In an hour from now I am due to meet with some other people at a private house in Canberra. Each person has been asked to pose one question. The plan is that this will lead to some interesting discussions.
As I have little time, I will be brief. According to the Times Literary Supplement ‘this decade’s most important book’ appeared in German in 2016. It was rapidly translated into English and published as The Panama Papers (Obermayer and Obermaier, 2017). My question is: ‘How can we best respond to the information that has been made available in that book?’
Now, at first glance, it could be plausibly argued that those of us who are very firmly part of the 99% of the population—those who pay taxes and expect governments to keep our schools, hospitals, roads, water supply, electrical infrastructure and defensive arrangments in good order—should not start fretting about any extremely wealthy individuals and corporations who evade taxes by shifting their wealth overseas into secretive tax havens, such as those in the Bahamas, British Virgin Islands, Costa Rica,Cyprus, Isle of Man, Jersey, Niue, Nevada, Panama, Ras al Khaimah, and Wyoming.
Thanks to the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, which has taken on the role of analysing millions of documents leaked from these havens, and no thanks to the editors of some very large media companies who declined to publish the findings, we now have some idea of the extent of the fraud perpetuated by corrupt politicians, lawyers, corporate executives, drug dealers, child traffickers, and others who have hidden their money in this way.
What can we do? Well, I have a few simple suggestions.
First, we can read some relevant books, starting with The Panama Papers, published by OneWorld. Second, we can support the investigative journalists who have been deeply involved in analysing the data. We can do this by reading their work online and posting supportive comments. With that aim in mind I have recently begun to follow these groups and individuals on Twitter:
Third, we can make small donations to support the work of non-profit, investigative journalists, starting with the ICIJ. I haven’t done this myself yet, but I plan to do so shortly.