Ethics

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We need accounting for employees

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 16/09/2021 - 5:05pm in

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Ethics

The FT has reported today that:

More than four-fifths of employees at PwC UK come from a higher socio-economic background, according to data that for the first time show the difficulty facing many from poorer families of breaking into professional services.

First, congratulations to PWC for publishing this data. That took some courage. I acknowledge it.

Second, the data is worrying. What it makes very clear is how limited is the opportunity to move social position within a society that is deeply divided by class. How to tackle that issue remains very largely unknown, but acknowledgement of the issue is a key first step.

Third, in that case what this suggests is that better data on many aspects of employment is required from employers. Gender, class, and race and ethnicity pay gaps are all required now by that most important of stakeholders of all corporations, which is what employees are.

There is no accounting standard on this issue. There should be. It’s on my list.

Philosophy Professor Claims To Be Threatened With Dismissal for Refusing COVID-19 Vaccine

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 09/09/2021 - 10:01pm in

Julie Ponesse, a philosophy professor at Western University’s Huron College, says in a video that she is facing “imminent dismissal” by the university for her refusal to be vaccinated against COVID-19.

 

Western University has adopted a policy that says “all members of our community – including students, employees and visitors – who plan to be on campus this fall will be required to demonstrate proof of vaccination, except under rare exemptions.”

Ponesse’s refusal is not based on one of the allowable exemption categories (medical or religious) but rather on claims of bodily autonomy. “I’m entitled to make choices about what does and does not enter my body.” She says this is true “regardless of my reasons,” though her main concerns seem to be unfounded and unexplained worries about the safety of the COVID-19 vaccinations, and the mistaken idea that since being vaccinated won’t guarantee that she won’t catch or transmit COVID-19, it is ineffective.

While we are perhaps familiar with this kind of anti-vaccination misinformation and foolishness by now, what’s also interesting about this case, apart from the fact that this one features a philosophy professor, is Ponesse’s conception of her job. “My school employs me to be an authority on the subject of ethics… and I’m here to tell you it’s ethically wrong to coerce someone to take a vaccine.” As Sergio Tenenbaum comments, “Whenever an ethics prof says something like that they have admitted that either they don’t know what their job is or that they are not very good at it” (related). That said, it may be hasty to assume that what Ponesse says in this video is representative of her approach to her work in a classroom setting.

According to several reports, Western University has not fired Ponesse. The CBC relays this statement from a university spokesperson: “While I can’t comment on individual HR matters, I can confirm to you that at this time, no one at Huron has been dismissed as a result of this policy.”

(via Hane Maung)

 

Yesterday’s tax plans were all about capturing tax revenues for private gain to the wealthy at cost to working people

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 08/09/2021 - 5:07pm in

Given that much of yesterday’s Tory tax plan was well-trailed and had been subject to comment here beforehand there would seem little left to say on that issue now that the announcement has been made. Except, that is, to consider how it was announced and why it happened in that way, and the one unexpected element, which was an increase in the dividend tax rate by 1.25%.

Dealing with the latter first, this should be seen for what it is. It is a sop to criticism. It supposedly addresses the issue of national insurance avoidance by those who pay themselves using dividends from limited companies. I have no particular problem with tackling that issue, but there is a flaw. The implication is that genuine investment income - the dividends received in ISAs and by savings institutions, interest and rents - should all remain exempt from this charge. Implicit in this move was another attack on working people as a consequence, with the very obvious intention being that genuine wealth should be untouched by the demand that it contribute to society. The bias could not be clearer.

Then there is the way in which the announcement was made. It was deeply partisan. Rishi Sunak took much pleasure in announcing that he was imposing a tax on Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. It is apparent that they were not consulted.

The claim was that there was no alternative to raising tax was also wrong. As I noted yesterday, there is a substantial government underspend against budget already this year, whilst all deficits are being covered by the Bank of England quantitative easing as a matter of fact without inflation risk arising as a result, and so that claim was completely untrue.

As for there being no tax alternatives, that was also incorrect. I have shown that making NIC a more progressive tax could raise £14 billion a year, which is all that was required.

Capital gains tax could raise maybe £9 billion a year if rates were the same as income tax. The capital gains tax allowance could also have been reduced.

An investment income surcharge could raise maybe £7 billion a year.

And if the tax reliefs on pensions and gifts to charities were restricted to basic rate tax more than the required sum to supposedly meet this need could have been raised.

So, even using the Tory logic that tax funds spending (which is untrue) there were ample opportunities available. But they were not chosen. And that is indication of their true intention.

As I have noted this morning the most plausible interpretation of that intention is to capture yet more tax revenue for private gain. That must be the case because it is not clear that these tax increases were needed and in the case of social care at least it is not at all clear that there will be any on the ground impact arising from them. In that case it is entirely reasonable to look for the real motive for yesterday’s action and if one that is entirely consistent with their other actions in other areas can be found - and flooding wealth upwards has been the whole aim of the Johnson government - then it is reasonable to conclude that it reflects policy.

The regressive nature of the plans for social care and NHS funding are not, then, accident. They are by design. And that is what is so troubling about them. We have a government that in the middle of crisis is only concerned with the self-interest of a few. That’s becoming increasingly obvious. I just hope the electorate realise.

The Tories sold a social care con-trick yesterday that will do almost nothing to help those in real need

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 08/09/2021 - 4:25pm in

Yesterday was an unusual day in UK politics. What the Tories recognised, albeit deeply reluctantly, was that the boundary between the state needed to be extended. Given changes in need, demographics and costs the direction in which they have been driving the economy for the last decade has been proven too be wrong. The ever shrinking state is not possible. They had to concede that their decade of cuts in social care had to be reversed. And that, in a very inadequate, unjust and partial way, is what they have begun to do.

I stress the point about the reversal of cuts. The additional spending announced yesterday does no more than restore some of the cuts in social care imposed during the last decade.

The spending on the NHS is recognition that the formulas used to claim that it has been ringfenced are wrong because healthcare inflation has been higher than general inflation rates due to the increasing complexity of care.

In that case this is not a generous settlement. It is instead a reversal of a trend in government spending that is long overdue.

That reversal reflects something I have suggested for some time, which is that when the private sector is both failing to innovate and is therefore finding it hard to stimulate demand from consumers for products that many do not really want the real capacity for new activity in the economy is in the state sector. Few doubt that people do want more healthcare, social care, education, justice, housing end environmental reform. The very tentative step towards rebalancing made yesterday is recognition of that.

That was the best thing I can find to say about yesterday’s announcement. That the Tories have been forced to recognise that the state not just has a role, but that it might need to be a bigger one is the good news.

The bad news is that they are still hopelessly unable to comprehend what that means in terms of funding and policy delivery.

I will discuss funding in another post. On policy delivery what was very apparent yesterday was that what was being delivered on social care was a tax increase on low paid workers so that the wealthy could retain more of the value of their properties to pass on to their children. That was the driving force behind this change. Everything else is a footnote to that goal. As policy priorities go few are as perverted in the face of need as that.

When it comes to practical delivery the statements made were even worse. Social care is largely delivered by local authorities. There was no indication of additional support being supplied to them. Nor was there any indication of how the social care sector might attract the staff needed to supply the services that are now so essential, including by providing funding for better pay. Nor was there a hint as to how the staffing crisis caused by Brexit is to be solved.

As bad is the detail of the proposal for individuals with care needs. The £86,000 cap on care costs is just for care. But when a person goes into care, which is when these costs usually accumulate, there are also accommodation and food costs to pay. They are not covered by the cap. The government thinks they come to no more than £10,000 a year - which is a little more than what they think a student in a hall of residence can live on a year. Those costs will not be capped. The chance that these costs are already higher, and will rise as pressure on costs in care homes increases, is significant. In that case the cap is not a cap at all. Sometime the backlash to that will kick in. As usual the Tories have sold a con-trick. Their MPs would be wise to note this today.

In summary then, this deal does not do what it says it will, and does nothing to solve the actual problem of care provision because the intention is that much of the value of the spend will be captured for private gain by those with wealth. There is a need for better funding for the NHS and social care. That is beyond dispute. But even before the flaws in the tax choices made are considered this plan is not the way to deliver that change, largely because that is not its real intention. The consequence is that on the ground nothing of consequence will change. And that is what really matters. Redrawing the boundary between the state and private sectors to increase private wealth is not a policy at all, built is instead another raid by the well off on the public purse. And it is those that have to end.

The current chaos cannot continue. The worry is we don’t know when it will end, or what will come next

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 06/09/2021 - 5:34pm in

Nobody expected a shortage of bed linen in hotels to be a consequence of Brexit. But along with shortages of food, cars, blood testing bottles and HGV drivers and an excess of pigs it apparently is.

But then so too is the denial that all this has anything to do with Brexit another consequence of Brexit. A brave face in the breakdown of politics and the economy seems to be the order of the day. I noted one commentator in the FT this morning saying:

The US economy today is about as strong as it has been in generations, with the tightest labour markets and highest inflation rates seen in decades. That is even accounting for a recent moderation of growth driven by the spread of the Delta variant of Covid-19, reflected in Friday’s disappointing August jobs data.

It seems that there is a collective denial going on. Evidence is being swept aside. A collective pretence is being presented that if we just hang on all will be well.

Even the government is doing it. Put up with a couple of years of chaos, it is saying, and all will be fine. Except, it has no basis for saying that, because it simply cannot know. And as for the US economy? Add in Covid, a crisis of international confidence, climate change and threats to the US constitution arriving via state abortion and election legislation and the last thing its prospects look like are rosy.

The reality is that in a remarkably short period of time considerable change has taken place. The route from social democracy to authoritarian populism has been steady, beginning in 1947 with the creation of the Mont Pelerin Society by Hayek and Milton Friedman, but with growing momentum since 1980.

During the 80s that movement might have been honest about its intent. Before and after then it is very hard to think that it has been: subterfuge as to its vision has been normal because it’s very hard to say that your aim is the limitation of democracy to serve the interests of very few in society, and yet in Trump and Johnson (and others, elsewhere) that is very obviously what the ultimate aim has been. And it has succeeded, by and large, in delivering just that.

The underlying threat to society at large may be even bigger than that created by inequality though. It does not take much to read a eugenicist approach into Dominic Cummings rants on the rights of the 0.01%. It is much easier to see that Rushi Sunak has a decided bias against those least well off, as had Trump. The aim is to oppress.

But, to achieve that goal something had to give, and that something, it now seems, was order. The order of trade. The order of international relations,. The order of the rule of law. The order of parliamentary sovereignty. The order within the media, and its right to question. The order that lets routine happen and markets function, and supply chains operate. And into that already chaotic scene Covid was thrown, by accident, but with revelatory consequences by showing how the new order of government was to work for the benefit of a few.

The result is not strong economies, or strong anything else. The consequence is weak government, shown to be without an agenda beyond destroying constraints on their own action, but without apparent knowledge of what action they desire because that, they claim (conveniently) is for markets to decide, even though those in the markets clearly do not wish for that choice.

So where are we? In chaos, it would seem, with no route out. The dogma without substance that has gripped popular politics has no answer to any question except how to increase short term inequality.

The question is, his long can this situation last? What will the tipping point be? It’s still not clear. But there will be one. Either democracy will collapse, and that is possible in the chaos that is developing, or there will have to be a backlash to save it. The mess we are in has nothing within it that suggests it meets any of the needs of society. So society has either to be suspended, or resume its role. What is not possible is that current chaos might continue, because at some people will have had enough. It’s just a matter of when.

If the tax rates on wealth and wealth increases were the same as those on income the UK might collect more than £170 billion of extra tax a year

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sun, 05/09/2021 - 5:37pm in

I wrote the blog post that follows this introduction in April 2020. I was anticipating the fact that there would be a furious debate when the coronavirus pandemic was supposedly over as to how to pay for it with additional taxation.

Let's ignore for a moment that the coronavirus crisis has already been paid for with quantitative easing.

Let's also ignore the fact that tax never pays for government spending because it is always paid for in the first instance on Bank of England overdraft and the role of tax is to clear that deficit.

Let's instead note that the debate has begun, and that what I wrote right at the start of this pandemic remains wholly relevant. We do need additional taxation of wealth. And we need it now. What is more, the data I revealed then showed that this is not only where the capacity to pay tax is but is what is required if inequality is to be addressed - as was recognised as essential at that time. The impact of coronavirus quantitative easing will only have made this need more urgent.

The debate is now on. But the only acceptable answer is already apparent. 

Introduction

In the aftermath of the [emergence of the] coronavirus crisis there appears to be a widely held opinion that taxes on wealth should increase. Both the Pope and Archbishop of Canterbury appear to share this view, for example. They do so with the objective of reducing inequality in society.

They are not alone. There have been many demands that this be an objective for the After Coronavirus era. For example, the Financial Times has said:

Radical reforms – reversing the prevailing policy direction of the last four decades – will need to be put on the table. …. Policies until recently considered eccentric, such as basic income and wealth taxes, will have to be in the mix.

In this context it is appropriate to test data on the existing tax system that operates in the UK to see whether this demand for increased taxation of wealth is reasonable at this time.

Summary

To achieve this goal a report has been prepared to appraise data on whether or not there is the capacity for those with wealth to pay more tax in the UK, or not. Having appraised data from the Office for National Statistics, HM Treasury and HM Revenue & Customs four main conclusions are reached.

The first is that in the period 2011 — 18 the national income of the UK was £13.1 trillion, and in that same period the increase in net wealth was £5.1 trillion. It is stressed, that this figure is not for total wealth, but the increase in the value of that net wealth in that period.

Second, the overall effective tax rates on income during this period were unlikely to have averaged more than 29.4%, but those on wealth increases did not exceed 3.4%.

Third, if these rates had been equalised it would, at least in principle, have been possible to raise an additional £174 billion in tax revenue per annum from the owners of wealth.

Fourth, because there has been no attempt at equalisation and because the distribution of the ownership of wealth varies substantially across the UK, which variation is reinforced by factors such as age and gender where substantial inequalities exist, the effective tax rate of the 10% of those in the UK who are in the lowest earning group of taxpayers exceeds 42% of their combined income and wealth gains in a year, but the equivalent effective tax rate for those in the highest ten per cent of UK taxpayers ranked by earnings is less than half that at just over 18 per cent. This is summarised in this chart:

It is, as a result, suggested that there is considerable additional capacity for tax to be raised from those who own most of the wealth in the UK, many of whom are in that top ten per cent of income earners.

Whether or not it would be desirable, or even technically feasible, to raise £174 billion of additional tax from additional tax charges on wealth is not the primary issue addressed by the paper. Nor does it concern itself with the issue of whether that sum should be redistributed simply to redress wealth inequality. A value judgement is not being offered on the matter of wealth holding, as such. Instead the issue of concern being addressed is that those most vulnerable to precarity within the UK are also those paying the highest overall effective rates of tax.

Whether that is appropriate is the first question raised as a consequence, with the second being whether, if that is the case, any tax increases that might arise in future should have any impact upon those with lower income or earnings. In the context of the coronavirus crisis and the debates that will, inevitably, occur at some point on whether and if taxes should be raised to contribute towards its cost, these appear to be issues of considerable significance.

This evidence in the paper suggests that those with substantially higher income and wealth should bear the majority or all of that cost if it was thought appropriate that anyone should.

That does, however, then suggest that it might also be important that the disparity in the relative tax payments made by those on high and low earnings in the UK should be addressed whether or not overall net additional tax revenue is required, or not. That is because there is now ample evidence that inequality creates significant social costs within any society, and it is apparent that the UK tax system is contributing to this problem.

A manifesto for change that could result from this understanding might include suggestion that:

  1. The considerable scope for increasing the effective tax rates on wealth and income derived from it should now be very firmly on the UK policy agenda;
  2. Any such increase must be targeted at those with the greatest capacity to pay, which would be those in the top deciles of income earners and wealth owners in the UK;
  3. Tax increases impacting the income of those in other deciles would be very hard to justify if measures to increase tax on wealth and income derived from it did not also happen;
  4. Inequality in the UK could be considerably reduced by taking the taxation of wealth into greater account. Which taxes should be cut for those on lower income levels to help achieve this goal also needs extensive consideration especially given the stresses that have emerged as a result of the coronavirus crisis.

These issues will be addressed in further posts on how this matter should be tackled in practice.

Sunak’s 1% national insurance charge to fund the NHS is a deliberate, callous and unnecessary move to increase inequality and hardship in the UK

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 03/09/2021 - 5:15pm in

There are widespread reports this morning that the Tories are planning at least a one per cent increase in national insurance to fund an increase in spending on the NHS of an equivalent amount. To describe a policy so poorly thought out as ill-conceived is to be overly polite. Let me point out some of the flaws.

First, this increase is not needed. The government can already afford to fund the £10 billion the NHS needs, with ease. I explained how here.

Second, the government does not need to raise any taxes to pay for increased funding for the NHS because the multiplier effect of additional NHS spending is high enough for such spending to pay for itself. Again, I have explained why.

In other words, the government simply does not need to adhere to the logic that an increase in spending must be funded. It did not follow that logic for £37 billion of track and trace funding that it is now admitted had no notable impact on the management of the coronavirus crisis, but which did massively line government cronies’ pockets. So why is this tax increase required? The answer is solely about politics. Rishi Sunak wishes that people should be punished for wanting more NHS spending.

That word ‘punishment’ is deliberately used by me. NIC is a deeply regressive tax. As the government’s own table of rates, allowances and reliefs makes clear, the tax targets those on lower pay. The charge starts on income below the income tax threshold. It is cut drastically on income above £50,268 a year. It is, therefore a deeply unfair tax already.

But worse are the exemptions from the tax. The retired, however well off they might be, do not pay it.

NIC is not paid at all on unearned income, whether from interest, dividends, rents, trusts or other sources.

And those with the means to manipulate their income - as many self-employed people with their own companies have been able to do - can avoid large parts of their NIC liability.

So, this is a tax on those in paid employment above all else.

This means that this is a tax on those most likely to be least able to afford a tax increase in this country.

It will hit those on very low incomes suffering cuts in Universal Credit and facing increased fuel poverty very hard.

And the wealthiest will not pay a penny more. You could not make up a tax outcome this bad however hard you tried.

Of all the tax options the government could have chosen this one is the worst. So why are they doing it? I actually genuinely think it is to punish. The punishment is on those who have not opted out of the NHS with private medicine. The Tory logic is that the wealthy will have done this - so they should not pay. Except, of course, in an emergency no one opts out of the NHS.

So, if this is the wrong tax increase, and assuming there had to be a tax increase (which as I noted above, need not be the case) then what should have been chosen?

I have listed many options for increasing tax on the wealthy, including these:

Let me elaborate on just a couple of the more obvious candidates. The first would be taxing capital gains at income tax rates. Notionally that would bring in over £9 billion in tax and still only bring the average capital gains tax charge to just over 30% when it is only 15% now. Allow for some behavioural change and such a move would easily bring in more than £5 billion a year. Cut the annual capital gains tax allowance - as social justice would demand - and the figure could be very much more.

Then there is an annual investment income surcharge. Annual investment income declared in the UK in the last year for which data was available was £92.3 billion. This does not include pensions. Two thirds of this sum was dividends. If around £40 billion this sum was exempt from any additional charge because it went to those with total income under £30,000 a year and the rest was subject to an investment income surcharge of 15%, equivalent to an approximate NIC charge, then £7.8 billion of additional tax would be due from this group - more than covering Sunak’s desired additional income.

So, with two simple changes I could fund dramatically more than the sum that Sunak is seeking from those with the ability to pay who are currently undertaxed instead of from seeking more from the lowest paid who currently pay much higher rates of tax than do those with investment income.

So why is Sunak proposing what he is? Simply because he holds most of the people of this country in contempt. There is no other explanation.  And worse, he is doing that for no good reason at all.

Worse though is this fact: making such a charge on these least able to afford it will increase demand on the NHS. That is how perverse this charge really is.

Why are tax havens harmful?

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 03/09/2021 - 4:16pm in

In the first three videos in this series on tax havens I explored why tax havens should really be called secrecy jurisdictions, what tax havens are used for now and how they try to undermine the regulation of other states.

In this video I move on to ask why tax havens are so harmful? Drawing on economic theory and the simple ethics of fairness that every child understands I argue that tax havens are intended to undermine fair markets, and do. As a result, for from being the bastions of free enterprise that they claim to be tax havens are actually places that seek to undermine the entire market system.

On the way to achieving that goal I argue that they also undermine two other thing as well. One is the rule of law, and the other is democracy.

In that case tax havens exist to create a form of oppression where a few can economically abuse most people through the use of offshore corporations. That is, of course, one description of fascism.

The Great Covid Panic: now out!

It’s here, the booklet I am sure you have all been waiting for. The one which Gigi Foster and Michael Baker slaved over for 10 months. It is also on Kindle. It is dedicated to all the victims of the Panic, in poor countries and rich countries. They include our children, the lonely, and the poor.

The short publisher blurb: How to make sense of the astonishing upheaval of Spring 2020 and following? Normal life – in which expected rights and freedoms were taken for granted – came to be replaced by a new society as managed by a medical/ruling elite that promised but failed to deliver virus mitigation, all in the name of public health. Meanwhile, we’ve lost so much of what we once had: travel freedoms, privacy, a democratic presumption of equality, commercial freedoms, and even the access to information portals. Something has gone very wrong.

The longer blurb that our publisher chose for it is over the fold! There is also a website that will tell you where book launches will take place, which bookstores sell it, and who has liked it sofar.

To make sense of it all, the Brownstone Institute is pleased to announce the publication of The Great Covid Panic: What Happened, Why, and What To Do Next, by Paul Frijters, Gigi Foster, and Michael Baker. Combining rigorous scholarship with evocative and accessible prose, the book covers all the issues central to the pandemic and the disastrous policy response, a narrative as comprehensive as it is intellectually devastating. In short, this is THE book the world needs right now.

In the Great Panic of early 2020, nearly every government in the world restricted the movement of its population, disrupted the education of its children, suspended normal individual liberties, hijacked its healthcare system, and in other ways increased its direct control of people’s lives. Attempts to control the new coronavirus in most countries made the number of deaths from both the virus and other health problems rise. Some countries and regions snapped out of the madness in early 2021 or even before. Yet other governments, still in 2021, were ever more fanatically obsessed with control.

Why did 2020 become, so suddenly and so forcefully, a year of global panic over a virus that for most people is barely more dangerous than a standard-issue flu virus? This book reveals how the madness started, what kept it going, and how it might end. This is also a book about stories and experiences, some real and some fictionalized to protect identities. Join Jane the complier, James the decider, and Jasmine the doubter, the three core protagonists of the narrative part of the book. Their experiences illustrate what happened to individuals and through them to whole societies, telling us — if we care to listen — how to avoid a repeat. This literary presentation is mixed with detailed reports of the actual data and deep research that has generally been obscured in the midst of media madness and obfuscation by public-health authority.

“A tour-de-force on how the pandemic response was driven by fear, crowd thinking, big business and a desire for control, rather than by sound public health principles. This is bound to be a classic.” ~ Professor Martin Kulldorff, Harvard Medical School

“When I received the manuscript, I was hooked from the first page and knew then that I would miss a full night’s sleep. I did indeed. My heart raced from beginning to end. As the publisher, I must say that this book is a dream for me, the book I never thought would exist, the book that I believe can change everything.” ~ Jeffrey Tucker, Founder Brownstone Institute.

How do tax havens work?

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 02/09/2021 - 3:38pm in

In this third video in a series on tax havens I look at how tax havens work.

As I explained in the first video in the series, the key to understanding tax havens is to understand that their primary product is not now tax abuse, but a more general abuse of the regulation of other countries. Key to that process is secrecy.

This understanding gave rise to my theory, first published in 2009, of how tax havens really work. That understanding has underpinned much change in regulation since then and is reflected in the work of a number of authors, including that of Nick Shaxson, who wrote the best-selling ‘Treasure Islands’.

My theory is based around how the users of tax havens try to get around regulation by moving the recording of transactions from the place where they really are, and might usually be regulated, (‘here’, as I describe it), to either another identifiable place that should regulate them (‘somewhere’, as I call it), or to a place that does purposely not disclose that it may be regulating the transaction (‘elsewhere’ in my description, which refers to most tax haven activity), or to the ultimate goal of the tax haven user - which is ‘nowhere’, meaning that the transaction is knowingly not regulated anywhere at all.

Understanding these stages of separation is key to understanding how tax havens work. I explain how in this video. The paper in which the thinking was first explored is here.

 

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