High Tax Imperialism

The five-volume series Human Rights in Sweden covered the years 1982-1988. The series came to a sudden stop in 1989. This stop happened to coincide with major developments in the European Convention on Human Rights system, manifested in The Great Leap Eastwards. Suddenly, the system housed 41 rather than 24 member states; and the entry into force of Protocol 11 on 1 November 1998 secured that all the 41 states had granted the right of individual petition and the obligatory jurisdiction of the European Court of Human Rights.

This meant an enormous change in the character of the system. The reform attempted by Protocol 11 had been devised to take care of the shortcomings discovered in the pre-Leap system. Whether it can successfully cope with the shortcomings evident in the wake of the great expansion eastwards is definitely another matter.

What thus has taken place has meant the progressive diminution of the influence of the Nordic countries. In the early days, the four Scandinavian states (Denmark, Iceland, Norway and Sweden) meant next to a majority in the system, and Scandinavians were used to be presiding over both the European Commission and the European Court.

With the enormous increase in the number of member states, this comfortable position has long been lost. The problem of today is rather how to dominate the nomenklatura in the new member states, not so long ago belonging to the Socialist Camp. If this human rights formation has proceeded rather well, it is no doubt due to the impetus towards accepting the ideals of government under the Rule of Law that accompanied the general move from a command economy towards a 'free marker economy' in those countries, and the concomitant discrediting of the old Socialist system of government, manned by a nomenklatura of Marxist-Leninist training and persuasion.

Sweden, the biggest of the Nordic states, long credited itself with being ruled by a 'Socialist' government (by which was not meant a Communist one, although that discussion was always a bit vague and non-commital). Its Government wanted the Swedish example to show the countries under the 'dictatorship of the proletariat' (i.e. the Socialist Camp states) that the change of the economic structure of society aimed at in these countries could be achieved by fully democratic means (meaning ballots rather than bloody revolution).

Although there was a lot of hubris borealis behind this lecturing the Socialist Camp peoples, it was definitely something very sincere on the part of the Swedish political leadership of those days, and the route pointed out as leading to happiness was the one of high tax society. The essence of high tax society was that you got rid of the lawyers blocking by their arguments most change by means of private or penal law; instead you could rely almost exclusively on the tax bureaucrats who seldom saw reason to dispute a governmental initiative against citizens, provided that the latter were dressed as 'tax payers'. This phenomenon - baptized as high tax absolutism - was central to the changes that took place in Sweden of the 1970s and which are summarized in this book as a system of high tax imperialism.

If you look back at the developments of those days, realizing moreover the importance of the Rule of Law guarantees embedded in the European Convention on Human Rights, and considering the interrelationship between the system of high tax imperialism, on the one hand, and the European Convention which since 1995 has been declared to be Swedish statute law, on the other hand, a very interesting picture emerges. It has been considered to be sufficiently interesting to warrant the publication of a Separate Report on the matter in the Human Rights in Sweden series.

The present study which once was produced in a modest form for use at the Strasbourg Colloquy of 1980, devoted to tax avoidance and tax evasion practices in Europe, seems to have new merits in the world of today which has arisen in the wake of the Great Leap Eastwards. The fact that some people in the European Union seem to long for a Europe-wide system of high tax imperialism, to be implemented in the future, is believed to be at least no bar to getting an international readership, in spite of the Swedish colouring of the discussion.

Stockholm, April 13, 2000

Jacob W.F. Sundberg

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