Not all secret offshore accounts are slimy, but some are. This week a huge leak of documents from a Panamanian law firm indicated that billions upon billions of dollars are being hidden away from governments in order to avoid the payment of taxes.
Economist and writer Thomas Piketty is famed for his 2014 book Capital in the Twenty-First Century. This week the well-regarded British Columbia-based online magazine, The Tyee, revisited the work of Piketty:
“In one column, published five years ago on April 5, 2011, Piketty offers what is almost a throw-away line: ‘… at the world level, the net financial position is negative over-all, which is logically impossible unless we assume that on average we’re owned by the planet Mars. More likely, this contradiction suggests that a non-negligible share of financial assets held in tax havens and by non-residents is not correctly reported as such.’
“In other words, every country in the world is losing money, and therefore losing tax revenue. The implication is that every country is making up for the loss either by taxing its poorer residents more than they should be, or by cutting social services.
“Five years later, almost to the day, the Guardian and the German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung broke a major global scandal: the Panama Papers.”
You can get Capital In The Twenty-First Century via interlibrary loan.
As for Panama itself, spy thriller writer John Le Carré spent time researching the country before he published The Tailor Of Panama in 1996. “Harry” makes suits for Panama’s elite, and ingratiates himself along the way. It’s written around the handover of the Panama Canal.
This is from the New York Times review: “Although The Tailor of Panama starts out on a lighter, comic note than most le Carré novels…. it grows darker and more disturbing as it progresses. As it does so, it recapitulates the themes that have animated the author’s work from the beginning: betrayal of friends and loved ones versus betrayal of a cause; the affinities between artists and criminals, dreamers and con men; the malleability of reality and the elusiveness of truth.”
Le Carré, who is British, talked about the book that same year in The Paris Review: “What I see in my country, progressively over these years, is that the rich have got richer, the poor have got poorer. The rich have become indifferent through a philosophy of greed, and the poorer have become hopeless because they’re not properly cared for. That’s actually something that is happening in many Western societies.… It’s certainly something one could see in process in the microcosm of Panama. There are vastly rich people there. Insiders will tell you that the country is still run by about thirty people, people who generate huge wealth and carve the thing up between themselves.”
The Tailor Of Panama is filed in the Lennoxville Library in Adult Fiction. The book was made into a movie; the DVD is filed at DT-27.
— April 2016