Jul 04 2011

Treasure Islands – a view from Northern Ireland

Posted by: Nick Shaxson in: Thoughts

Update: another nice review on the Corporate Social Responsibility Newswire, here.

The Northern Ireland magazine AgendaNI has a review of Treasure Islands by John O’Farrell, which is very nice indeed:

The best book I’ve read so far this year is Treasure Islands, by Nicholas Shaxson

Just thought I’d mention it. (More praise here.) And he makes the important point:

“Tax legally avoided in the UK with the connivance of the ancient and unreformed rulers of these tinpot islands means less to spend on welfare, defence, the rule of law and libraries. They are parasites and deserve to be called so the next time the legislators of the Council of the Isles meet. Would it be possible for just one MLA, TD or MP to face down the bailiwicks of the Channel Islands or the Tynwald of the Isle of Man and demand our money back?

It would be nice to think so, but our moral authority to do so is being undermined by the conviction of our betters that, in tax terms, the only race worth wining is the race to the bottom.”

For those interested in Northern Ireland, there’s more in here well worth reading. It ends:

Secretaries of State used to tell us about their “passion for peace”. Now, our passions are spent upon a race to the bottom.

More on Northern Ireland’s tax haven possibilities – see here.

P.S. sorry for the delay in posting – I was on holiday last week, and travelling (speaking at a U.N. event and at the Transcontinental Trusts event in Geneva) for some of the previous week.

3 comments so far

Patrick Guinness 7th July, 2011 8.09 am

No people could be more in favour of your book than the Northern Irish, being per capita the most government-subsidised part of Europe! I am often in the next-door Republic where the only remaining viable part of the economy now is the foreign sector that is there largely because of a 12% tax rate (it used to be 0% on exports). The book is useful as a polemic but is not balanced enough – assuming that national democratic sovereignties are usually A Good Thing, can you not allow that some of them must take advantage of that status to draw capital and fees on board? It is really a permanent tussle between the havens’ freedom of action and the desire to tax the North American and European democracies to buy votes. Is buying votes morally better than trying to hang on to what you have saved? In my decades of experience 99% of offshore investors are ordinary people, not mafia types. Governments don’t always do what they say on the tin.

Nick Shaxson 7th July, 2011 10.50 am

Patrick, thanks. I think you should read Treasure Islands. I answer all of these points there, in detail. (And you ignore the tax base issues, above and beyond the 12.5% tax rate issue.) There’s a kind of shorthand version of the arguments, providing some answers to your points, here. http://treasureislands.org/the-arguments/

Patrick Guinness 7th July, 2011 7.11 pm

I have read the book and particularly enjoyed the parts about the charterless City of London.

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