Est. May 2008

30 October, 2012

The ‘Robin Hood Law’

Over at Political Outcast, John De Mayo has written regarding a new law proposed by Keith Ellison (D-MN) which ‘seeks to tax all Wall Street financial transactions to provide “the revenue needed to invest in the education, health and communities of the American people.”’  Mr. Ellison has dubbed this the ‘Robin Hood Tax’, and though the post itself points out how closely this sort of tax aligns with Islamic financial law, I want to look more closely at the nickname it’s received.

When you ask people to describe what Robin Hood did, most often you’ll hear something along the lines of , ‘He robbed/stole/took from the rich and gave to the poor’. When pressed on who the ‘rich’ were, few people would give the proper answer, however.

Here’s the description of what Robin Hood’s ‘robbing the rich’ meant, taken from Howard Pyle’s The Adventures of Robin Hood (Kindle edition, all emphases mine):
But Robin Hood lay hidden in Sherwood Forest for one year, and in that time there gathered around him many others like himself, cast out from other folk for this cause and for that. Some had shot deer in hungry wintertime, when they could get no other food, and had been seen in the act by the foresters, but had escaped, thus saving their ears; some had been turned out of their inheritance, that their farms might be added to the King's lands in Sherwood Forest; some had been despoiled by a great baron or a rich abbot or a powerful esquire—all, for one cause or another, had come to Sherwood to escape wrong and oppression. So, in all that year, fivescore or more good stout yeomen gathered about Robin Hood, and chose him to be their leader and chief. Then they vowed that even as they themselves had been despoiled they would despoil their oppressors, whether baron, abbot, knight, or squire, and that from each they would take that which had been wrung from the poor by unjust taxes, or land rents, or in wrongful fines. But to the poor folk they would give a helping hand in need and trouble, and would return to them that which had been unjustly taken from them.
So, who were ‘the poor’?  They were the people who worked the land for their landlords (there were very few ‘free’ people at the time; most worked in a type of indentured servitude to their masters) and people like tinkers and merchants, who had to pay taxes to the Crown.  Who were ‘the rich’?  The king and his land-owning compatriots, including the church.  How did they become rich?  Through ‘unjust taxes, or land rents, or in wrongful fines’.  They were the contemporary versions of greedy, politically-connected men and women who for all intents and purposes governed everyone else.

Today, we call them the State.

So to call Mr. Ellison’s new proposal the ‘Robin Hood Tax’ is a gold-star oxymoron; Robin Hood was against unjust and usurious taxation of the people by the Crown and by those who were connected to it.

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