In two messages over at The Peace Tax Seven Message Forum Simon Heywood and Robin Brookes (both members of the Peace Tax Seven) take issue with my recent criticism of “Peace Tax Fund” schemes. Simon Heywood writes:
Peace tax isn’t just diverted away from the military, it’s diverted into a fund for non-military security (NMS), including pro-active conflict resolution and transformation and international development. When people tick the box, the war fund goes down by X pounds, and the peace fund goes up by X pounds, accountably, funding more development, more expert work with conflict situations, more research, better understanding of the contexts of crises, more intelligent policy-making, more considered, focused and sparing (and/or no) use of military force, and (finally) fewer ruined lives. Even if a government then compensates by diverting X pounds from (say) the health service to the war fund, the peace fund still benefits by the same amount — and so, consequently, does the world…
[T]his would not be an “accounting gimmick” but an action which would make government accountable for some of the money it spends since the amount diverted would be ring fenced. It would then be up to activists, perhaps through a “Commission for Peace” cf. ministryforpeace.org.uk, to keep an eye on how it is spent.
I tend to think of the peace tax issue as the thin end of the wedge and if other peace organisations got behind it, the whole peace/non-violent conflict resolution movement could voice their angle. We could get a more public airing of peace issues and get more people on our side.
I have doubts whether the government would accept a check box on the tax form. They are more likely to want to set up some tribunal system, perhaps within the county court system. This would in fact keep the issues alive with news of hearings and their results.
This seems a more effective and thorough “peace tax” than what I had envisioned in my criticism, although I’m skeptical about how “ring-fenced” this fund will be, knowing what I know about how the government treats its other such funds. However this proposal also seems far less likely to make much headway in the legislature, largely because it requires so much more than a simple checkbox (ministries, watchdogs, etc.) and also because it seems designed to be more effective at doing what its proponents would like it to do.
At this point my criticism changes from “why try to get the government to grant a symbolic victory that won’t mean much” to “if you’re going to ask the government for such an unlikely concession, why not go for something more directly to-the-point (e.g. nuclear disarmament, permanent abolition of the draft, etc.)?”
But everybody’s got their own battles to choose, and I’m sure from many perspectives mine seem no less ridiculous.