' Frank J. Gaffney, Jr.
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Jewish World Review Oct. 21, 2005 / 18 Tishrei 5766

Frank J. Gaffney, Jr.

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The Un-Internet


http://www.NewsAndOpinion.com | Every once in a while an idea so goofy comes along that 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 UN is involved, it is wise to prepare for the worst.

A case in point is the idea that 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 it is beginning to gain traction.

One particularly ambitious version has in mind having the UN charge a couple of pennies for every dollar's worth of international currency transactions. By some estimates, this globotax could net the UN $13 trillion each year in revenues. Why even the kleptocratic international civil servants of Oil-for-Food notoriety could manage to cobble together a world government with that kind of income stream!

Fortunately, the dangers inherent in such wooly-headed plans for using international taxation-without-representation to float the UN's boat has precipitated strong opposition in the US Congress. In July, at the initiative of the now-Acting Majority Leader, Roy Blunt (Republican of Missouri), the House of Representatives adopted an amendment that would bar the US from supporting or being subjected to globotaxes. Oklahoma Republican Senator 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 Sen. Inhofe and sixteen of his colleagues sent to UN 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 UN's "World Summit 2005" last month. It acknowledged a France-led effort to begin having "voluntary" "solidarity contributions" imposed on international airline tickets to raise money for development assistance. 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, UN 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 UN 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 having a say in its management is a formula for destroying this engine for freedom and economic growth.

To its credit, the Bush Administration has thus far adamantly opposed 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 here. Still, in this post-Iraq era when the U.S. is supposed to be demonstrating at every turn its commitment to "multilateralism," the UN might just get what it wants. Here is the way Britain's reflexively anti-American Guardian newspaper put it in an October 6th article headlined "Breaking America's Grip on the Net":

…the [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 UN 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 UN 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 has ever done.

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 United Nations less dependent on member states' dues. The withholding of such dues amounts, as a practical matter, to the only instrument available to compel even a measure of UN accountability.

Putting the United Nations in charge of the Internet would have an even worse effect, though: 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.

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JWR contributor Frank J. Gaffney, Jr. heads the Center for Security Policy. Send your comments to him by clicking here.

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© 2005, Frank J. Gaffney, Jr.