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BOOK REVIEW: Treasure Islands by Nicholas Shaxson (reviewed by Stephen Bollom)

Page history last edited by Stephen Bollom 8 years, 10 months ago

Treasure Islands- Tax Havens and the Men Who Stole the World by Nicholas Shaxson, 2012 (Vintage)


I found this book riveting, it reads a bit like a detective story, and much of what it reveals is both utterly incredible and absolutely true at the same time.


It traces the development of the networks of secrecy jurisdictions and tax havens around the world that has taken place over the past century, and shines a light into the shadows of the financial world to show the extent of what has grown up in the dark there. If you aren't suffering from too much 'outrage fatigue' then I for one would say that it is a valuable journey to make, as Shaxson is one of the very few who have brought an incisive investigative writer's research skills to a scandal that has a vast influence on the whole world.


As someone who is obviously interested in monetary reform ideas, which propose changes to national level policy around money creation, I took a step back after reading this to consider the beguiling and secretive architecture of offshore finance and its essentially non aligned nature. A massive proportion of the money in the modern world lives 'nowhere', not in any nation, but in a parallel financial world that was created by -and is only accessible to, a tiny clique of investors, mega corporations, international criminals, and of course the banks. If you have heard about or read about any of the conspiracy focused analyses of our world, this is an expose of the realm where 'following the money' hits a stone wall of secrecy, one that hides the criminality at the heart of the system. It puts the scandals around things like city bonuses into perspective- as is so often the case the real story is elsewhere, it is here. I would welcome a book that addresses the questions that I was left with, such as, 'How would something like Positive Money reform affect or be affected by this shadow offshore world'? 'What are the real relationships between citizen and state, between state and state in light such an enormous stateless, regulation-free, tax-free place for money'?


It helped me understand somewhat the role of the UK in world finance. London really is a 'treasure island' itself; the center of a network of tax havens that spreads around the world, and that explains some of why so many people come to London to do their banking. The chapter on the Corporation of the City of London is interesting with respect to this.


Lots of recommendations from FT, Guardian, London Review of Books, Jeffrey Sachs, George Monbiot.


I couldn't recommend it highly enough, its absolutely bizarre, beyond fiction, very well written and utterly relevant to what is happening now and what will happen.



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