Saturday, March 17, 2012

The faith of progress...

...and its associated zealotry is one of the most dangerous concepts known to man. The following excerpt is from one of the various "tax justice" sites, the tempo and cadence of their rhetoric should be familiar to many readers here by now.

This concept of "if only" conditions based on the goal of "justice" is simply irresponsible. That model has consistently concentrated power throughout history with disasterous results. This particular tax justice musing is nothing more than the tyranny of majority complaining about smaller countries making a niche because their services are so desperately wanted. In addition, there is no words or analysis on WHY there is such a massive incentive to park assets off-shore exists. Furthermore, the estimates included are unsupported and likely presented for shock value. It is also telling what the "missing tax receipts" would be used for.

Assets held offshore, beyond the reach of effective taxation, are equal to about a third of total global assets. Over half of all world trade passes through tax havens. Developing countries lose revenues far greater than annual aid flows. We estimate that the amount of funds held offshore by individuals is about $11.5 trillion – with a resulting annual loss of tax revenue on the income from these assets of about 250 billion dollars. This is five times what the World Bank estimated in 2002 was needed to address the UN Millenium Development Goal of halving world poverty by 2015. This much money could also pay to transform the world’s energy infrastructure to tackle climate change. In 2007 the World Bank has endorsed estimates by Global Financial Integrity (GFI) that the cross-border flow of the global proceeds from criminal activities, corruption, and tax evasion at US$1-1.6 trillion per year, half from developing and transitional economies. In 2009 GFI's updated research estimated that the annual cross-border flows from developing countries alone amounts to approximately US$850 billion - US$1.1 trillion per year.

11.5 Trillion dollars? Global GDP is 60 Trillion. Does that make sense? Then we get into fantasy land. If only those assets were taxed, poverty could be eradicated.

Offshore finance is not only based in islands and small states: `offshore’ has become an insidious growth within the entire global system of finance. The largest financial centres such as London and New York, and countries like Switzerland and Singapore, offer secrecy and other special advantages to attract foreign capital flows. As corrupt dictators and other √©lites strip their countries’ financial assets and relocate them to these financial centres, developing countries’ economies are deprived of local investment capital and their governments are denied desperately needed tax revenues. This helps capital flow not from capital-rich countries to poor ones, as traditional economic theories might predict, but, perversely, in the other direction.
Countries that lose tax revenues become more dependent on foreign aid. Recent research has shown, for example, that sub-Saharan Africa is a net creditor to the rest of the world in the sense that external assets, measured by the stock of capital flight, exceed external liabilities, as measured by the stock of external debt. The difference is that while the assets are in private hands, the liabilities are the public debts of African governments and their people. (Read more)
Globalisation and international trade and finance have got a bad name of late. Each brings opportunities, and risks. We must now start to address seriously what may be the biggest risk of all: tax abuse, and tax havens and everything they stand for.


Capital flows to high returns and (more importantly) safety. Taxation or confiscation of assets will not help governments achieve any more or less order if the legal and cultural infrastructure is broken. To assert that "if only sub-saharan governments had more money, there would be no poverty in those countries" confuses causes and effects. It also assumes Government is this eternal construct that is morally unimpeachable when the reality is no country on this planet is more than a couple of centuries old...and all of them have sacrificed reputation in the name of expediency. The U.S. itself did this during the French Revolution when it refused to pay France on debts incurred during the American Revolution because those debts were owed to the French Crown as opposed to the nascent French Republic.

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