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ECPR Summer School in Methods & Techniques 2020

The Political Contestation of Global Tax Governance

Henning Schmidtke
German Institute of Global And Area Studies
Henning Schmidtke
German Institute of Global And Area Studies

Growing fiscal interdependence calls for enhanced international cooperation to reduce negative externalities. Among other things, this demand has been spurring a shift of political decision making authority to the international level. Not least since the outbreak of the current economic crisis both the European Union (EU) and the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) coordinate and harmonize national tax systems in order to prevent harmful tax competition, illegal and legal forms of tax avoidance. This influence of international actors raises the question of whether these decisions on taxation – historically linked to the emergence of democratic participation - go unnoticed in the wider public. Do citizens recognize the changing nature of decision making on their taxes, and if so, how do they evaluate it? This question is of relevance because public opposition to the influence of supranational actors could impose limits to global tax governance whereas public demand for international cooperation could exert pressure on national and international actors to advance cooperation efforts. My empirical contribution examines the public contestation of global tax governance with a specific view to evaluations of the EU’s and the OECD’s engagement in the field of taxation in the period from 1981 to 2011. A content analysis of evaluative statements in the quality press of four western democracies – Switzerland, Germany, Ireland and the United States provides the empirical material for the study. It compares debates on both organizations, looks into national variance, and analyzes developments over time. Particular attention is paid to the normative criteria different speakers apply in there evaluations. Is national interest still a major concern or can we also observe reverences to European issues and is it the effectiveness of global tax governance or the nature of the decision making process, which is of more importance to the public?
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