Steven C. Roach – American Professor of International Relations

Steven C. Roach (born November 1, 1964) is an American professor of International Relations who writes on global ethics, the politics of international law, critical international theory, minority rights, and South Sudan’s politics. He is currently Director of Graduate Programs (Ph.D. MA, MLA. MALACS) at the School of Interdisciplinary Global Studies at the University of South Florida.

Education and Career

Roach earned his doctorate from the Josef Korbel School of International Studies at the University of Denver in 2002. He received his M.A from San Francisco State University in 1995 and his BA from Colgate University in 1987. From 2002 to 2005 he was appointed visiting professor at Colorado State University at Pueblo and a visiting lecturer at the University of Colorado Boulder. In 2020, he served as the country expert of a USAID work team and its Democracy, Human Rights, and Governance (DRG) assessment report of South Sudan. Professor Steven Roach is a member of several editorial and consultancy boards.

Ethical Values and Global Politics

A central focus of Roach’s work is the interaction of ethical values and political power. His recent work uses the relationship between decency and moral accountability to study the growing political pressures that threaten the liberal international order. In a 2016 interview with E-IR, he points out that the gap between humanitarian values and emotion has never been greater; that it is not simply the hostile emotions that explain right-wing populism, but liberalism’s detachment from these sentiments.

Politics of International Law

Roach is one the first political scientists to systematically explore the political forces shaping the International Criminal Court. His notion of political legalism functions as a pragmatic instrument to study how best to bring justice to the worst perpetrators of serious crimes. In an article published by Global Governance, he argues that the court cannot escape the effects of operating in an international system. It needs to confront this difficult and complex political reality of the ICC by devising new ways of thinking about its agency and by adopting the political strategies needed to balance the demand for global justice against the constraints of the international system.

Governance in South Sudan

Roach has conducted extensive field research in South Sudan and written on the many challenges of governance in South Sudan, Africa’s 54th state. His short essays have appeared in Foreign Affairs, African Arguments, and the Cairo Review of Global Affairs, and in 2019, he co-edited The Challenge of Governance in South Sudan. In 2017, he published an article in International Affairs, which argued that the unstable politics of accountability stems of South Sudan’s undeveloped institutions.

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New article (coming soon) on minimum taxes

I’ve just completed a new article draft, entitled “What Are Minimum Taxes, and Why Might One Favor or Disfavor Them?” It addresses, among other topics:

(1) the purposive, technical, and semantic contours of what the term “minimum tax” is generally used to mean, along with the reasons why these matter – relating, for example, to the creation of clientele effects and discontinuous marginal incentives,

(2 the lessons to be learned from the rise and fall of the alternative minimum tax (AMT),

(3) the Biden versus Warren design question of whether, if one gave tax consequences to highly profitable companies’ financial statement accounting income, this should involve the use of a minimum tax structure or a standalone structure,

(4) the relationship between avowed minimum taxes and provisions, such as loss nonrefundability and applying foreign tax credit limitations, that set a zero percent floor on a particular tax rate,

(5) the issues posed by global minimum taxes, including GILTI in U.S. law and the OECD’s recent GloBE minimum tax proposal.

In general I am quite skeptical about minimum taxes, although there may at times be optical or political economy reasons for preferring them to a given, limited set of realistically available alternatives.

I’ll post it on SSRN soon, but probably not until I get some feedback from presenting it. The problem with posting too soon is that some of one’s readership looks at it too early, before it’s been improved. Barring travel restrictions from the coronavirus, I’ll be presenting it at the Critical Tax Conference in Gainesville, FL, on April 3 or 4, and then at the Maurer Law School’s 2020 Tax Policy Colloquium (in Bloomington, IN) on April 9. Also possibly in Oxford this summer, if international travel is feasible.

Embracing (or not) new technologies

I made the transition to Kindle long ago, a format that many whom I know have resisted. I still read physical books too, but I find the Kindle format (on an iPad) reasonably manageable. Plus:

(1) books that interest me go on sale periodically on Kindle (reflecting the zero marginal cost to the seller), so if you’re patient then pounce it can work well,

(2) I don’t have to further crowd the shelves of my home library (I have an old school aversion to throwing books out),

(3) I can stand reading it on my iPhone in the subway, and

(4) it’s nice to be able to go on vacation and have dozens of choices at hand without cramming one’s suitcase.

But I hadn’t tried audiobooks, until the last few days, when I’ve started using Audible. The draws were:

(1) it’s free for a month, and I can ditch it after that if it isn’t working for me,

(2) you get two free books when you start, then I think one a month. So I can get things that I’ve had on my patient-then-pounce list for months or years, and

(3) when I’m at the health club, it can be hard finding music that I want to listen to right at that moment. (I’m an album person, reflecting the technology of my youth, so I don’t go much for letting Spotify choose.)

But I don’t know yet if Audible will work for me. I’ve started on Jon Clinch’s quite delightful novel, Marley. But I miss small things in the narrative, and seem reluctant to go back 30 seconds, as it lets you do. I’ve always known what’s generally happening, but the details of his often flashy (in a good way) writing sometimes speed by me unapprehended.

Being at a noisy health club with headphones, and peddling away on a mechanical device while giant TV screens loom in front of one’s eyes, admittedly isn’t the ideal way to focus on a book. It might work better to listen while driving long distances, but as a New Yorker I don’t do that. Perhaps while walking? (This being something that New Yorkers, myself included, do a lot.) But it’s under 10 minutes to work (not to complain), and the last couple of days have simply been too cold anyway.

One rather obvious thing about reading is that, if you like, you can actually read every single word. Indeed, if you want to and the book is well-written, you can even pause every now and then to savor things. Audible is not well-suited for that. But then again, it can potentially expand my reading horizons by a few hours a week, as well perhaps as making health club visits feel shorter.

Will I stay or will I go; don’t know yet.

Cover art for “Literature and Inequality”

The cover art for my forthcoming (April 1) Anthem Press book, Literature and Inequality, is now set. It’s a public domain image of a caricature of Charles T. Yerkes (aka Frank Cowperwood in Dreiser’s The Financier and The Titan) that was drawn in 1905 by Max Beerbohm. You can see it here.

I had been intrigued by the idea of using, for the cover, the image you can see at the far right here, but couldn’t determine where the rights to it might reside.

Upcoming tax event at Columbia Business School

Next Monday (February 24) at the Columbia Business School, I’ll be participating in a panel discussion that is entitled “The Global Consequences of the US Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017. Event and registration info are available here. My co-panelists will be Joseph Stiglitz and Stephan Eilers.
Although I will aim to be measured and fair, I will not, on balance, be adhering to the old maxim that states: “If you don’t have something nice to say, don’t say anything at all.” 

Revised paper on digital services taxes and the source of income

I have posted on SSRN a revised, and pretty close to final, version of my paper, Digital Service Taxes and the Broader Shift from Determining the Source of Income to Taxing Location Specific Rents. Available here. I’ll be submitting it shortly to the Singapore Journal of Legal Studies for expected publication there, in keeping with the lecture on the topic that I gave at NUS Law on January 14.

The main change this time around was simply to fill in the footnotes (with the help of my research assistant).

ABA slides on the BEIT, raising income tax rates, and broadening the estate and gift tax

As discussed in prior posts, last Friday I participated in a panel at the ABA Tax Section Annual Meeting in Boca Raton, FL, along with co-panelists Roger Royse, Linda Beale, and Richard Prisinzano. The panel discussed the rising U.S. wealth gap between the very rich and everyone else, and sought to lay out, in a reasonably neutral and balanced way, various options for responding, such as via enactment of a wealth tax.

As we divided up the issues among the panelists, my comments (and share of the slides) focused on Ed Kleinbard’s dual BEIT proposal, and on recent talk of raising income tax and/or estate and gift tax rates at the top.

Not a whole lot of brand-new or startling content here, but in particular because I offered a well-deserved shout-out for, and brief summary of, the dual BEIT, I am attaching my portion of the session slides here.