Nicholas Shaxson: Naked Capitalism – Seriously, Where Else Are You Going to Go?

By Nicholas Shaxson, the author of Treasure Islands, an award-winning book about tax havens. He also writes regularly at Tax Justice Network and Fools’ Gold.

This is fundraising week for Naked Capitalism. If you’ve been meaning to contribute and haven’t gotten to it yet, you can dispense with the preliminaries and do so here, right now.

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I first came across Naked Capitalism when someone sent me this December 2007 post about the shadow banking system and collateralised debt obligations, right at the leading edge of the approaching global financial and economic crisis.

This was my first proper education in these things, and it was also taking to task the experts at the Financial Times, of all papers, for a relative lack of financial expertise in this area.

Who were “Naked Capitalism?” Who was this “Yves Smith?”

I nosed around the site. I soon discovered that it was two things. It was a source of, and a forum for, financial sector expertise and analysis. But it was something else too. It was radical. A troublemaker. It was confrontational, skeptical, stubborn and uncompromising. This was penetrating, expert, fighting talk. An early-warning system: a hammer to crack open the warm and fuzzy financial consensus that had enveloped the western world. I’m not sure its role is to comfort the afflicted, but it is there to afflict the comfortable.

Within hours of discovering it I’d placed NC in my browser’s top favourites. Several upgrades later, it is still there.

Its rebellious stance has not changed since its very first post in 2006, to expose the financial world’s fawning over hedge funds and their bogus claims. It has always sailed against prevailing currents of opinion, with a mission, as Yves put it in an email this morning,

“to expose, and more and more, combat, the operations of a financial and economic system that increasingly serves the interests of the top wealthy at the expense of everyone else.”

Which, of course, is one of the great battles of our age. We are stricken by a finance curse – where a growing financial sector seems to cause all kinds of ailments from rising inequality to lower health outcomes and lower growth. One of the most important aspects of that Curse is the capture of élite opinion and the media by the financial services industry and all its appendages. Naked Capitalism — thanks to your contributions — lies firmly, and deliberately, outside that consensus.

You’re probably aware that NC has produced boatloads of documents to expose the industry of lies that supports the wealth-sucking, value-destroying private equity industry: huge pension funds have recently switched their stances on investment as a result of its reporting. Heads have rolled at the SEC.

But here’s something else. While Naked Capitalism is a U.S. site, it also takes a deep interest in international financial affairs: a refreshing change from so much of the provincial navel-gazing you get in the media: whether in the U.S. or my own country the U.K., or anywhere else.

And this matters. This is an international financial outrage that’s being perpetrated (that is, if you can call it “an” outrage.) When Wall Street financial institutions have some shady and anti-social financial regulatory nonsense they’re not allowed to do at home, they just take it offshore to London or one of the Queen’s offshore satellites, and do it there – as we reported recently. It’s no coincidence that Michael Bloomberg’s and Charles Schumer’s 2007 lobbying document urging massive financial liberalisation just ahead of the financial crisis mentions London a stunning 135 times.

Yet, with a few honourable and occasional exceptions, you won’t find these systemic issues discussed in the UK media. You will on Naked Capitalism: in the writings of Bill Black, Michael Hudson and others.

A stubbornly cross-border approach is the only way to address many of these issues. Richard Smith’s dogged digging into some of the world’s muckier financial pestilence, on Naked Capitalism, has broken open all manner of offshore tax haven shenanigans, and is getting widespread attention. This is my bailiwick, and it’s top-notch stuff.

My own area of expertise – tax havens – is suffused with communities of angry trolls and blowhards peddling mostly uninformed myths about taxes, regulations, and their relationship with prosperity. But I’ve found a very different atmosphere among the commentators on NC. Despite the anger and sense of injustice that fires so many of its posts, I find that you’re generally far better behaved and more able to add real value to a discussion, than what I’m used to elsewhere. This feels like a community of “influencers” and experts who can find and support each other.

Naked Capitalism is an antidote to financialisation, élite impunity, wealth extraction and the corruption of politics and markets. This recipe appeals across the political spectrum, from left to right.

And it’s free. This is a global public good. And somebody needs to fund it.

That could be you. Please take the time to donate.

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  1. craazyman

    All right that does it!

    I can’t pay Chris “The Asteroid King” Martenson MORE than I pay Naked Capitalism each year. I’ll I’ve done is lose money in GLD but I pay him anyway. Actually he has great podcasts. That’s why I pay.

    It would make me feel so repulsively reptilian if I thought back at yearend and realized that all the forbearance shown to me here, posting all my nonsense in the PG without even editing it, if all that forbearance I valued LESS than the cumulative sum of the monthly money I pay him for the latest Financial Asteroid Sighting.

    That’s why I’m writing a check for $361 tomorrow!

    I can’t use Paypal because they don’t consider me to be a real person unless I document myself to them with private information. I don’t consider them to be a real person either. They’re not, but I am. That’s why everything is so confusing and going downhill. That’s the asteroid. NC is a photon torpedo working to blow it to a million pieces. Every little shot of light helps.

    1. Carla

      I pay Paypal with VISA and Paypal does not require private information beyond the VISA data. Of course VISA already has my private information, so I guess it’s the same thing. “Every little shot of light helps.” Indeed.

  2. omg the stupid i just can't anymore

    NC is the finest damn site out there for intelligent people, period.

    Thank you Yves (especially), Lambert, guest posters, commenters, IT support, Yves’s cat, everyone. Just donated what paltry sum I can.

    Oh and everything Mr. Shaxson said too.

  3. Cynthia W

    Just made my first donation to NC. I can’t thank Yves, Lambert et al enough for all that you do. NC is a bastion of clear, critical thinking & writing in a world of mostly biased and pandering media. I learn everyday from NC – you have opened up my mind to much more than just neoliberal, capitalist shenanigans. I’m all around much more aware of what is going in the world. And, well, the antidote du jour, is the icing on the cake. Thank you again!

  4. MB

    My early work life was in a tiny started up that did a remarkable job teaching tech companies and PR firms how to conquer the PR universe via strategic communication – and we supplied the data and technology to corporate PR and PR agencies to do it. I truly did not know what machiavellian deployment this could unleash used for the wrong way. All the companies I worked with were going IPO daily, and the clients I worked with profited well: those that knew how to gauge the hatchings and matchings of start up to funding universe. I was too naive to profit, though I thought financial rewards would come to me through honest work. I eventually became disabused of that notion.

    After 2005 or so, between reading a fairly plebeian book chronicling Jim Cramer’s life on Wall Street from the 90s thru the tech bubble bursting, (utilizing the PR empowerment I and my company sold these companies to fuel their fraudulent stories that Wall Street manipulated and sold), the 2007-08 meltdown, and then reading Nicholas Shaxson’s book, Treasure Islands – the worlds of Wall Street fraud and global financial collusion, the workings of the world and the reasons for political futility and global despair became crystal clear. I actually had physically felt my altered reality shift. I felt strangely; dizzy and despairing. The puzzle was completed – Why is the world the way it is? Why doesn’t government solve poverty or other problems? Why do children starve? How do despots stay in power? Why in a world of plenty, when so much could be done to alleviate suffering, does it not happen?

    It’s very probable that should ANYONE be given the opportunity to manipulate, the odds are good that they might. It’s not just the rich and powerful with a particular love of money or power. Like Ponce de Leon, having discovered the fountain of gold, they are unlikely to want to turn off their own spigot. It argues that for a workable society and world, we MUST have political and financial safeguards and be resolved to uphold them. Discovering the altered reality is the trick, though, isn’t it? This is where the collective work of NC comes in.

    I am so grateful for Mr. Shaxson’s work, and for the work of NC, Yves, Lambert and so many others who contribute and comment. The truth is an axis we as individuals and within a society cannot afford to lose. To disagree with a line in a movie – we CAN handle the truth. With great respect and admiration, my contribution follows.

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