Thursday, March 11, 2010

Onshore: beyond the voodoo void of finance

William Brittain-Catlin, author of one of very few mainstream books on offshore finance, has a piece in The Guardian, as a reminder of what's going on:

"the onshore nation will take very seriously its responsibility to protect citizens from financial institutions that attempt to hoodwink people into buying risky financial products they do not need, and mortgages whose inequitable terms and conditions deliberately go unexplained. Awareness of and proper inclusion in the financial system should be core objectives of the onshore nation.

What underlines all these policies is a focus on bringing finance – that once bright star that ignited and burst into flames – back down to earth and humanising it, giving it an approachable human dimension and scale. The complex, risky, fast and large-scale structures of the old model are to be replaced by a new model of finance; at once simpler, slower, smaller and safer.

Seems reasonable enough, though the article spends too much time discussing generalities, with few specifics. But there is a catch:

"Those who wish to practice the economics of destruction will always find some offshore base from which to operate, however inconvenient. Already the flag of realpolitik is being waved by nations eager to preserve their own advantage in the financial and economic sphere. The broad political momentum to change the way global finance operates, something felt so keenly in the early days of the recession, seems far away now.

This, of course, is welcome news to Republican senators, the big banks and their lobbyists in the finance industry – all of whom are gaining ground on an agenda that looks back nostalgically to the glory days of offshore capitalism. They want nothing more than to push the default button back to sometime just before the collapse of Lehman Brothers."

Quite so.


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