan Greenspan did with his low interest rates"

Furthermore, a tax on transactions of stocks and on foreign exchanges hurts the little guy - like me. It's bad enough the government already taxes my dividends, now they want the parasites to tax the transaction of stocks? Fuck off. I'm a marginal investor, this will kill me.

"This is an idea for a small tax on the financial sector--which is undertaxed compared to other sectors--and the revenue from it would go toward badly-needed human needs such as reducing poverty and fighting climate change."

I don't think the financial sector is undertaxed. And if it is, the solution isn't to raise the level of taxation to mirror all other sectors of the economy. In fact, the solution is the reverse: taxation in the other sectors of the economy should be lowered to mirror the financial sector.

Besides the fact that giving the State more money is always a bad idea, throwing money at climate change and poverty won't solve those issues anytime soon.

The idea of the tax as a possible demand from the Occupy movement was first by Vancouver's Adbusters magazine, the same organization that proposed the Occupy Wall Street movement last summer.

This is where things get interesting. George Soros gave $3.5 million to a foundation called the Tides Center. Tides then gave Adbusters $185,000. A perfect cover for Soros or a classic Soros conspiracy theory?

Reuters tried to link Soros with Adbusters, but was attacked by Slate for even trying to attempt (gasp!) some actual investigative journalism.

The links grow stronger when one considers the "Robin Hood" tax Adbusters is promoting is just another name for the "Tobin Tax". George Soros is a big fan of the Tobin Tax, as he highlights in his 2005 book:

The globalization of financial markets has given capital an unfair advantage over other sources of taxation, a tax on financial transactions would redress the balance...the tax ought to be extended to all markets, not just currency markets... Collection has to be worldwide, including tax havens. How could it be enforced? The collecting country must be given a portion of the proceeds...To mobilize public opinion of increased international assistance, the proposal must not only show how the money will be raised but how it will be spent.

Collection has to be worldwide, says Soros. No problem, says Adbusters. Right from their website:

On October 29, on the eve of the G20 Leaders Summit in France, let's the people of the world rise up and demand that our G20 leaders immediately impose a 1% #ROBINHOOD tax on all financial transactions and currency trades. Let's send them a clear message: We want you to slow down some of that $1.3-trillion easy money that's sloshing around the global casino each day – enough cash to fund every social program and environmental initiative in the world.

This is why the Occupy movement is completely out to lunch. What kind of "grassroots" movement supports more taxes? What kind of protest is this? I'll let Robert Wenzel finish off:

It's fair to ask why a trader like Soros is so hot for a financial transactions tax. But once you understand the type of trader Soros is, the tax demand is obvious. Soros is a position trader. The financial transaction tax would hurt short-term traders/market makers, who trade on thin margins – the opposite of the position trader that Soros is. The tax would make markets less efficient and less liquid. Soros knows this, during a speech in 2001, he said:

Soros: I think there is a case for a Tobin tax ... (but) it is not at all clear to me that a Tobin tax would reduce volatility in the currency markets. It is true that it may discourage currency speculation but it would also reduce the liquidity of the marketplace.

With markets less liquid, the market makers that make the markets liquid and efficient will be hampered by a Tobin tax (they will now need a spread of over 1%) and this will create more profit opportunities for the position trading that Soros does.

And, thus, in the end, what you have is a bunch of clueless Utopian dreamers, marching and getting arrested for one of the greatest schemers this planet has ever seen. I assume Soros is getting a grand kick out of all of this.


  1. Wow great blog! I'm glad I found a fellow libertarian and Austrian in Canada!