This is the world of ‘offshore’. Shaxson doesn’t limit the term to its technical meaning, as a simple description of the particular jurisdictions that enable people to eliminate their tax bills. He applies it to people as well as places, and to a way of life along with a state of mind. Seen like this, it turns out to be a very useful word. ...The essence of offshore is the need to keep up a solid appearance of respectability, while allowing money in and out with as little fuss as possible. Tax avoidance (unlike tax evasion) is not a clandestine activity, and tax havens don’t exist just to enable people to squirrel their money away from the authorities. The money needs to be accessible, and it needs to be liquid. For that reason, people prefer tax havens where they can conduct their business relatively openly, and the most successful offshore jurisdictions are the ones that ask no questions but also tell no lies. Shaxson’s memorable phrase for this is ‘theatre of probity’Turns out the Brits are particularly good at this sort of thing:
It is because offshore is the offshoot of an empire in decline. It perfectly suited a country with the appearance of grandeur and traditionally high standards, but underneath it all a reek of desperation and the pressing need for more cash. ...And not just the Brits per se. Runciman points out that so many other great offshore havens are in the detritus of the old British Empire Jersey. The Caymans (where the national anthem is still "God Save the Queen"). He might have added my own favorite: the Cook Islands, a heap of bat guano 2,000 miles off New Zealand, which remains as the world's most effective haven for fraudulent transfers. Oh, and Hong Kong. Have we all noticed how the Beijing Commies, very far from destroying Hong Kong, have turned it into an offshore haven of their own?
Runciman brackets his review of Shaxson with another for Winner -Take-All Politics
by Jacob Hacker and Paul Pierson. Runciman thought both books "brilliant." Maybe, but I must say I thought Hacker's last was rather a disapointment. Shaxson, in any event is on Kindle pre-order. I'd be reading it today if I had a copy.
Fun Fact: I see that Shaxson lives in Zurich. No fool he.
Fond Memory: I'm recalling a jibe my friend Scott hurled at me one day 30 years ago. "You don't want a family," he said. "You just want a safe place to park." I take no view of whether he was right then or would be right now, but it's a pretty good description of Shaxson's new class.