Book of the Month: Matti Kohonen and Francine Mestrum Eds, “Tax Justice”

January 9, 2009 12:00 am Published by Leave your thoughts

In recent months the inherent failures of under-regulated financial markets have been exposed on a global scale. Reporters, columnists, economists and politicians have clamoured to tell the public what has gone wrong. Solutions, other than short-term fiscal stimuli, have been harder to come by. Tax Justice, a new book edited by Matti Kohonen and Francine Mestrum, attempts to begin this process by developing new models of global taxation and regulation that, the authors argue, will lead to a more just and stable world.

Split into three distinct sections, this collection of essays is essential reading for anyone who wants to understand how public finances work on a global scale, how the often secretive world of tax havens allows for huge sums of money to be lost, and those who wish to begin exploring the possibilities for reform. As Tax Justice exemplifies, history tells us that in times of disaster reform is often easier to achieve. The choice we face is whether it takes the form of positive changes to environmental policy – “It is largely a consequence of reactions to the Second Oil Shock in 1979 ‘ that Denmark today manages to cover 25 per cent of its energy consumption with wind power. Public subsidies paved the way with research and development, certification, testing and standardisation to build an industry with exports over $7 billion in 2007” – or the numerous and negative examples given by Naomi Klein in The Shock Doctrine.

As governments around the world take on more debt and as international trade continues to slow down, issues concerning taxation, inequality and development are going to become increasingly important and contested. When the time comes for debts to be repaid, who will foot the bill? As richer nations search for savings how can international development continue? How can economic growth and environmental protection be achieved together?

In order to see economic and social justice, solutions to the above problems, according to Kohonen and Mestrum, must centre around global solidarity. While national sovereignty is important, they argue that ‘we must map out a global public that could set out rules and conventions for the new spheres that globalisation has opened up’. In essence, global problems require global solutions.

Over recent months, many people have predicted the end of free-market ideology, but few have offered an alternative. Ranging from issues surrounding income inequality to environmental taxation, from corruption in Kenya to the United States housing market, Tax Justice offers a timely plan which may help avoid future economic meltdown and bring about a fairer global society.

“Tax Justice – Putting Global Inequality on the Agenda” Edited by Matti Kohonen and Francine Mestrum is published by Pluto Press.

For more information about issues raised in this book visit

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This post was written by Matt Genner

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