Grr. Every now and again there is news that is just plain infuriating.
Evil money, evil business.
I don’t want things to be that simple, but sometimes it is just that simple.
All over the world, good people are behaving responsibly, trying to preserve the planet and, by the way, follow laws.
And all over the world, bad actors are shamelessly destroying nature and plundering resources. And, by the way, flouting laws.
How can this happen?
Simple: lack of accountability. And one of the most flagrant tools for flouting is ‘offshore finance’.
Offshore finance is bad for poor people, bad for the economy, and, it seems, bad for nature., too.
A new report suggests a clear link between tax havens (AKA offshore finance centers) and environment degradation .
Specifically, the study traces the financing for ecologically damaging enterprises, fishing and deforestation. In both cases, there are good actors and bad actors, clean harvests and dirty harvests. The data show that it is easy to trace the good actors behind clean activities.
But most dirty activities are funded by anonymous agents, hidden by offshore financial havens. This means that bad agents are hard to trace.
Which, of course, is not a coincidence.
For one thing, a lot of the dirty harvesting is probably illegal. And it would certainly be bad publicity. So there is every reason to desire anonymity.
It is also true that, like many activities offshore, the profits are flowing away from the local economy, and often into the dark economy and dark regimes around the world. This is stealing from the poor, the innocent, and the honest, and enriching the evil rich. I’m not seeing any upside here.
In fact, environmental degradation is almost the least of the harms from this stuff. These people literally don’t care about anything except money, so of course they don’t care about preserving forests or fisheries.
Finally, I’ll point out once again that cryptocurrencies are designed to be the perfect offshore financial system. Unregulated and untraceable transactions are the entire point of cryptocurrencies, and they are becoming popular in many of your favorite offshore destinations.
In this light, all the rhetoric in the world about supposed social benefits and transparency of cryptocurrencies ring hollow. The last thing we need is lightning fast digital finance that is effectively “offshore” from everywhere.
- Victor Galaz, Beatrice Crona, Alice Dauriach, Jean-Baptiste Jouffray, Henrik Österblom, and Jan Fichtner, Tax havens and global environmental degradation. Nature Ecology & Evolution, 2018/08/13 2018. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41559-018-0497-3
- Matt McGrath, Tax haven link to rainforest destruction and illegal fishing, in BBC News – Science & Environment. 2018. https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-45172671