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"Courage to Act" by Ben S. Bernanke
Rich with detail of the decision-making process in Washington and indelible portraits of the major players, "The Courage to Act" recounts and explains the worst financial crisis and economic slump in America since the Great Depression, providing an insider’s account of the policy response.
Nicholas Shaxson is the author of Poisoned Wells, the Dirty Politics of African Oil, an Associate Fellow of the Royal Institute of International Affairs (Chatham House) and an experienced journalist.
About the Author
NICHOLAS SHAXSON is the author of Poisoned Wells, the Dirty Politics of African Oil, an Associate Fellow of the Royal Institute of International Affairs (Chatham House) and an experienced journalist writing regularly for The Financial Times and The Economist.
Before I get into my review, I wanted to point out that for someone without a lot of financial knowledge, this could be a very difficult book to read. I have a college degree in accounting, did some graduate work in tax, and worked for one of the big four accounting firms for a year in their international tax consulting department. I quit working for them and left the field entirely after I realized in vague generalities what they were doing, which was one of the reasons I was so interested in this book. The international system Shaxson describes coincides perfectly with what I saw in the accounting firm I worked for, and some of the specific techniques he describes correspond exactly to the tax structures I used to see discussed in trainings and other meetings. Given that background, I found this book incredibly engrossing and informative, but if you have low financial literacy, you may have a tough time with it. However, it is incredibly well written, uses a minimum of jargon, and tries its hardest to break down complex tax and financial concepts into lay terms.
Treasure Islands does a really incredible job in shedding light on an arcane, complex international financial system that has evolved mainly over the past 100 years. Like most people, when I heard the term tax haven, I would think of a few rogue Caribbean islands who helped a few rich people and crime lords launder money or hide it from taxation. Shaxson turns that conception on its head.Read more ›
Shocking, a word that many reviewers have used, is a good one for this book. Terrifying might be another.
I am not an economist by a long shot but am lately reading books like this to understand what is going on.
Shaxson's book is basically about the modern structure of finance capitalism, and he suggests that the foundation stone of the edifice is the offshore system.
The basis of offshore banking is that a global corporation sidles up to some tiny country and offers it some nice little kickbacks in return for an agreement that they will have to pay little or no tax.
The corporation then presents its accounts in such a way as to make it look that all its profits are generated in Jersey, or the Cayman Islands or wherever it may be.
Hence we get headlines like the one the other day where Barclays Bank declared 11.6 billion pounds in profits and paid 113 million in tax.
According to Shaxson this would not be in the least out of the ordinary, more like normal for any really large company.
Because of this these companies grow like Topsy, and generate staggering wealth.
Additionally they venerate at the shrine of banking secrecy which means no-one can ever find out what is really going on with these guys.
Offshore banking started to mushroom around 1960 and although Shaxson doesn't quite say this, it sounds like when the Brits lost their empire they started to look for other ways of making a nuisance of themselves.
Under the influence of these companies, in the last thirty years many large countries especially Britain and the US have effectively deregulated their internal financial systems so that it is much easier for these large corporations to find more and more ways of dodging tax.Read more ›
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This book is both important and disturbing. Important because it clearly and frankly describes the reality of "offshore" banking and it's effect on society at large. Disturbing because of the dimensions of the system revealed and the unbridled greed of the economic elite that exploits it. Destroys the myth that tax havens are simply wealth protection for the few and reveals them as a massive drain on the economies of nations large and small, rich and poor.
A must read for anyone interested in social justice or, for that matter, their own future welfare.
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This book fills a big gap left by the mainstream media in the understanding of world economics and finance and how it has come to be more and more concentrated in the hands of a relatively small number of people. The resulting system is to a significant extent lawless and corrupt, and addicted to greed.
Offshore tax havens, serving both legal corporations and organised crime, have been a powerful instrument in the corruption of business, politics, government and the media, spreading misery for the many while creating untold wealth for the few.
This book explains how huge businesses, including some very well know names, can pay virtually no tax and avoid laws and regulations. It explains why many top executives are now receiving astronomical incomes. It explodes the myth that this system is somehow efficient and good for society.
This current control of the world by big finance has captured political parties, so that the actions of politicians bear little or no relationship to the traditional policies and philosophies of their parties. In practice, supposedly opposing political parties in the wealthy nations of the world act more like opposing factions of the one party, a party whose unwritten but central policy is to serve the rich and powerful. The result is that more and more wealth is diverted from serving the common good and transferred to the rich. The result is a widening gap between them and the rest, and a growing social dislocation.
This is not a book of the left or the right, but a dispassionate revelation of facts that have been hidden from most of the population. I cannot recommend it too highly. If you value justice and refuse to equate good and right with money and power, you will greatly appreciate the author's achievement.