- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Every once in a while an idea so goofy comes along one is inclined to dismiss it as just absurd rumor. More often than not, it seems, such ideas involve the United Nations and the ambitions of some of its staff and member nations to convert the “world body” into a world government. However hare-brained the scheme, if the United Nations is involved, it is wise to prepare for the worst.

A case in point is the idea the United Nations should be able to fund its operations by collecting international taxes (“globotaxes”), starting with international airline tickets. This notion has been kicking around Turtle Bay for some time but now is beginning to gain traction.

One particularly ambitious version has the U.N. charge a couple of pennies for every dollar’s worth of international currency transactions. By some estimates, this globotax could net the U.N. $13 trillion each year. Why, even the kleptocratic international civil servants of Oil-for-Food fame could cobble together a world government with that income stream.

Fortunately, the dangers inherent in such wooly-headed plans for using international taxation-without-representation to float the U.N.’s boat has precipitated strong opposition in Congress.

In July, at the initiative of now-acting Majority Leader Roy Blunt, Missouri Republican, the House of Representatives adopted an amendment to bar U.S. supporting or being subject to globotaxes. Oklahoma Republican Jim Inhofe has taken the lead on a similar piece of legislation in the Senate.

The need for such a statutory prohibition is becoming more obvious by the day. Despite expressions of concern (including a letter Mr. Inhofe and 16 colleagues sent to U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan in September), we have already taken several steps on the proverbial slippery slope.

Specifically, President Bush was induced to agree to a recent “Outcome Document” issued at the U.N. “World Summit 2005” last month. It acknowledged a French-led effort to begin having “voluntary” “solidarity contributions” imposed on international airline tickets to raise development aid money. A globotax by any other name still stinks.

As it happens, visions of vast new revenue streams have helped spawn an even more preposterous, and ominous, U.N. initiative. The so-called “international community” — notably, minus for the moment at least the United States of America — has decided it needs to “control” (and presumably tax) the Internet. This information infrastructure, it will be recalled, was invented, developed and made available gratis to the world at the expense of the American taxpayer. For years, a U.S. government-created private corporation has been responsible for managing the Internet (not to be confused with “controlling” it) on behalf of the entire planet.

Now, the U.N. wants to have not one but two international committees control this information superhighway — the first in charge of “public policy” and the other responsible for “coordination.” Turning the very essence of an entrepreneurial, highly adaptive endeavor like the Internet over to stultified bureaucracies would be bad enough. Putting it in the hands of those like Communist China, Cuba and Iran who insist henceforth on a say in managing it is a formula for destroying this engine for freedom and economic growth.

To its credit, the Bush administration thus far adamantly opposes any change in how and by whom the Internet is run. Quite sensibly, it has taken the view that if ever there were a case where “if ain’t broke, don’t fix it” applied, it’s this.

Still, in this post-Iraq era when the U.S. is supposed to demonstrate at every turn its commitment to “multilateralism,” the U.N. might just get what it wants. Here is how Britain’s reflexively anti-U.S. Guardian newspaper put it in the Oct. 6 article, “Breaking America’s grip on the Net”: [T] he [American] refusal to budge only strengthened opposition, and now the world’s governments are expected to agree [to] a deal to award themselves ultimate control [over the Internet]. It will be officially raised at a U.N. summit of world leaders next month and, faced with international consensus, there is little the U.S. government can do but acquiesce.”

Actually, there would appear to be one other thing we could do: Tell the U.N. to fuggedaboutit. The United States has no intention of surrendering a tool that has done vastly more to enrich and empower the world’s people and to encourage the spread of freedom than the United Nations ever did.

The alternative is not simply to entrust to the tender mercies of the international bureaucrats and malevolent dictators the opportunity to start taxing internet transactions. That would be objectionable enough, as it would (like all globotaxation schemes) help make the U.N. less dependent on member state dues. Withholding dues is, as a practical matter, the only means available to compel even some U.N. accountability.

However, putting the United Nations in charge of the Internet would have an even worse effect: It would surely result in the eventual, if not the quite precipitous, demise of freedom’s greatest force-multiplier.

This is as good a line to draw with the United Nations as any. We will not submit to the world-governing ambitions of globocrats and the generally despotic regimes whose ideas, absurd or simply malevolent, have one thing in common: strengthening the United Nations at the expense of American sovereignty and power. Thanks, but no thanks.

Frank J. Gaffney Jr. is a columnist for The Washington Times and lead author of the coming book, “War Footing: Ten Steps America Must Take to Prevail in the War for the Free World.”

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