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Economist James Tobin first proposed a tax on cross-border currency transactions in the 1970s. The financial crisis has revived the idea of a “Tobin tax” and it was endorsed by Adair Turner, chairman of the Financial Services Authority, in Prospect’s September issue.

A Tobin tax would need to be applied more widely than merely on currency transactions, which could be easily disguised in derivatives trading. A recent study by the Austrian government estimated that a 0.05 per cent Tobin tax imposed on all financial trades in Britain would raise £100bn a year—even assuming a two-thirds drop in transactions. This is…

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