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 Nordic Party Members: Linkages in Troubled Times, Edited by Marie Demker, Knut Heidar, and Karina Kosiara-Pedersen

U Pay Tax 2: When Activists Tune in to International Tax

allison Christians
McGill University
allison Christians
McGill University

Activists have discovered international taxation. They have discovered that encased in the technical and obscure word of international tax policy lies a treasure trove of cash, hidden from public view, and used in service of anti-social projects. With an apparently global revenue crisis leading to harsh austerity measures and the dismantling of the welfare state serving as the backdrop for public consciousness, activists have seized on the incongruity created by the conspicuously growing yet untouchable wealth in the hands of Google, Apple and U2 as a rallying call for involvement in tax policy by those who are not-government, not-corporate, and not-elite. Activists thus seek to insert themselves into a previously inaccessible policymaking arena, to act as watchdogs against self-dealing and collusion between government and the private sector to the detriment of society. The primary goal is to spur public reaction against the tax policy norms, and the tax policy norm-creators, that have created a status quo in which those with the greatest means in society seem to contribute far less than they could or ought to.
This paper will trace the rise of the international tax activists, the “causes” they have identified as worthy of public outcry, and the tools they propose to address these identified causes. It will examine the benefits and drawbacks of activist-led public discourse over international tax policy, and compare those benefits and drawbacks to that derived from the traditional channels and forms of such discourse. It will demonstrate that public involvement in international tax policy development has been sorely lacking, and that the policy result of this omission has been structured inequity on a global scale. It will therefore conclude that there is a need and a place for non-elite, non-experts to participate in the process of tax norm development and dissemination going forward.
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