Let it not be said that the politicians gathering to celebrate an orgy (er, steady on, Ed) of Keynesian delinqency and transnational socialism are letting this current financial crisis go to waste. The G20 countries have agreed to a crackdown on those pestilential things, tax havens. I have defended them before and will do so again. What we are seeing is a determined effort to create a global tax cartel. Cartels, unless backed by brute force, tend to break down eventually. The G20 are making lots of blood-curdling threats about sanctions and so forth. What is Germany or Italy going to do – invade Switzerland? Good luck with that, gentlemen.
At the root of the hatred of tax havens is a hatred of freedom, pure and simple. If you believe a democratically elected government, say, can seize the wealth of a portion of its citizens, then you will believe that that minority can be more or less robbed, held hostage and prevented from going abroad. Socialists such as Richard Murphy believe that if 51 per cent of my fellow citizens want to help themselves to the contents of my bank account, then I am being “undemocratic” and a bad citizen if I choose to park my cash in the Caymans or wherever. Well, why not go the whole distance and require anyone who has an offshore bank account either to close it or be forced to get an exit visa if they wish to do so? We may be already reaching that point. If, on the other hand, you believe people are entitled to their property regardless of what their fellow electors think, then tax havens – “haven” is a place of safety, remember- are an important escape route and bulwark against looters. When politicians want to shut down places of safety in a time of crisis, it is well to be cynical about the motives of those involved. Especially if they happen to be such characters as Gordon Brown or Barack Obama.
The sheer cynicsm of it all is breathtaking. Whatever the cause of the current financial crisis, I think it is pretty fair to say that it did not originate in tax havens. Switzerland, in fact, has been hammered by the crisis; its biggest wealth manager, UBS, has lost an estimated $49 billion in write-downs connected to the US sub-prime disaster. The $50 billion Ponzi scheme fraud of Bernard Madoff happened onshore, right under the noses of the SEC, rather than in some far-flung island in the South Pacific. The huge losses incurred by banks have been nothing whatever to do with so-called “tax leakage”. And in the US, there is already a tax haven, known as the state of Delaware. And the UK has been – well until recently – a tax haven on certain definitions. Ditto places such as Ireland or even Belgium.
Rant over. Thanks for your patience.