Home > Economics - General > Gaps and holes (crosspost from Crooked Timber)

Gaps and holes (crosspost from Crooked Timber)

April 8th, 2016

Press coverage massive leak of papers from hitherto unheard of (by me, at any rate) Panama law firm Mossack Fonseca has, unsurprisingly, focused on the world leaders, celebrities and fixers whose financial affairs have been revealed in an unflattering light. As regards the financial system as a whole, the New York Times draws a fairly typical conclusion

Above all, the Panama Papers reveal an industry that flourishes in the gaps and holes of international finance.

Really? This description suggests that those involved are obscure minor players in the system, of the sort who might be expected to deal with dodgy law firms in tax havens. The real business of global finance is undertaking by upstanding financial institutions with transparent practices.

But writing this down is enough to see that it is silly. As usual in such cases, we find familiar names: HSBC, UBS, Credit Suisse,and RBS and so on. And of course this is just one firm in one tax haven. The absence of major American banks reflects, in large measure, the fact that they prefer tax havens other than Panama, where there is a high degree of US state countrol.

Again as usual, the line is that this is all in the past, and that the banks have cleaned up their act. But the criminal charges keep on coming. This is scarcely surprising when no major bank has been shut down, even for the most egregious wrongdoing, and where only a handful of bank employees have faced jail time over frauds that total well into the hundreds of billions.

As I’ve argued in the past, activities like tax avoidance/evasion and regulatory arbitrage aren’t peripheral flaws in a financial system primarily concerned with the efficient global allocation of capital. They are the core business, without which the profits of the global financial sector would be a tiny fraction of the $1 trillion or so now reaped annually. The burden of supporting this financial sector is a major factor in the secular stagnation now evident in most developed economies.[^1]

The financial globalization that began in the 1970s has not produced an efficient global financial market with a few gaps and holes. The gaps and holes are the market.

[^1]:Since it’s bound to be raised, the costs of financial globalisation to the developed world can’t be offset by considering rapid growth in China and India. These countries have, until recently, maintained tightly regulated financial systems, and have had plenty of criticism for it. Of course, that has resulted in plenty of corruption and misallocation of capital, but the sector simply hasn’t been enough to produce a large drag on growth. That’s clearly changed, in China at least, so it will be interesting to watch the consequences.

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  1. Ikonoclast
    April 8th, 2016 at 11:38 | #1

    So, corruption has become the “core business”, of at least the financial sector, according to J.Q.’s own words. I agree. The evidence is irrefutable. One might then legitimately ask if corruption has become the core business of the entire world economic system. I would argue it has. Many other pieces of evidence suggest this is the case. The ISDS (Investor-state dispute settlement) framework is clearly corrupt law riddled with conflicts of interest. States, like France and the UK, have recently been shown (by wikileaked emails from Blumenthal to H. Clinton) to have maneuvered the Libyan intervention for economic exploitation reasons rather than for professed humanitarian intervention reasons.

    Here, in Australia, financial scandals keep erupting around some of our major banks: Commonwealth Bank, ANZ and in the past other banks. There is now the bank bill swap rate, BBSW, scandal. Internationally, there was LIBOR and other scandals. And we shouldn’t forget the GFC, credit default swaps, and the original Savings and Loan scandal in the US.

    While we cannot yet say the entire system is corrupt and every person is corrupt, we can now reasonably say of the entire system, just as J.Q. has said of the financial system, corruption is the core business of the system. Productive business now happens around and despite this core business of corruption.

    Of course, systems hit limits to corruption, just as they hit limits to growth. Just as in the human body when “corruption”, the old-fashioned word for disease processes, becomes systemic and overwhelms the metabolism (legitimate system sustaining processes), so in the economic body corruption can reach a level which collapses the entire system.

    J.Q. points out the systemic corruption in the financial system. He probably would not accept my argument that corruption is systemic in the entire economic system… though maybe he would. In either case, pointing out the ills is not enough. What needs to be done and how could it be done? The economic system of itself and on its own (sans strong regulation and democratic government control) clearly tends to ever greater inequality (see Piketty) and ever greater corruption (see Quiggin above). These have been the clear trends in the neoliberal era.

    At the same time, government is trending to less power and becoming more the bought servant of plutocratic, pligarchic and corporate power. The obviously undemocratic and indeed autocratic transnational corporations are trending to taking more power. Their success in pushing anti-democratic, pro-corporate, secret-to-the-last-minute, trade deals is a massive case in point.

    So what is the solution to all this? Firstly do we just point out parts of the system that are corrupt and/or inequitable or do we undertake a system-wide analysis, to try to understand the entire complex system? Unless we do both you can never determine this question. Do we need to change parts of the system or do we need to change the entire system?

    Piketty’s analysis is an analysis which examines the extant performance of an existing economic system over time. He demonstrates a dangerous macro-trend (to ever greater inequality) in the entire system. He demonstrates this trend beyond doubt. His method measures only outputs. It is analogous to a bench-test where an engineer demonstrates that the output characteristics of an engine; the engine being treated as a black box. The output characteristics are found to be not only short of ideal but well short of reasonable and practicable output requirements. We now need designers and critics to open the black box and examine in total as a complex system. It’s a fair question to ask at this point in history given our ongoing economic, financial and environmental disasters: given a system which is just turning into one complete ongoing disaster. Does the overall system need to be tweaked or does it need to be redesigned from scratch?

  2. Troy Prideaux
    April 8th, 2016 at 12:05 | #2

    There’s never been a more exciting time to be alive (as a banker). We must thrive to innovate in the modern world of innovation (financial innovation) 🙂

  3. Tim Macknay
    April 8th, 2016 at 12:52 | #3

    Disturbingly, there was a period (roughly, from the 1990s through to the GFC or thereabouts), when a considerable number of “our best and brightest” were choosing finance as a career path. I just finished reading a book from the mid 90’s – The End of Science by John Horgan – in which one of the laments by an eminent physicist regarding the perceived woes of his discipline was that so many talented physics graduates were abandoning science for Wall Street. And this is where that trend has got us.

  4. Tim Macknay
    April 8th, 2016 at 13:52 | #4

    David Pope’s cartoon sums it up rather nicely.

  5. J-D
    April 8th, 2016 at 14:34 | #5


    So, corruption has become the “core business”, of at least the financial sector, according to J.Q.’s own words. I agree. The evidence is irrefutable. One might then legitimately ask if corruption has become the core business of the entire world economic system. I would argue it has.

    You have overlooked a difference between what John Quiggin wrote and what you wrote. Here are John Quiggin’s exact words again:

    As I’ve argued in the past, activities like tax avoidance/evasion and regulatory arbitrage aren’t peripheral flaws in a financial system primarily concerned with the efficient global allocation of capital. They are the core business, …

    You wrote, twice, ‘has become’. But John Quiggin didn’t write ‘has become’. He wrote ‘are’. Your wording implicitly suggests a contrast with some unspecified past period in which things were different. John Quiggin’s words don’t. I suggest the difference is important.

    It is true that John Quiggin also wrote:

    The financial globalization that began in the 1970s has not produced an efficient global financial market with a few gaps and holes. The gaps and holes are the market.

    That does suggest a contrast between time periods, but a different contrast. It does not suggest a contrast between a current global system with particular characteristics and a different global system in some unspecified period with different characteristics. It suggests a contrast between a current global system with particular characteristics and a past (specified to be before the 1970s) with no such global system at all. Again, I suggest the difference is important.

  6. Peter Chapman
    April 8th, 2016 at 15:17 | #6

    In the words of Leonard Cohen, whose contribution to macroeconomics deserves better recognition, “There is a crack… in everything… that’s how the light gets in”. What we see as a result of a “leak” casts a glaring light, an interrogator’s bright lamp, on the inner workings of the system. And as the old KM observed, the point here is that this not just about hoarding, about hiding away wealth, after the fashion of Scrooge McDuck and his money bin. The hoarder, the accumulator-for-accumulation’s-sake, is not a productive capitalist. The productive capitalist who along with others of her class can take action that transforms social and economic conditions and systems, is never content to merely “hoard”. Nevertheless there undoubtedly is hoarding and McDuckian behavior here, too, and in abundance. Modern capitalism throws up example after example. The hoarders are nevertheless not a pathology of the system, they are part-and-parcel, “Janus faces of the same coin”. They illustrate not a disease of the system, but a “contradiction”: a contradiction that has the potential, too, to transform the system, not because all of a sudden a prime minister here or there may resign, but because the oppressive weight of the hoarding fractions becomes a burden on the system as a whole, and particularly on the political agenda and economic program of the wider and more progressive elements of the capitalist class. In effect the contradiction reaches a point where it must be resolved in some manner. This is not a moral question that will be decided only by the populist movements that we already see developing in the streets of Reykjavik. It is a fundamental question of political economy. Equality is not simply a moral question. Throwing all these thieves, hoarders and money changers out of the temple (and even into jail), so to speak, will not deliver a better and more equitable, let alone more equal economic system.

  7. J-D
    April 8th, 2016 at 17:59 | #7

    @Peter Chapman

    They illustrate not a disease of the system, but a “contradiction”

    What’s the difference between a “contradiction” and a contradiction?

  8. Peter Chapman
    April 8th, 2016 at 18:13 | #8

    I mean to argue against seeing the activities of the Mossack Fonseca clients as some kind of aberration from what should be a normal, effectively functioning capitalist system, or as a “pathological” manifestation of something gone wrong. Such a view leads to the notion that the disease can be treated – take some appropriate medicine, even surgery to cut out the bad bits, and all will be well again. These ideas assume a kind of organic functionalist model of the system. I rather see modern capitalism as fundamentally contradictory in these terms, and a contradiction in this sense does not go away when some remedial treatment is applied. I see and read a lot of “shock! horror!!” reactions to the behaviour of people like Malcolm Turnbull and David Cameron, and it is of course quite to be expected that people will point out the hypocrisy of Cameron and his ilk, when their private or (until-now) hidden and secret behaviour is compared with their public policies and their moral injunctions to the rest of us. This is fascinating and instructive to observe and to analyse. But the main game, and the site of any real change in the system, is being played out at a deeper level.

  9. Ikonoclast
    April 8th, 2016 at 19:36 | #9

    @Peter Chapman

    I agree, Mossack Fonseca clients are not aberrations in the current system. Theirs is standard current system behaviour. As I essentially asked in my first post, do we need to tweak the current system or change it fundamentally? To me, Piketty’s work and the IPCC’s work provide extensive evidence that we need to change the system fundamentally. It is patently clear the current system is about to go straight over the “Seneca Cliff”.

  10. J-D
    April 8th, 2016 at 19:37 | #10

    @Peter Chapman

    I rather see modern capitalism as fundamentally contradictory in these terms and a contradiction in this sense

    Sorry, did I miss something? In which terms? In which sense?

    Also, what’s the difference between a “pathological” manifestation and a pathological manifestation?

  11. Geoff Edwards
    April 8th, 2016 at 21:01 | #11


    Ikonoclast, your question “do we need to tweak the current system or change it fundamentally?” implies that “we” have the capacity to either tweak the system purposefully or change it fundamentally. I suggest that “we” no longer have that capacity. For three reasons. The institutions of government that might have been tools for change have been compromised too much. After 30 years of economic rationalism, senior people in those institutions (notably in the public service and parliament) are part of the problem, not the solution.

    Second is the power of the neoconservative press which continually screams abuse at the people who might think the way that you and I think. This power is still a force to be reckoned with, despite phone hacking et cetera.

    The third reason is more fundamental. In a chaotic system, small trigger factors can cause the system to change to a very different phase. Our current global economy is a chaotic system, in other words, a pyramid standing on its point. It is difficult to know what factor might be the one that triggers a change in state: it could well be a financial one such as default by some country or loss of confidence in the sharemarket. If it doesn’t happen sooner, it will certainly happen later through climate change or peak oil, environmental refugees or extended drought in some continent. Nature has the last word and will take the decision out of our hands.

  12. April 8th, 2016 at 21:40 | #12

    @Geoff Edwards
    Yes, but all those reasons would have stopped the French revolution too. But they didn’t.

  13. Donald Oats
    April 8th, 2016 at 22:42 | #13

    I wonder if a certain Jordainian transport company is among the leaked Panama papers?

  14. Kel
    April 9th, 2016 at 00:10 | #14

    Seems to me one of the constants in all the shenanigans is the worldwide Murdoch press. While many are picking fights with neo cons and neo liberals and a financial industry that is sucking the world dry, the real culprit is a press that keep on telling us that it is in our best interests to give up our democracy to corporatocracy.

    I mean why is that Australians consistently vote for the LNP which does not have the best interest of ALL Australians as its core value. The Abbott/Turnbull governments have glaringly shown that they are only concerned with preserving capital as the main beneficiary of the Australian economy but daily we are told the unions are the enemy and spending money on health and education will bankrupt the nation.

    Just a thought but it amazes me how a PM can say that the churn of turning over established housing at obscene profit is the prime objective of government and nobody bats an eyelid. It’s those bloody foul mouthed unions what need sorting out!

  15. Geoff Edwards
    April 9th, 2016 at 04:49 | #15

    @John Brookes

    Thanks John Brookes, but your response demonstrates my point. Once triggered, the French Revolution took unpredictable and unintended turns.

  16. Ikonoclast
    April 9th, 2016 at 04:57 | #16

    @Geoff Edwards

    You make valid points. You say “The institutions of government that might have been tools for change have been compromised too much.” I agree. In posts on other threads I have said things like; “My sense of matters is that we are at an historical turning point at least as important as the transition from monarchical power to parliamentary power. Now, in turn, parliamentary democracy is failing and power is being moved to the corporations. We appear to be entering the era of corporatocracy.” I noted this corporate power as essentially plutocratic or oligarchic. The ownership systems and finance systems are plutocratic /oligarchic. Managing and governing methods are being merged in corporatocracy.

    The large transnational companies, conglomerates and corporations are larger than most countries when we make revenue to GDP comparisons. Studies, from those of Piketty to those of John Bellamy Foster et. al. indicate the concentration of capital in fewer and fewer hands and the concentration of business in fewer and fewer monopolistic corporations or conglomerates.

    Countries which elect apparently quite leftist governments, like Greece electing Syriza for example, find they cannot govern their own country in terms of making sovereign monetary and fiscal decisions. The EU system and international finance system, run at the behest of or even by corporate and financial power, make sovereign monetary and fiscal decisions for smaller countries functionally inoperative, outside the range of actions permitted or approved by said powers of international trade and finance.

    The people are dis-empowered and propagandised as you point out. Our parliaments betray our interests to the corporations and oligarchs. Julian Assange’s theory is that exposing the secrets of corporations and governments (who should not have secrets from their people) is a key method of empowering and activating the people. We saw this when the people of Iceland came out into the streets and squares, demanding and getting the resignation of their corrupt Prime Minister who had been exposed by information from the Panama Papers. Truth and openness are powerful political weapons. We see how much corporations and corrupt politicians and parliaments fear truth and openness by their endless and extensive lying and secrecy.

    Nature indeed has the last decision and will take the matters out of our hands if we do not act in time. We have a system with marked internal and external contradictions. One internal contradiction is the ever greater concentration of capital in fewer and fewer hands. Piketty’s work has established this macro-trend as historical and current fact. There have been counter-trends but the trend to ever greater inequality has re-established itself in the neoliberal era. The reason that this is a contradiction is that concentrating capital entails impoverishing workers. Impoverished workers cannot spend and capital (and labour) then become idle. Stagnation or depression occurs. The external contradiction of our economic system is that it irreparably damages natural systems (like the climate system, ocean system and ecosystem) on which both human life and economy depend.

    The above contradictions will likely interact in a mutually-reinforcing and amplifying fashion. They will make each other worse and worse until the crisis occurs. People remain passive while the costs of rebelling continue to appear to outweigh the benefits of rebelling. Enough of us are still comfortable, in Australia anyway but not in Greece, such that rebellious or radical change seems highly unlikely to impossible. However, as you point out, the break into change, when it occurs, can be rapid. You refer to chaotic systems. I always envisage such relative equilibria as either a “hill balance” or a “valley balance”. Our system is a hill balance system, like maintaining a a large sphere on smooth hill. As soon as it moves slightly off balance it takes effort to restore the balance. When this fine balance act fails, the large sphere takes off down the hill. The direction of events is difficult to predict but the change from an ordered state to a disordered, chaotic state is not just predictable, it is certain.

  17. Geoff Edwards
    April 9th, 2016 at 05:12 | #17

    Yes, Ikonoclast. The Industrial Revolution kicked off in England rather than the Continent because of political emancipation of the people. The ordinary people had discretionary income and were able to expand the markets for goods and services. Markets depended upon a measure of equality.

  18. Ernestine Gross
    April 9th, 2016 at 08:45 | #18

    @Geoff Edwards

    “Markets depended upon a measure of equality”.

    Not sure about the historical foundation of the above. But I am very sure that all post 1950 theoretical general equilibrium models (not macro). I’ve come across, including my own, have an explicit ‘measure of equality’, which is usually referred to as ‘minimum wealth condition’. The logic of mathematics, used to analyse the underlying belief structure, enforces this condition to make sense of the story.

  19. Ikonoclast
    April 9th, 2016 at 11:02 | #19

    Geoff Edwards,

    Historically, Australia had an arbitrated basic wage which was supposed to be adequate for two adults and two children. This came from the Harvester Judgment, 1908.

    “The Harvester Judgement set a minimum wage for unskilled labourers of 2 pounds, 2 shillings per week the amount an average worker paid for food, shelter and clothing – for him and his family.” – ACTU website.

    This was held to be adequate for two adults and two children. We can see that it formed a kind of minimum wealth condition for a family of four. As historically framed, it was sexist in construction, in line with the mores of that era. The first part of the preamble of the harvester judgement is quite interesting:

    “The test to be applied in ascertaining what are fair and reasonable conditions of remuneration of
    labour, under the Excise Tariff 1906, is, in the case of unskilled labourers – what are the normal needs of the average employee regarded as a human being living in a civilized community?”

    This site is worth looking at;


    Matters have changed somewhat now as individual and family direct welfare payments make up a higher proportion of the total direct income of low income people thus in a sense allowing minimum wages to be pushed down. At least that is my hypothesis, but one would have to undertake an historical study from that time to now to prove that contention.

    The arrival of the two income family (person and partner both working) has also changed matters. It is my contention here (though a bit off topic) that the extant economic system has somewhat subverted the economic liberation of women into the workforce by;

    (a) paying women less than men;
    (b) using these new, low wage workers to hold back wages growth in general;
    (c) effectively using the double incomes of many households to facilitate house price and rental inflation (along with other important factors feeding into this kind of inflation).

    I do not make the argument that women should have stayed out of the paid workforce and thus stayed in the unpaid domestic workforce. I do make the argument that the extant economic system, as it always does, subverts and reduces advances and liberations, diverting a proportion of the gains to increase the profits to capital.

    The minimum wealth condition would be best met by a job guarantee; essentially assured public employment at a basic living wage by all who wish it and are capable, willing and at least basically productive. I support this idea, although the idea in detail is certainly not mine. But that’s a topic for a sandpit I guess.

  20. April 9th, 2016 at 14:21 | #20

    @Geoff Edwards

    Yes, quite horrific ones. And all because the aristocracy refused to reform themselves. I trust that it is them you blame.

  21. Ivor
    April 9th, 2016 at 18:26 | #21

    @Geoff Edwards

    There was no political emancipation – their bondage magnified.

  22. Geoff Edwards
    April 9th, 2016 at 19:00 | #22

    @John Brookes

    Yes John Brookes, although I wasn’t actually blaming anybody (just commenting that at a time of instability anything can happen), I agree that it is the refusal of our economic elites to recognise the need for reform that will bring on a more traumatic disruption for us all. I find to be rather convincing the conclusion by Jared Diamond in Collapse that civilisations fall when the elites insulate themselves from evidence of society’s pain and the environment’s silent decline.

    Having said that, I think the greater odium should attached to the agents such as Murdoch and senior businesspeople who ought to know better but who actively distort and hide the evidence so that public and elite opinion is warped.

  23. Ikonoclast
    April 9th, 2016 at 19:24 | #23

    @Geoff Edwards

    “civilisations fall when the elites insulate themselves from evidence of society’s pain and the environment’s silent decline.”

    That is one way and an important way that it happens. I compare the body politic to the human body. Most of us know that diseases which result in pain signals failing to reach the brain lead to a lot of peripheral damage especially to feet and hands. If you don’t feel pain in feet or hands they can rapidly become burnt, cut damaged and rotting. It’s the same with poor and powerless people who are hurting. If the signals don’t get to the people in power, the people hurting end up in an ever-worsening state. The answer is that when pain accrues to the lower echelons of society, commensurate pain must somehow be transmitted to the elites. That will act as a stimulus to do something. Commensurate pain means a proportionate response. I do not advocate anything disproportionate. Forms of proportionate response can be transmitted by peaceful protests and peaceful non-compliance.

  24. Donald Oats
    April 9th, 2016 at 20:52 | #24

    El Salvador has got ahead of the curve by raiding the premises of Mossack Fonseca and retrieving documents and computer equipment. Apparently they spotted the removal of the company signage from the building, and suspected the company of being about to do a runner from El Salvador.

    Perhaps this is cynical of me, but I suspect the purpose of the raid was a three-fold one: first, to prevent release of documents relating to highly influential “friends” of El Salvador; second, to retain documents relating to highly influential “foes” of El Salvador, allowing blackmail, or even criminal charges to be laid, should some of those foes keep up their annoying behaviour; finally, as a fishing expedition in general, hoping that perhaps some foreign people of influence have something to hide. Leverage.

    We haven’t heard the last of this.

  25. Ikonoclast
    April 10th, 2016 at 04:56 | #25

    “Federal Opposition Leader Bill Shorten has announced an incoming Labor government would hold a royal commission into misconduct in the banking and financial services industry.” – ABC.

    This is a welcome move. Predictably, all the usual suspects who cheered on a Royal Commission into Trade Governance and Corruption, oppose and decry the idea of a royal commission into banking and finance. The ABA (Australian Bankers’ Association) representative, Steven Munchenberg bleated a number of irrational complaints. Here is the text with the subtext in brackets.

    “We don’t understand what this royal commission is meant to achieve,” he said. (But we sure as heck understood what the RC into unions was meant to achieve.)

    “We absolutely acknowledge that there have been too many incidences in the banking system where we have failed to live up to our own standards, let alone the standards of our customers.” (We acknowledge this but still see no need for change or oversight.)

    He said those matters have already been subject to “incredible scrutiny” through parliamentary and industry inquiries. (Well, he couldn’t believe that bankers, in all their augustness, should be subject to scrutiny.)

    The association said many of the incidences used as examples on Friday were historic, and had already been dealt with. (If it happened earlier than last week then it is “historic” so let’s just forget it. By the way, many incidences is not any kind of pattern.)

    “We are very concerned about the signals that it sends to international investors that Australian banks, and the Australian economy relies on, to ensure that we can keep people in jobs and we can continue to fund the economy.” (It’s terrible. The signal will be that Australia is not open for corruption.)

  26. Ernestine Gross
    April 10th, 2016 at 09:26 | #26

    A few days before the Panama Papers leaks hit the headlines, the smh in conjunction with the Haffington Post published information on Unaoil, a Monaco based company, which ‘facilitates’ direct investment. This material was leaked to investigative journalists at the smh.

    Today the smh published something on links discovered between Unaoil and Mossack Fonseca, and, of course, donations to political parties, real estate ownership, private jets, etc.

    No matter which article I read, in the English as well as German (Sueddeutsche) press, the authors are at pains to point out that it is not illegal per se to establish a company in a low or no tax juristictions (tax havens).

    Well yes, I can think of enterprises that supply goods or buy goods and even some services (eg insurance) to have a subsidiary in the ‘tax havens’. All these activities would be trade related multinationals [1]. However, I can’t think of one ‘legitimate’ subsidiary that physically fits into a post office box.

    Michael West, smh, who works with Prof Knapp, UNSW, has written reports on specific companies which, when I translate the information into a physical context and take it to the logical limit, amounts to saying that the balance sheets of multinationals are split such that Accounts Receivables are ‘located’ in country A while Accounts Payables are ‘located in country B with a finance subsidiary located somewhere, say C, which has the role of balancing the books in both locations.

    More regulation is easier said than done if effectiveness is an objective.

    [1] In contrast to a lot of international trade theory, in reality international trade involves ‘producers’ – firms, companies, corporations, or at least a contract between 1 person in ‘country A’ and 1 person in ‘country B’ and an enterprise (producer) to shift stuff from A to B. Electronic transfers not excluded. The role of a ‘producer’ is easily seen if one takes the definition of a commodity in Arrow-Debreu seriously. International trade is therefore motivated by profits and constrained, if at all, by asymmetric information among producers and legislation. It is not governed by ‘comparative advantage’ as portrayed in textbooks. One arrives at a model of partially segmented economy with multinational producers by taking another bit of real life into account, namely that consumers (including shareholders) also have bounded rationality regarding the ‘global set’ of commodities. The welfare outcomes are different from international trade models if one allows for at least 3 ‘countries’. Even under ‘competitive’ conditions, wealth transfers among segments of ‘consumers’ are not only possible but difficult to exclude. These are the elements of my theoretical model of a partially segmented economy with multinational corporations (PhD, published in 1988). Of course the described structure is also possible within one geo-politically defined Country. The difference is that governments within a Country can redistribute wealth, while this cannot be done by one country in the international context.

  27. Ikonoclast
    April 10th, 2016 at 11:36 | #27

    Major nations (USA and UK for example) must want tax havens to continue. If they didn’t then they would invade them tomorrow and blow up all the local infrastructure supporting tax haven operations and kill any people they felt like killing along the way. This would not be the most cost effective or moral method of course but when has that stopped this method of international relations? Alternatively, they could cut all cable and data communications to such countries. Finally, they could ensure the hitting of a few electronic switches in SWIFT and other international payment networks to shut down the whole off-shore haven network.

    The fact that none of these expedients are used indicates that they have not the least interest in stopping the phenomenon. It clearly serves the purposes of the global elites (distributed and connected as they are through corporations and governments ).

  28. Ernestine Gross
    April 10th, 2016 at 13:45 | #28

    Hungary is an interesting example in the sense that the Panama Papers reveal one socialist politician and one extreme right wing politician. [Source, Sueddeutsche Zeitung]

    As at present, Putin does not seem to be in a hurry to pull the plug on electronic transfers of documents, including those with monetary values in them.

    Hidden monetary values are ultimately of no use. The question of how much of these numbers are converted into real estate, housing as well as shopping centres, retirement homes, private-public partnership infrastructure projects, etc. and political party donations in countries considered politically stable is one that will or could keep many people busy for a long time when trying to get answers.

    In the meantime first home buyers and renters are facing a hard time in London, Sydney, and, of late, even in Berlin.

  29. April 10th, 2016 at 22:50 | #29

    Commensurate pain means a proportionate response. I do not advocate anything disproportionate. Forms of proportionate response can be transmitted by peaceful protests and peaceful non-compliance.

    Come on Ikon! What is a proportionate response to a system that callously causes homelessness? I would think logically it would be the, how to say this nicely, the rapid removal of the dwellings of those driving the policies that cause homelessness. A match and an accelerant should do the job.

    Not, of course, that I recommend such things. I’m just looking logically at what would be a proportionate response – not necessarily recommending such a response.

  30. Ikonoclast
    April 10th, 2016 at 23:31 | #30

    @John Brookes

    You have given the answer in a sense: “a system that callously causes homelessness”. I don’t like blaming individuals for systemic issues. To some extent, that principle must goes upwards as well as downwards… but not all the way upwards.

  31. Mpower
    April 11th, 2016 at 16:52 | #31

    Not to worry – the Banking and Finance Oath has only been in a few years and it already has a few hundred takers ( in a sector of a few hundred thousand). One of the 10 dot points of the B&F is : “I will speak out against wrongdoing and support others who do the same”. But it is still the case that only would be martyrs whistle blow.
    As one famously said ” If you are thinking of blowing the whistle, you might find it easier to just go outside and shoot yourself.”

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