In 1989, David Brin wrote a near-future look (2038) at the world. It was entitled ‘Earth’. I was just rereading in Northern Italy between the long days of work fulfilling a contract. It is a book that is well-known for its prophetic musing on future trends.
One low likelihood element of the book was the Helvitican War, or the secrecy uprising. In the book, this probably happened somewhere in after 2020 with the increasing radicalization and opposition against all forms of financial secrecy or secrecy in general happening in the 2010s and 2020s,
In my view, the Panama papers are just part of the continuing trend towards that prophecy, with the world population’s increasing irritation with the corrupt, the wealthy, and the unproductive parasites of a productive world. As one analysis of it said of the precepts of the Helvitican War..
Since writing ‘Earth’, Brin has expanded on this theme and the social issues involved in The Transparent Society. The general thesis is that technology is rapidly expanding human vision, filling the world with databases and cameras. This threatens to make privacy a thing of the past. it can also enhance the powers of the mighty (elites of government or money or criminality) to spy on common folk. Instead of hiding from this trend, the best way for us to deal with it may be to embrace it, by aggressively opening the information flows. By insisting on watching the watchmen.
This was portrayed in Earth by assuming the world’s citizens became somewhat radicalized in the 2010s and 2020s… NOT toward old-fashioned socialism, but toward insisting that all the secret backroom deals end. Radical transparency is exaggerated in Earth through the metaphor of the “Helvetian War.” A struggle by the world’s poor nations and middle class taxpayers against the secret banking havens like Switzerland, ending (after much violence) in victory with release of all the financial records.
After watching the way that taxpayers were screwed by the bailouts of the financial and banking system in the global financial crisis in 2007-2008 and the great recession resulting from it have been reacting with increasing irritation and anger towards the secrecy of elites, I’m starting to believe that this vision is more prophetic than unlikely. Just look at the startled and angry reactions that forced this action reported today..
Europe’s biggest nations launched a joint scheme on Thursday to clamp down on tax evasion and corruption, responding to revelations of the rich and powerful stashing money in far-away tax havens in the so-called Panama Papers.
“In the future, nobody should be able to hide behind complex legal structures,” German finance minister Wolfgang Schaeuble said as he unveiled the initiative. “Fighting tax evasion requires a global response.”
The leak of thousands of confidential documents from a Panamanian law firm earlier this month has had political repercussions in many countries, forcing Iceland’s prime minister to quit and putting British Prime Minister David Cameron under pressure over his family’s financial affairs.
Britain, Germany, France, Italy and Spain agreed to share detailed data on the ownership of companies, trusts and foundations, making it more difficult for actual owners to hide their wealth and income from tax authorities.
Unveiling their proposals alongside IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde and OECD chief José Ángel Gurría, the five nations committed to establishing a register to detail the beneficial owners of companies, trusts, foundations, and shell companies, making it available for tax administration and law enforcement authorities.
French finance minister Michel Sapin said the joint effort should be followed by even tougher measures against countries that will not comply.
“We have to speed up and we have to implement and we have to have the proper sanctions against those countries that would not join the international consensus,” he said.
This looks to me like the steady movement towards the type of hard line driven by taxpayers to force the secretive corrupt and parasites to cough up. David Brin had the fictional Brazzaville Conference that was the starting point of the devastating Helvitican War with its unleashing of atomic and biological war in central Europe to prise open the Swiss banking system.
These days the Swiss seem like a less likely target than somewhere with lax banking systems and lenient trust and company structures. We are much more likely. It is clear from John Key’s lackluster and irresponsible reaction to accusations of our country being just such a loosely controlled tax haven, that we are becoming an target – see Simon’s “Whitewash a certainty in tax haven review“.
Personally, I don’t want our country to be one of the vilified and possibly bombed out nations because frigging John Key likes being “relaxed” about our tax haven pariah status. Let’s make sure that we tax the parasite bastards hard.
I leave you with a reading from David Brin from Earth.