The book starts with a useful framework to define tax havens (secrecy jurisdictions) followed by a very interesting history of their development. However, all along the read, there are little signs that we're being taken for a ride.
The first off-note comes from Shaxson's attributions that nearly all of the world's woes lay at the doors of the tax havens. He goes so far as to say that they played a leading role in the financial crisis by hiding the leveraging. hmmmm, I've read about a dozen books on the financial crisis (the best being "All The Devils Are Here") and that angle is not supported by anyone except Shaxon. The leveraging was well known and visible.
Throughout the book, he uses straw-man arguments to support his assertions. He references some of the most extreme libertarians to argue on behalf of tax havens and then eviscerates their points. So what? Anybody can do that - they're kooks. The tactic was overused enough that it became a clear form of deception.
Gradually, the book moves from interesting argument to utopianism. He paints a picture of the world before tax havens as idealistic. He embraces the US Senator Carl Levin's assertions that the tax havens are costing billions to the US Treasury and other governments without a challenge. The US Congressional Budget Office has shown Levin's arguments to be false and this is out there for Shaxson to see.
On the positive side, Shaxson does a great job of exposing the hypocrisy of US and UK efforts to reign in tax havens, while maintaining their own leading positions as tax havens. There is a humorous moment involving 1209 North Orange Street in Wilmington, Delaware. But even then, he pulled punches ... a disappointment.
He touched on one of the legitimate reasons that tax havens exist: Some governments resort to confiscatory tax schemes. He had no defense for these governments' actions (good for him), but he argues that tax havens are to blame for this too - a logical contortion indeed. By his argument, havens hide these problems from the electorate's scrutiny and deny the people the opportunity to demand changes to the laws. Naive... More than that, it's a dangerous naivety.
It's more likely that tax havens are a more effective response to such laws... and that's a pity, but a lot better than no response at all. It is more likely that without tax havens, there would be a confiscatory tax specially designed for each weak and voiceless demographic. And this is just as true for developed democracies as it is for dictatorships.
Did you know that the US capital gains tax rates on the foreign pensions of Americans living overseas (0.5% of the US population) has exceeded 100% for the last ten years and will climb above 200% in 2013? More importantly - do you care? Do you think those laws will change?
The book comes down to utopianism dressed up as journalism.
If you think that "The Secret" is a great book, then you would like this book, but it will add nothing to "The Secret". If you think that the Law of Attraction (or the power of positive thinking) is real and enlightening, but it just hasn't been working for you, then you an buy this book and get another booster shot. It's just nonsense and boring on top of that.
Should have been titled: "Leadership Lessons From the Bible". This was not well associated with the concept of 21 minutes in a day.
This book is a gem for historians. If you are longing for those bubble days, here's the book that let's you relive the nonsense. Play it on your home stereo at parties and laugh along with your friends and what you were crying about only two years ago. As an added bonus, you can memorize some of the lines from this comedy classic and use them as catch-phrases around the office water cooler. Your colleagues will say "where does she come up with this stuff? She's the coolest."
Seriously, it was borderline factual at points, did have some interesting and accurate history, but really smells of the euphoria of thse bygone days of yesteryear. If you find yourself wondering "what were we thinking", you can get the answer here. I really do recommend this book, but it certainly does not belong in Science, perhaps not in Information Age - Audible, please move this one to Comedy.
Connelly lost this one in an effort to make sufficient plot twists. The story had such a good chance, but his final twist relies on an implausible level of conspiracy theory... well, let's not give it away. There were some errors also that defied common sense and most are related to the final, flawed twist. They're not easy to miss: how did the transmitter penetrate the copper walls in the lab?
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