I watched the Disney version of Robin Hood again last weekend. I haven’t seen the new Robin Hood movie yet, but it seems that the ideas of the Robin Hood story are everywhere these days, from debates between the Left and Right to claim the legend as their own, to re-imagining various scenarios of taxation and economic reality. Here’s a sampling:
1.) Rise Up Economics urges Progressives to use the opportunity of the new Robin Hood movie release, not to mention the anti-taxation Populism of the Tea Party Movement, to create a vision of Robin Hood Economics, not unlike the shared economic wealth that is distributed among citizens of Alaska (in this respect, more than living up to its motto as The Last Frontier):
“The state of Alaska has had a successful experience for 26 years providing an equal dividend from its oil revenues to all residents living there for a year or more. It has helped make Alaska the state with the most economic equality in the nation. There they have applied a key idea of one of the intellectual leaders of the American Revolution, Thomas Paine: the right of everyone to participate in the wealth of the nation.”
2.) Progressives are demanding an infusion of the vision of Robin Hood into the (hopefully imminent) reforming of Wall Street. Laurie Essig points out that “there is a letter signed by more than 60 lawmakers to the to the Department of Justice demanding a criminal investigation of Goldman Sachs.” It also includes more than 140,000 signatures from concerned citizens.
3.) This use of the Robin Hood spirit has already been employed (no pun intended) by a German banker, who “admitted to using bank accounts of wealthy customers to float struggling ones,” reports BuzzFlash.com.
4.) And a new British organization called The Robin Hood Tax is calling for “a tiny tax on bankers that would give billions to tackle poverty and climate change here and abroad.” How tiny? 0.05%. Their campaign features this video, starring long-time actor and Oxfam Global Ambassador Bill Nighy (as The Banker):
5.) A host of organizations (see Links in column to the right) have been using the spirit of Robin Hood to support progressive-minded folks who use their wealth philanthropically for societal change, as per the book Robin Hood Was Right: A Guide to Giving Your Money for Social Change, by Chuck Collins.
Regardless of the intentions of the original story of Robin Hood, or the purposes behind the seemingly-always-in-production updated reinterpretations of the legend, the cultural myth that is Robin Hood speaks to socio-economic issues that are ever-present in our culture: overtaxation vs. providing for citizens, accountable wealth vs. rights of entrepreneurship. What is the role of government? And when does one person’s (market) freedom infringe on the freedoms of others to effectively live lives of their own choosing?
These are essential issues, and are likely to continue to be debated for some time. Which means that Robin Hood will likely continue to be with us for some time as well.