There is now a proposal before the United Nations that the United States enter into a treaty giving the U.N. the authority to tax our citizens. It is in the report, “In Search of New Development Finance” placed on the General Assembly’s agenda by the U.N. Economic and Social Council.
The treaty would authorize the U.N. to tax the following:
• Buying and selling of stocks, bonds and mutual funds.
• Buying and selling of the U.S. Dollar, the Euro, the Yen, and British Pounds Sterling.
• Airline tickets and carbon emissions.
• One percent tax on billionaires.
• Minerals taken from the sea floor more than 100 miles from any nation.
The U.N. report continues, “These proposals are subject to political controversy. For instance, many countries are not willing to support international forms of taxation, as these are said to undermine national sovereignty.” But, the report concludes, “…the time has come to confront the challenge.”
This sounds preposterous. Could we give to the U.N. the authority to tax us? Would it be constitutional?
The Constitution is clear on the power to make treaties. It rests with the President with the agreement of 2/3 of the Senate present (Art. II, Sect. 2). That means that the President can sign a treaty and it takes effect if 2/3 of the Senators who attend the session vote for it.
The Constitution doesn’t say 2/3 of all Senators must approve of a treaty; it just says 2/3 of those present to vote. If the Senate could be convened when only some attend, 2/3 of them could render it approved under the Constitution.
Would we have to obey such a treaty? After all, it would give away our sovereignty.
The Constitution is clear on that subject as well. Article VI says, “The Constitution…and all Treaties made…shall be the supreme Law of the Land; and the Judges in every State shall be bound thereby;…”
Did the Founders intend a treaty like this to be legal? Probably the single best source of their intentions is The Federalist – that collection of the letters of Madison, Hamilton and Jay that explained what they meant.
Madison reasoned that a treaty is a power of general government with which “to regulate intercourse with foreign nations (Federalist #42). By intercourse, the Founders meant trade, of course, and in that sense taxation would fall within Madison’s intent.
The question of what constitutes a foreign nation, on the other hand, might very well not include the United Nations, as he intends it. Madison maintained that to be sovereign, a nation must have the authority over its subjects to enter into agreements and to enforce them (essay, Union, 1835). The Founders were familiar with “Leagues” of States and Madison likely would have judged that the U.N. has no more international taxing authority than the Leagues of his day.
John Jay maintained that a treaty, by its nature, must be “conducive to the public good” (#64). Should it be obtained through corruption, it would be “null and void by the law of nations.” His remedy for bad behavior in treaty making by the President? Impeachment.
Hamilton referred to treaties as contracts with foreign nations, derived from “the obligations of good faith” (#75). He insisted that the object of treaties must be to support the national peace.
Taken together, it appears that the Founders intended that there be wide latitude in treaty making, so long as the parties to a treaty be sovereign nations.
A President and a small group of Senators could give our taxing power to the U.N. and dare the dissenters to stop them. If they were able to get the concurrence of the 2/3 of Senators voting in a hastily convened session, such a treaty would be the supreme law of the land until or unless the dissenters could mount a successful challenge in the Supreme Court or could bring impeachment proceedings. In the ensuing years, the flood gates of taxation by the U.N. could be flung wide open.
Is this a likely scenario? Attempts have been made very quietly in the past and have gotten nowhere. The proponents have worked behind the scenes for fear of widespread condemnation, But, the increase in calls for a “New World Order” and for redistribution of global wealth make it more likely than ever.
Now, some people think that no President would dream of trying this or that our system would not allow a President to do this. Read the Constitution and judge for yourself.