Panama Papers: “Journalism” in the Service of the Omniscient State

 

shutterstock_397698664As you’ve likely heard, the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists has published a tell-all about heads of state, their associates, and their families using offshore companies to hide their assets. But while you’re being inundated with innuendo the evil of wanting privacy, remember these things:

There are legitimate uses for offshore companies, foundations, and trusts. We do not intend to suggest or imply that any persons, companies or other entities included in the ICIJ Power Players interactive application have broken the law or otherwise acted improperly.

That’s from the ICIJ site. Although they clearly are suggesting and implying these things.

The desire to minimize one’s taxes is relied upon by governments (at the same time as they seek to criminalise it). It is a natural desire. After all, taxation is theft; legalized theft, but theft nonetheless.

The desire to live your life without intrusion — leaving the room when you receive a personal call on your mobile phone, putting a letter inside an opaque envelope, having curtains, wearing clothes — is also natural. And the basis of true human agency. Which is to say, being human.

This is not about corruption. This is not about morality. This is not about people paying their fair share. This is not about the dictators and the criminals. This is about state control over every aspect of your life. Don’t let lazy journalists and the envious commentariat distract you from that fact.

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  1. Ball Diamond Ball Inactive
    Ball Diamond Ball
    @BallDiamondBall

    This is reminiscent of the crime of “structuring”, wherein the government sets a surveillance threshold of $10,000+ money movements, and then *prosecutes* you for moving $9,000.

    I understand the point, so please nobody explain to me how this works.  I simply maintain that it’s wrong.

    • #1
  2. Tenacious D Inactive
    Tenacious D
    @TenaciousD

    I agree with your point, Genferei. At the same time, I hope some conservatives can seize this as a teaching moment. Apparently there are a lot of actors on the list. If some of them are the usual suspects who are always calling for others to pay their fair share, let them own it. Conservative calls for lower or flat taxes aren’t about pushing old ladies over a cliff, they’re about ensuring a level playing field even for people who can’t afford the services of Panamanian lawyers (among other things). Saint Augustine had a good post yesterday about lowering the cost of honesty (w.r.t. Netflix) and how it can promote the rule of law.

    And when it comes to the dictators and FIFA execs, I’d challenge anyone to explain how the state collecting more money would lead to less of that sort of corruption.

    • #2
  3. Tenacious D Inactive
    Tenacious D
    @TenaciousD

    So far I’ve only read the coverage in the Toronto Star, who were classy enough to share the names and faces of a couple of people who incorporated in Panama to own vacation condos there.

    • #3
  4. I Walton Member
    I Walton
    @IWalton

    We have to be careful how we use these obvious and ancient practices to go after people we don’t like, or to push transparency abroad.  Easy money movement like easy trade imposes costs on bad policies.  They are essential to remind us what we are doing

    • #4
  5. iWe Coolidge
    iWe
    @iWe

    It is fun and instructive to see how those who embezzle money from their own people find places and ways to stash the money. I am talking, of course, of those in charge of tinpot states like Russia.

    In most countries, it is not illegal to have assets overseas. The US has effectively criminalized it, by levying punitive regulations on those who have foreign accounts. But the international norm is to leave foreign assets alone, which is a key part of the success of the United Kingdom: they do not tax citizens or residents on their foreign income. So a great many people there have accounts in Jersey and the like.

    Consequently, people like living in the UK. This policy has provided decades of net foreign investment in the UK.

    • #5
  6. PHCheese Inactive
    PHCheese
    @PHCheese

    All my overseas money is underwater.

    • #6
  7. Misthiocracy Member
    Misthiocracy
    @Misthiocracy

    Curiously, one of the biggest offshore tax havens these days for the world’s wealthiest people is, apparently … the United States.

    America seems not to feel bound by the global rules being crafted as a result of its own war on tax-dodging. It is also failing to tackle the anonymous shell companies often used to hide money. The Tax Justice Network, a lobby group, calls the United States one of the world’s top three “secrecy jurisdictions”, behind Switzerland and Hong Kong. All this adds up to “another example of how the US has elevated exceptionalism to a constitutional principle,” says Richard Hay of Stikeman Elliott, a law firm. “Europe has been outfoxed.” […]

    No one knows how much undeclared money is stashed offshore. Estimates range from a couple of trillion dollars to $30 trillion. What is clear is that America’s share is growing. Already the largest location for managing foreign wealth, it has picked up business as regulators have increased information-exchange and scrutiny of banks and trust companies in Europe and the Caribbean. Money is said to be flowing in from the Bahamas and Bermuda, as well as from Switzerland.

    • #7
  8. Marion Evans Inactive
    Marion Evans
    @MarionEvans

    Genferei, I have a Panama canal to sell you.

    • #8
  9. iWe Coolidge
    iWe
    @iWe

    Misthiocracy: Already the largest location for managing foreign wealth, it has picked up business as regulators have increased information-exchange and scrutiny of banks and trust companies in Europe and the Caribbean. Money is said to be flowing in from the Bahamas and Bermuda, as well as from Switzerland.

    I really do not not understand how this is done in the US. Private companies surely have the same bank requirements…. ? Can anyone explain?

    • #9
  10. Doug Kimball Thatcher
    Doug Kimball
    @DougKimball

    And hell breaks loose across the isthmus

    As taxmen laud a mid-year Christmas.

    • #10
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