Jan 12 2011

The Cayman Islands’ Travers says I’m an imbecile

What a surprise! Anthony Travers, chairman of Cayman Finance, has branded me an ‘imbecile’ and accuses me of having the mind of an 11 year old. Nice to hear from you again Tony! I’d love to know why you and your colleagues refused to see me on my visit.

Cayman 27 reports that I:

blame offshore financial centres like the Cayman Islands for the global economic meltdown because they allow people to avoid paying taxes.

Sigh. No, that’s not my argument why tax havens played a central role in the crisis. The reasons I give are many and varied, in fact, and I do mention tax, albeit quite briefly. Read the chapter entitled “Ratchet,” please Mr. Travers, which explores the issues in detail. I challenge you to explain in detail why these arguments are wrong.

I’m now going to have to create a new category entitled ‘criticism from people who haven’t read the book.’ There was a nasty review in the Scotsman recently, where a journalist called Bill Jamieson wrote a whole review without apparently having read beyond the introduction. Let me just give a flavour:

“Of the many toxic elements in this book, two stand out. The first is a failure to see that tax competition is a legitimate, and indeed desirable, feature of modern finance: without it you write a carte blanche for high tax tyranny.  The second is a failure to distinguish between lawful tax avoidance and illegal tax evasion.”

Hmm, let me see Mr. Jamieson. Turn to page 196 of the book, and read all the way through to the top of page 201. I explore the issue of tax competition in great detail, and explain in very simple terms why the arguments in favour of tax competition are, to put it politely, economically illiterate.

And on evasion and avoidance, how about the bottom of page 28:

“In terms of tax, the illegal stuff is called tax evasion, while tax avoidance is technically legal but, by definition, it also involves getting around the intent of elected legislatures.”

And throughout the book, in fact, I return to the theme of evasion and avoidance. Perhaps Mr. Jamieson got to page 27, and read no further. There’s plenty more straw man argument in his article.

To be honest, it heartens me that my critics feel they have to resort to name-calling and misrepresentation to try and knock me down. I now await some real arguments.

One more thing. Watch that short interview on the link. Don’t watch it for Travers’ spectacular sneer, but for the content. Nowhere does the news item offer any counter-argument, or any alternative voice. They could have called me. Nothing. It is just one more piece of anecdotal evidence that these are states captured by modern finance, where opposition to the finance industry has been carefully airbrushed out. As Saturday’s Guardian article notes.

To be fair, there is an outlet called Cayman Net News which does at times carry alternative views (though its site seems to be down at the moment). But go and live there, and you will notice how relentlessly the drums beat in favour of offshore finance.

9 comments so far

[...] Update: Nick Shaxson has answered the accusation here. [...]

Jack Irvine 1th January, 2011 2.40 pm

The review in The Scotsman was by
Bill Jamieson not Lee Randall. (lee’s a woman incidentally) Bill is one of the most respected financial journalists in the UK and I know he read your book. He found it shallow, outdated, one-sided and commented that anything endorsed by John Pilger carries a health warning.

Nick Shaxson 1th January, 2011 11.40 am

Thanks for that – and yes, you’re right, and it’s been amended. Bill may be respected by many people but the fact that he had to resort to the straw man argument to knock my book down doesn’t reflect well on him. You may have inside information on whether or not he read the book or not. Clearly, he read bits of it. But my blog here demonstrates decisively that he missed out whole sections. He accuses me of missing things, and I demonstrate clearly that he is quite simply factually mistaken. Perhaps he did read them and decided to use the straw technique to attack my book. But that is a worse offense. I took a kinder view and assumed simply that he hadn’t read it.

Jamieson doesn’t like the fact that the book gets an endorsement from John Pilger. It’s fine for Jamieson to hate Pilger. But it also gets an endorsement mention from the World Bank’s former chief economist, and from the likes of Yves Smith. Jamieson omitted to mention that. His article, er, lacks for nothing in hyperbole.

Read the rest of the book, then read his article, and tell me that he’s captured what I’ve said accurately. He just hasn’t.


Nick Shaxson 1th January, 2011 11.10 am

On the second to last paragraph in this blog, the news organisation has now contacted me and asked for a reaction.

[...] just had an email from someone who knows the Caymans very well, after I’d mentioned the “imbecile” comment that came from George Town when Treasure Islands was published. He pointed to an earlier [...]

[...] man argument – not reading the book, guessing what I probably said, then attacking that (see here, for [...]

[...] ‘this stuff is too big and bad and we should give up’ (Peter Preston) [...]

[...] Chairman of the Cayman Islands Financial Services Association, though I was not content with calling me an “imbecile,” suddenly popped up again to offer me a spoof award, in its ‘fairy tale’ category, along [...]

[...] view) probably my noisiest critic. I took Travers to task in Treasure Islands, and he responded by suggesting I was an ‘imbecile’, among other things. This morning the BBC’s flagship Today [...]

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