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Tobin Tax: not quite the Fourth Reich

I suppose it is a short step from accusing both Gordon Brown and David Cameron of wanting to ‘Sovietise’ Britain to proclaiming Angela Merkel guilty of stealing pages from the Hitler playbook.

But it is analysis and insight of precisely this calibre, nuance and measured tone that has made rightwing commentator Simon Heffer the intellectual power in the land that he has today become.

As those of you that keep up with the news even in August will be aware, Ms Merkel yesterday met French president Nicolas Sarkozy and came up with a plan to rescue Portugal, Ireland, Greece and Spain from economic collapse.

Interestingly, among their proposals is a Tobin Tax. That’s right, exactly the same kind of levy on financial transactions that we lefties have been demanding for years.  About ten years ago, we used to argue that such a measure could alleviate world hunger, only to be told that it couldn’t possibly be enacted without driving a stake through the very heart of wealth creation.

Thankfully, it looks like it can be done after all. Indeed, Merkel and Sarkozy are describing it as ‘a priority’, and they will be pushing for the EU to adopt the policy. Except instead of the money going to feed starving African kiddies, governments will pocket the cash and then recycle it to bankers.

This, Heffer proclaims in the Daily Mail this morning, is tantamount to the declaration a Fourth Reich, brought to you this time not by panzers and Messerschmitts and hoards of marauding Waffen SS Einsatzgruppen, but crack troops of combat-hardened financial regulators.

We have heard this brand of hyperbole before, of course. Back in 1990, Nicholas Ridley was forced to resign as trade secretary after describing Economic and Monetary Union as ‘a German racket designed to take over the whole of Europe’. Seemingly the Tory right never has quite forgiven the Jerries for kicking it off twice in the last century. Top marks for sensitivity, guys.

Merkozy’s call for a unified financial government across the eurozone looks more like lovebombing than the backdoor conquest of Europe to me. Sure, Germany gets some guaranteed export markets out of it. But if former German leaders have to be invoked on this one, the comparison is with Adenauer and not Adolf.

Or maybe I shouldn’t make jokes on this one. After all, the Third Reich didn’t have much of a sense of humour when dealing with its critics.

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