Borderless capital
and the consequences

This short Ted Talk, at TED Banff in Canada in June 2016, is by Gerard Ryle, exploring the way investigative journalists collaboratively exploited the leaked Panama Papers to cast light on the borderless nature of capital and how individuals and their secretive companies obscure both their holdings and their interests.

What is interesting is how well it illustrates the internationalist nature of private capital, often capital accrued by public figures who, you would think, should have the interests of their nations and people at heart.

The talk shows the persistence and pervasiveness of the work of Panama based laywers Mossack Fonseca and the success that the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) in Washington USA had, in sharing and developing the stories, that led to the resignation of Prime Ministers and the exposure of connections to political elites of exploitative financial arrangements.

The international and borderless nature of capital makes, I would argue, the recent territorial and administrative debates about the European Union irrelevant.

If there is a problem with a bureaucracy in a country or group of states, the deeper malaise is the creation of laws of preference for one group of actors and not another. If my road building project in Europe has not been administered properly, then we should, in an open democracy, be able to exercise rigorous accountability and audit to remove the problem and to rectify the injustice.

If my  bank account in the British Virgin Islands has been used to divert funds to my private interests, or allegedly to deliver payments to officials that might possibly be illegal, the very secrecy and obscurity of process means we have no recourse to auditable action to recover the situation – fiscal, ethical or moral.

If I then allegedly avoid paying tax or other contributions in my community, then everyone and the resources and infrastructure they use, also suffer a loss. Everyone in my community carries the cost.

I have written before about how the international nature of unnacountable capital, coupled to a populist notion of simple, charismatic vilification of ‘the other’ may bring us to the brink of war in Europe again, after such a prolonged period of peace.

The writer Tobias Stone recently published an article, History tells us what will happen next with Brexit & Trump, that captures the essence of what may be the coming dilemna in Europe. He notes the resilience of humans to survive massive destruction. Stone, however, sees that there is in the current socio-political rift in England, a tight focus on the present, a lack of historical and global perspective to actions and re-actions and at heart, the fact that most individuals are un-prepared to ‘read, think and challenge‘.

Stone clearly lays out in detail a possible topography of political change and tension that brings us to war with our neighbours…

Brexit in the UK causes Italy or France to have a similar referendum. Le Pen wins an election in France. Europe now has a fractured EU…with a fractured EU, and weakened NATO, Putin, facing an ongoing economic and social crisis in Russia, needs another foreign distraction around which to rally his people…just one Arch Duke Ferdinand scenario. The number of possible scenarios are infinite due to the massive complexity of the many moving parts. And of course many of them lead to nothing happening. But based on history we are due another period of destruction.

Source:   Accessed: 25.07.2016

In a Brexit/Trump world Stone has it that, for example, neither Putin nor Trump read The Guardian. When we write to it, it is, he argues, just friends writing to comfort friends.

Whilst this may be true and the consequent solution to the chasm that divides us is not obvious, I would argue that the work of the ICIJ shows us what the real issue is and an article from Tobias Stone gives us a potential theory of outcome that should cause us all to shudder and re-think.

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