Offshore accounts make you angry because you don’t have them. Tax avoidance seems unethical because you can’t afford to pay someone to do it for you. And the only reason you don’t set up a shell company is because it would be hollow within and without. There are no particular assets that you (or I) need to conceal so we don’t do it. (I’d like to think that I would be equally principled if I had a billion dollars than if I didn’t, but promises are the cheapest currency while you’re poor.)
So, here’s the hypocritical bit of the anger triggered by the Panama Papers in People Like Us. We resent politicians and others for swearing they care about the common weal and then finding ways to contribute as little as possible to the community pot. But we don’t vote socialists into office in the US and UK.
We hate politicians for promising jam tomorrow so long as we sweeten our days with labour and thrift while shipping their own fruit off to cold storage. But we don’t vote socialists into office in the US and UK.
We detest the fact, as former US treasury secretary and Harvard president Larry Summers, points out in The Washington Post that global integration “is a project being carried out by elites for elites, with little consideration for the interests of ordinary people.” But we don’t vote socialists into office in the US and UK.
The sense of popular resentment is contributing to what Mr Summers sees as anti-globalisation agenda across the world.
He is absolutely right. In the US, the UK, India and other parts of the world, the common man sees the globalization agenda as a chess game being played by large companies on the world map, with countries pitted against another.
So too the Panama Papers. As Mr Summers says, the stash of 11.5 million leaked documents tell us all (the non-1%) that “globalization offers a fortunate few opportunities to avoid taxes and regulations that are not available to everyone else.”
But we still don’t vote socialists into office in the US and UK.