- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 29, 2001

U.N. does not endorse proposed global tax

Thank you for the attention Commentary contributor Daniel J. Mitchell gives to the report of the High-Level Panel on Financing for Development, which was appointed by the U.N. secretary-general ("A one-world taxing authority?" Aug. 21). If any of your readers are interested in learning more about this report, it can be found at www.un.org/reports/financing .
In particular, they might be interested to know that the panel is an independent one, consisting of 11 distinguished personalities from around the world who serve in a personal capacity. It was chaired by Ernesto Zedillo, former president of Mexico, and included former U.S. Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin. This is not, therefore, a report written or endorsed by the United Nations as such, or even by the secretary-general. It is one of many inputs for next March's International Conference on Financing for Development, at which the member states of the United Nations (including, of course, the United States) may or may not endorse some of the ideas contained in the panel's report.
Up to now, no U.N. intergovernmental body or conference has ever endorsed or called for an internationally levied tax.
That is not to say that the panel's recommendations are without interest. Unfortunately, Mr. Mitchell misstates them in several important respects.
First, the International Tax Organization, the panel suggests, would not levy any taxes. Nor would its functions impinge on the ability of governments to set their own tax rates, whether high or low. On the contrary, it would enable them to collect tax revenue without imposing high tax rates because it would help curb tax evasion.
Second, while the report does indeed mention a number of possible global taxes, it is skeptical about all but one of them. The report concludes its examination of the widely canvassed currency transaction tax with the remark that "if global taxation is considered desirable, the conference and summit are likely to find more promise in a carbon tax."
Third, the column fails to point out that the recommendation to tax the income of emigrants is an idea inspired by the United States, which requires its nationals to pay U.S. taxes on their worldwide income regardless of where they reside. Should other countries not be allowed to pursue the same policy as the United States?

Director of communications
Executive Office of the Secretary-General
United Nations
New York

Don't underestimate the British Tories

In his Aug. 24 Op-Ed column, "The trouble with Tories," Peter Hitchens mistakenly writes off Britain's Tories. Myopic U.S. conservatives made a similar mistake after assessing the bumbling Republican attempt to prevent a second Democratic administration here in the United States in 1996. The Republicans were a mess then, but whose candidate won the keys to the White House in the 2000 election?
British Labor is its own worst enemy. This ongoing, second Labor administration will convince the British that Labor is unfit to govern and that socialism ultimately is a loser. Much damage is being wrought in the interim. The succeeding Tory administration simply will have to repair that damage.
Blinded by his despair, Mr. Hitchens fails to note a key player in British politics, namely the grandson of the greatest Tory of modern times, Sir Winston Churchill. Winston Churchill the grandson is alive and well. Moreover, he remains alert to strategic international issues. For instance, he visited Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld in March of this year to warn of France's subversion of NATO and threats posed by the proliferation of missiles, issues that do not seem to bother left-leaning Laborites but are recognized as insidious by the Tories.
The British turned to Churchill at two significant low points in Western history, namely those marked by Nazi aggression and by the confused, socialist funk that plagued Europe after the defeat of the Nazis.
Now, at a time when the Tories are struggling to find their voice and the British people are rediscovering that the socialist utopia isn't really much of a utopia, perhaps the grandson should step forward. Should he succeed, he would make refreshingly clear that Great Britain remains a formidable, civilizing force on the world stage, not simply another socialist European country.
Meanwhile, Mr. Hitchens, who has demonstrated impressive acumen in identifying political problems troubling Britain, might consider identifying solutions as well.
Rancho Palos Verdes, Calif.

The seductions of our hate-culture

In your Aug. 25 editorial "The vigil at the NRA," you write, "It's extremely difficult to reproach a grieving parent who has lost a child to the criminal actions of a pair of psychopaths Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris, the two troubled young men responsible for the massacre at Columbine High some two years ago."
Young Klebold and Harris were troubled, no doubt, but it's whistling past the graveyard to suggest they were psychopathic. They were disturbed not by mental demons, but by the passions of youth and the seductions of a hate culture.
Sadly, they had access to guns, but the Columbine incident could have happened and is still happening to some extent in high schools across this country.


Extinct arguments in anti-evolutionary column

In his Aug. 23 Commentary column "Darwinism in denial?" Philip Gold presents a number of false opinions regarding the science of evolutionary biology.
Mr. Gold first adopts the smear term "Darwinian materialism," attempting unfairly to connect evolutionary theory to a philosophy notoriously espoused by Marxists. Modern biology, however, is "materialistic" only in that it employs the scientific method, as does all science. Perhaps Mr. Gold really objects to that. But understanding nature via the scientific method e.g. through reason does not imply the negative moral connotations Mr. Gold suggests. Indeed, most scientists, including evolutionary biologists, don't hold such amoral views.
Mr. Gold then claims there is a conflict between Darwinian materialism and the so-called "intelligent design" (ID) movement. The latter, which Mr. Gold says is not to be confused with creationism, looks for "evidence of intelligent design in the physical and biological worlds without positing the identity or intent of the designer." If it isn't creationism, one must wonder whether Mr. Gold expects to find this "designer" in the natural universe using natural methods. I doubt it.
Thus, despite the rhetoric, the ID movement is not science. Unlike evolutionary theory, it posits no testable or falsifiable hypotheses, and no predictions can be made. The ID movement's entire agenda, including biologist Michael Behe's "irreducible complexity," can be characterized by the old argument from incredulity disguised in modern scientific jargon: "I can't understand this complicated phenomenon, so an 'intelligent designer' did it."
Contrary to what Mr. Gold claims, the theory of evolution is not "random," but rather follows the laws of physics and biochemistry. It is supported by overwhelming evidence not only from the fossil record, but also from the fields of genetics, anatomy, ecology and others.
Life, like other natural processes, is complex and not completely understood. Mr. Gold and others are free to invoke the supernatural where questions remain. Meanwhile, as scientists make new discoveries, this "god of the gaps" continues to shrink.


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