Panama Papers Are About Government Corruption, Not ‘Tax Evasion’

 Russian President Vladimir Putin (Reuters)

Governments will seek to focus on general tax evasion charges to distract from evidence of corruption by public officials.

 writes: While contemporary governments have carved out for themselves significant authority in demanding citizens of their countries do specific things with their money, it doesn’t change the principle of self-ownership. Were private citizens to follow their money off-shore in the wake of this, would their governments demand to control their flight as well as their capital’s? It’s not just theoretical.

“A person’s money belongs to them, not the government, just as their bodies and their freedoms do.”

Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) has pushed the idea of seizing the passports of citizens who have too many interests overseas. Maybe he ought to support Donald Trump building a big wall after all—at least that’d be consistent and honest. Capital controls are restrictions of free movement much like walls are.

The euro tumbled to a nine-year low Monday as new worries flared over Greece, where a woman in Athens passed a currency-changing business. Associated Press

“The ‘Panama Papers’ are the largest leak in world history, revealing millions of documents related to the offshore accounts of politicians, former politicians, and billionaires around the world.”

Despite much of the media’s focus on tax evasion as the primary theme of the Panama Papers story, which embarrassed governments are happy to adopt as the primary theme as well, the question is one of official corruption.

The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) itself, which first published the data, says it reveals the holdings of “drug dealers, Mafia members, corrupt politicians and tax evaders–and wrongdoing galore.”

china_cash_AFP

Yet the numbers they offer tell a different story. According to ICIJ, 214,000 entities are described in the Panama Papers. They include the off-shore assets of 140 politicians and other public figures (including 12 current or former heads of state or government), as well as 33 people and companies that were “blacklisted by the U.S. government because of evidence that they’d been involved in wrongdoing, such as doing business with Mexican drug lords, terrorist organizations like Hezbollah or rogue nations like North Korea and Iran.” Yet The Economist counts 33 Forbes list billionaires to the 140 politicians in the Panama Papers. Read the rest of this entry »


New York’s Taxi Cartel Is Collapsing. Now They Want a Bailout. Tell Them to Stick It.

The free market: best anti-monopoly weapon ever developed.

“In New York, we are seeing a collapse as inexorable as the fall of the Soviet Union itself.”

Jeffery A. Tuckerjeff writes: An age-old rap against free markets is that they give rise to monopolies that use their power to exploit consumers, crush upstarts, and stifle innovation. It was this perception that led to “trust busting” a century ago, and continues to drive the monopoly-hunting policy at the Federal Trade Commission and the Justice Department.

No more standing in lines on corners or being forced to split fares. You can stay in the coffee shop until you are notified that your car is there.”

But if you look around at the real world, you find something different. The actually existing monopolies that do these bad things are created not by markets but by government policy. Think of sectors like education, mail, courts, money, or municipal taxis, and you find a reality that is the opposite of the caricature: public policy creates monopolies while markets bust them.

For generations, economists and some political figures have been trying to bring competition to these sectors, but with limited success. The case of taxis makes the point.

“Think of sectors like education, mail, courts, money, or municipal taxis, and you find a reality that is the opposite of the caricature: public policy creates monopolies while markets bust them.”

There is no way to justify the policies that keep these cartels protected. And yet they persist — or, at least, they have persisted until very recently.

Taxi-Driver-poster

“In less than one year, we’ve seen the astonishing effects. Not only has the price of taxi medallions fallen dramatically from a peak of $1 million, it’s not even clear that there is a market remaining at all for these permits.”

In New York, we are seeing a collapse as inexorable as the fall of the Soviet Union itself. The app economy introduced competition in a41eQn3GP4ZL._SL250_ surreptitious way. It invited people to sign up to drive people here and there and get paid for it. No more standing in lines on corners or being forced to split fares. You can stay in the coffee shop until you are notified that your car is there.

[Order Jeffrey’s book “Bit by Bit: How P2P Is Freeing the World” from Amazon.com]

In less than one year, we’ve seen the astonishing effects. Not only has the price of taxi medallions fallen dramatically from a peak of $1 million, it’s not even clear that there is a market remaining at all for these permits. Read the rest of this entry »


Dalai Lama, Capitalist Convert?

Getty Images

Getty Images

Over at NRO‘s The CornerKathryn Jean Lopez  writes:  There is a tendency in certain parts to eye-roll when the word “dialogue” is raised. And I’ve certainly sat through some dialogues now and again that didn’t seem to get anywhere. But today in Washington, D.C., Arthur Brooks, it seems to me, did a very good thing. The president of the American Enterprise Institute hosted the Dalai Lama for a conversation about morality and economics. During the course of private and public interactions with Brooks and the people he gathered at the American Enterprise Institute, the Dalai Lama announced that he had a new respect for capitalists, who, he had previously assumed took people’s money and exploited them.

Image credit: Patrick G. Ryan

Dalai Lama and Aurthur Brooks. Image credit: Patrick G. Ryan

An affirmative answer to the question posed in the title of this post would be a step too far, but at AEI today, the spiritual leader of Tibetans wasn’t playing economist or politician, but reminding people of our common humanity and responsibilities to one another. And it seemed pretty clear to me that the hedge-fund billionaire on the main panel, Daniel Loeb, talking about how contemplation and meditation enhances decision-making and his work with an inner-city Brooklyn charter school, was not at all the caricature of capitalists the Dalai Lama is used to hearing from his admirers on the Left.

Arthur, along with Jennifer Marshall at Heritage and the Poverty Cure project at the Acton Institute are doing excellent work trying to advance ideas that help lift people out of poverty.

Read the rest of this entry »