I am departing from my usual practice of seeing most or all of a video (or alternatively, reading its transcript before I post about it. This documentary, on the how Britain’s “offshore” finance system developed as a way to preserve the City’s status as the empire shrank, and with it, the importance pound fell, comes from the folks at Tax Justice Network, who produced an impressive end product on a shoestring. It’s already gotten nearly 400,000 views in a mere three+ days.
I have watched the first ten minutes and am impressed with the film’s clarity and accuracy. Since a long video makes for good weekend fare, I thought better to launch this offering now so as to give you the chance to watch it at your leisure.
Excellent documentary, and it should make any fair-minded person’s blood boil.
Thanks for posting it, Yves.
I think it should be clear from watching this wonderful documentary that all the efforts to sow fear in the hearts of the common people are in reality efforts to justify the spending on, and implementation of, militarized police, pervasive surveillance, and all the other security systems which do not make us, the public, more secure generally, but function to comfort the elites in their fear of the public’s justified wrath.
Those police carrying automatic weapons are there to protect the criminal elements running our governments, and finance sectors, they are not there to protect the public from terrorists.
From Noam Chomsky’s Who Rules the World (THE VALUE OF SECRECY, p. 151):
Very true…and yet, the left wants more power for the State.
“…and yet, the left wants more power for the State.” @ Dirko. Who are you calling “Left”, Billary Clinton, the co-opted left? Not only does the corporate left, obstruct true left initiatives, they give a bad stink to the left. That is also their function.
There is no “Left” in this country.They were wiped out by the Palmer Raids and the Red Scare. The “Left” was replaced by “manufactured consent”. Public school teachers were fired for Heaven’s Sake! Were Tea Party demonstrators beaten over the head like “Occupy Wall Street”? The so called “Left” is a straw man for economic royalists to scorn.
At the end of the day, the “terrorism” people are supposed to be so afraid of is not effective for revolution, change, or sensible in any way that it is commomly explained. The terrorists would have to make an assumption that the targeted people matter to the establishment being battled. So the “terror” attacks heard of in the media don’t make sense as grievances against an establishment.
Yes, quite true. Terrorism for the sake of butchering average people into changing the policies of government has never worked. Only with the mass bombing of civilian infrastructure in World War II did such terror-tactics have any effect. Mass bombing of German and Japanese civilians was meant to erode war industry, not force political change.
However, Ireland in 1919-21 saw violence used by the IRA against the INSTITUTIONS of British power. IRA “flying columns” and Michael Collins’ counterintelligence unit “the Squad” used focused and selective violence against the paramilitary police aka “Black and Tans” when it was prudent and necessary to do so. They did NOT conduct willy-nilly killings and bombings to “force” the Irish citizens to throw off British authority.
The Republican Irish politicians created a “shadow” government with it’s own system of legislators, judges issuing court rulings, and finance (the National Loan). British power was attacked by burning of army and police barracks, harassment of Anglo-Irish judges, police, tax officials et al. Most important was the use of strikes and boycotts and selective vandalism to attack the MONEY of the Elites. When Republican citizens were attacked by Anglo authorities, the IRA struck back at Anglo elites (rich landowners, business owners, police, politicians); making the ELITES suffer, not the pro-British or neutral Irish civilians.
Modern social/political insurgency is (should be) about small groups of highly focused, highly disciplined fighters and political actors hitting the Establishment’s institutions and fanatical supporters ONLY. This is the strategy and tactics of Special Forces and Counter-Intelligence agents.
TERRORISTS are nothing more than sociopathic criminals and losers looking for some violent outlet for their social alienation. They have NO strategy, NO social vision (except conservative ideas of “returning the status quo of the past”) and NO ability to run their own affairs, let alone a Nation.
I agree about terrorism intended to force a change in government, but a lot of it is intended to scare some bunch of people that some other people don’t like into going someplace else. Then ordinary people ARE the targets…
But if one looks at the terrorists behind 9-11, while the people who did the deed may have had no strategy, no social vision and no desire to run a nation, those who sponsored them were wildly successful in making their hated USA enemy do great damage to itself.
It resulted in the USA invading two countries, killing many civilians overseas, the USA suffering combat causalities, and the domestic loss of privacy and liberties by the strengthening of the USA surveillance state.
To say nothing to the reputational damage of the USA around the world.
This has 4.79 trillion either spent/will be spent in the Iraq/Afghanistan wars.
It is estimated that the 9-11 terrorist group spent $400K-500K.
This caused the USA to spend roughly 4.79 E12/450E3 = 10.644 million dollars per terrorist spent dollar
A massive “return on terrorism”
Nelson Mandela’s book “Long Walk to Freedom” is an honest ‘how to’ guide to urban revolution. Do not confuse it with the film of the same name which is a state-approved revision omitting much of the ANC’s acts and reasonings. Buckeye’s recollections of Irish responses to British colonisation is like Mandela’s book and I applaud it.
It worked in Israel, Irgun, the Stern Gang, Likud? Rahm Emannuel’s father was member of the Stern Gang, LEHI. He’s been pretty successful terrorizing Chicago, eh?
A question everyone needs to ask themselves is how much of the so called terrorism is actually staged by intelligence services for the express purpose of preventing political change. The U.S. created Al Qaeda and is successfully using them to destabilize west Asia, after deposing any West Asian democracy that dared to arise in favor of despotism. I have yet to find a terrorist group that has not been created and supported by state actors.
This got me thinking about the Rodrik Trilemma. The League of Nations and the UN haven’t shown great relevance for global governance, and the EU may be the best model for subsuming nationalism to have been implemented so far. But the EU subverted democracy in Greece and Italy, with Germany controlling the straps of the golden straightjacket.
This documentary has me wondering about Brexit, that British elites may be allowing democracy to pursue nationalism to their benefit. Wage-earners may suffer, but I don’t see a mechanism for the secrecy jurisdictions to be constrained. My assumption is they’ll have even more liberty to absorb global capital. Am I wrong about that?
It seems like unfettered international capital flows are like mercury, bright and shiny and highly conductive and also very toxic.
This doc was so gooood. Having it all laid out in an hour and 20 minutes. One thing it explained to me was our relative silence on the activities of the City of London. We have become so entangled with them that they are us. And it makes little wonder about the behavior of Bernanke, Congress and every president. Any criticism we throw at PPPs and other wormholes for private money to exploit society are ignored and silenced, etc. I’m wondering about the whole derivatives mess – clearly invented as insurance for the rich who invest unwisely but not for the chumps. And also thinking about Murphy’s recent delicate foray into the accounting profession in the UK. He wasn’t his usual in-your-face no doubt because the Spider controls it all. There must be a simple truth behind global control – that it takes money, everbody’s money! It’s long since time to redefine the stuff because even the elite thieves have made an uncontrolled mess of it.
Excellent comment. The documentary did leave me wondering who presently controls the City of London and its network?…
The British Empire never went away. It is popularly thought that it reached its zenith at the turn of the last century, but this is not correct. See The Empire of the City – The Secret History of British Financial Power by EC Knuth, 1944 (reprinted 2006). In this book, Knuth identifies the effects of British finance via the Rothschild family in the west and the Sassoon family of the east that were joined by marriage in the late 1800s.
In terms of territory, Knuth identifies that Britain had, just before WW1 (p 54):
Buckminster Fuller expressed his concern about the empire of the City of London at serveral locations of his book Critical Path, 1981. He notes that (p 78):
“While the British government lost the 1776 war, the East India Company’s owners who constituted the invisible power structure behind the British government not only did not lose but moved right into the new USA’s economy along with the latter’s most powerful landowners.”
Fuller also goes on to identify the history of the American flag, which used the flag of the East India Company. He states:
The East India Company flag had thirteen stripes, with a blue field containing superimposed crosses in the upper left corner. Washington conferred with Betsy Ross and this blue field was changed to instead contain thirteen stars, each representing a colony.
Something to remember when next pledging allegiance to the flag …
Looks like this ties in with David Rothkopf’s “Power, Inc.”, which traces the history and growth of corporations.
Fuller, during the 1960’s, was commissioned to develop a master plan for three major airports in India. He came across a display of the flag and coat-of-arms for the British East India Company – and noted it was almost identical to the American flag – prompting him to look into the history of it.
Fuller contends that the Dartmouth, the ship targeted by the Boston Tea Party, sailed under the flag of the East India Company.
Of course, their offices were maintained in the City of London. And their connection to India and their reputation gave rise to an Indian slang word now commonly used in English: “loot”.
Winston Churchill’s history of anglophones also says the Dartmouth was a Company ship. He thought the Tea Party was a brilliant gesture, because the Company had recently acquired the unique right to ship tea direct from India without transshipping or tax, thus undercutting (in fact ruining) American tea importers. And we wave the flag of monopolists!
ps Epistrophy, thanks for the excellent links! Thank goodness it’s a slow Sunday . . .
Hmm. The 6 New England states plus New York (“Greater Yankeedom”) might be open to reconfederation with Canada plus Air Strip One, but I doubt Pennsylvania on down is up for that. Here Be Deplorables.
And Matt Johnson (The The) was all over the ‘Graecia capta ferum victorem cepit’ thing, 30 years ago.
Let the poor count their blessings while / we count our money.
thanks, i love that song, and the the in general. blast from the past…
I read a Sherlock Holmes story where he suggested that perhaps the United States and the British Empire could get back together one day. The combined flag would be the Union Jack in the corner and the red and white stripes of the American flag. You do that and the have the flag of the East India Company-
“While the British government lost the 1776 war, the East India Company’s owners who constituted the invisible power structure behind the British government not only did not lose but moved right into the new USA’s economy along with the latter’s most powerful landowners.”
I wouldn’t be surprised that the East India Company most likely had a hand in writing the US Constitution.
Considering that the Constitution codified both slavery and indentured servitude, you may very well be correct. Many of the early colonists, those of little or no means, gained passage to America by agreeing to be the indentured servants of colonial landholders.
Rodrik Trilemma: does Brexit (a democratic assertion of national sovereignty, uncoupling from a limited global governance) thus help elites at the expense of wage-earners?
It could explain the apparent incompetence of the negotiators for Britain. Cui bono…
Incompetence is usually the best explanation for incompetent behavior.
The elites do not want Brexit. City of London really doesn’t want it. The proles voted for it in a desperate effort for change, exactly as trump was elected here.
Granted, there is a puzzling split among Tory elites, I guess a real desire for independence?
MI6 is a puppet of cia, more so after Brexit but of lesser importance.
Brexit is the advance scout for less globalism, seems the 70 year pendulum is reversing before reaching previous highs. Record profits will recede, wage share improves.
Elites will continue resisting.
More likely a case of Tories using immigration as a political wedge issue and ending up loosing control of the game plan.
And yes, Trump is the result of the same sort of dynamic, the American electorate, taking the ball and running with what the two parties had offered in jest.
The American people have been steeped for years in the Republican’s ‘Southern Strategy’, the Democrat’s ‘Identitiy Politics’, and more recently, the adoption of the ‘Third-Way’ cover story to explain the Democrat’s abandoning the working class, and joining the Republicans at the corporate money trough.
TINA TINA TINA
What both parties failed to understand was that too much austerity eventually leads to misery, death, and so, populism.
‘They’ offered us a choice between Hillary and Trump, never believing for a minute that the populist impulse was strong enough to result in Trump’s election, so now, ‘They’ must figure out how to deal with Trump in the same way that ‘They’ must figure out how to deal with Brexit.
So, you got it right with your first sentence;
Hubris and poor judgement being strong multipliers of incompetence.
I think it will be the sequel to this documentary.
They really like this book:
Treasure Islands: Uncovering the Damage of Offshore Banking and Tax Havens
by Nicholas Shaxson
That is one of my all-time favorite books, and upon reading it, I felt the same sensation that I experienced the very first time that I saw photographs of distant galaxies: wow… just wow… so that’s how it works, that’s what it looks like…. the strangeness, and yet the repetitions of structure and pattern are breathtaking, and it just keeps expanding…
However, in the case of tax havens, it means the expansion of lawlessness, impudence, cruelty, avarice, and chaos — all made perfectly respectable by legal procedures. The foreign policy and business implications are profound. [See also: Mueller investigation in US.]
Treasure Islands is a tremendous journalistic achievement: the story Shaxson tells in terms of its scope and implications is epic.
It’s almost as if Shaxson is a ‘Gibbon* of Finance’ and financial history: the book’s scope is immense, but everything is given enough context to make perfect (if chilling) sense.
If you don’t have time to sit and read the book, the audio version is superb. Now, it appears there is also a documentary version, and I hope that a lot of ‘deplorable’ voters get to watch it and see what probably happened to their economic security: it went down a hidy-hole somewhere in the Caymans, the Bahamas, Hong Kong, N.Z, the Guernseys… somewhere ‘offshore’.
* Edward Gibbon wrote ‘The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire‘; therefore, IMVHO it’s a fitting analogy to Shaxson’s modern telling of how the British empire devolved into finance and tax havens overseen by The City. [Part of ‘The City’ of London, a one square mile center of banking, happens to have been built over an old Mithraeum, or Temple of Mithras – a god worshipped by the Roman legions, who quite likely was central to their military culture]. Tax havens are creating a new Dark Age, and we need to understand them fully, because they can be profoundly destabilizing. In the US, the Mueller investigation is probably going to have to educate US citizens about this whole topic, and has already begun doing so with Manafort and his ostrich skin jackets and expensive rugs.
Completely agreed. Treasure Islands also has a terrific audiobook that I recommend as well. I spend my idle minutes these days thinking Come on, Nick. Time for another book!
Thanks. It’s coming. In the UK first, in October.
US only next year, unfortunately.
Gibbon got it wrong, too.
Gibbon, in his almost unreadable Victorian prose, ignores the success of the Eastern Roman empire. The Western Empire collapsed about 100 years after Constantine give the Church the power if rule.
Of the history I’ve read, Gibbon was the most difficult.
The Eastern Empire was the European Terminus of the Silk road from 300 AD until the Portuguese established the sea route.
I retain an affinity for Gibbon, with his elaborate sentences and wry wit ;-)
But I was prompted to come back to this thread in case anyone happens along: a NewYorker youtube with Adam Davidson, talking about Trump’s business relationships, how difficult the reporting was, how much assistance he needed for his articles, and how he began to see that ‘offshore’ was central to trying to understand Trump’s businesses. And how, as a result of his reporting, he does not feel safe.
7 minutes long: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eIKhxohwYTc
Newer historical research (for example Peter Heather) suggests that your analogy with Rome is more apt than Gibbon would have thought.
It now seems that the western Empire didn’t so much collapse suddenly as it just rendered itself gradually irrelevant to most folks. I went on a binge last year listening to a number of new books on Rome and one thing that jumped out was that as Rome collapsed in the West, there didn’t seem to be any great upswelling of effort to keep it going.
Our oligarchic overlords are steadily creating a similar situation for us.
BTW, yes the Eastern Empire continued for nearly another millennium, but after the Arab Conquest, it was just a rump state, so in practical terms, the East outlived Justinian by about as much as the West outlived Constantine.
Does Brexit throw a spanner in the works?
I fear not. More likely to lead to the UK becoming an even more aggressive supporter of offshore finance as it will be better able to avoid EU efforts to rein it in.
It is said the hedge funds in London which supported Brexit did so at least in part because they did not want the EU cleaning them up. A lot of the money comes from places like Russia.
Jacob Rees-Mogg’s name gets mentioned as a hedgie who supports Brexit.
Nice job and for produced for under $6k…
A few cringeworthy moments later in the video made it worth staying till the end.
Could there be a quadrillion in all of the various offshore cotillions worldwide?
Yes, thank you very much.
The Spider’s Web is a powerful expose of the ancient Corporation of the City of London’s central role in “offshoring” the world’s wealth. The fact it could be produced and so superbly scripted and illustrated on so rock bottom a budget makes it all the more remarkable an activist achievement. Its key participants [John Christensen, Nicholas Shaxson, et. al.] are valiant leading lights of the UK-based Tax Justice Network, many of whom appear in my New York Times critics’ pick feature documentary The Price We Pay – that exposes other facets of offshore world ‘s global plunder and threat to the fruits of 20th century social progress. Post-Panama papers, European MP Eva Joly laments the tax justice movement’s inability to make major progress against tax havens –– but might one of Brexit’s ironic unintended consequences be the end of the City’s unfettered reign as the world’s financial services capital as banks decamp to Europe, Asia and even back to the USA?
might one of Brexit’s ironic unintended consequences be the end of the City’s unfettered reign as the world’s financial services capital …?
Oh, it’s a very much intended consequence on the part of many who voted for Brexit.
NC, thanks very much for presenting this. Great piece of work.
Yes, that’s another excellent documentary on this system.
The overwhelming thought I had when watching this documentary was: Occupy Wall Street was right. No wonder our government shut it down so violently.
No wonder the financial crimes were not prosecuted. No wonder millions of people lost their homes. No wonder. Our government has been completely infiltrated by big finance and big accounting.
I knew all of this, but this film just demonstrates it all over again. What are ordinary citizens supposed to do?
I was shot down in our court system, our judiciary and with our executive branch, so we can’t find solutions through government or voting. What are we to do?
That should have said, “our court system, our legislative and with our executive branch…”
Didn’t mean to leave out the legislative branch.
Until people are in the streets and demanding real democracy, then the 5 activities presented at the end will go for naught.
The wealthy know how to get what they want. They simply buy it. Regular folks will need to work harder for change. My concern is the this will be a generational effort, or more.
You can download it directly here:
Where can we download the presentations Shaxson and the economist were presenting in the background?
Ask him! From http://treasureislands.org/contact/
Nicholas Shaxson can be contacted on: [my surname] [at] gmail [dot] com
If he’s prepared to release it (or key parts) publicly, it could go on archive.org.
Thanks. This is a powerful documentary. The tragedy is that it applies just as much to Wall Street as the City of London. There is an actual conspiracy. The wealthy are getting richer at the expense of the rest of society.
Interesting. Has anyone thought about how the weakening of the government for financial gain also weakens the government’s ability to respond to disasters like hurricanes, global warming, financial collapse, or really any disaster at all?
Holy Dooley! That is one great documentary that. I see my local library has a copy of “Treasure Islands” which this doco is based on so I’ll have to go grab it. I love works like this as it gives context to so many pieces in the puzzle that we see in our lives. One thing that made me wonder. Agreed that Brexit is a complete dog’s breakfast due to the general incompetence of the UK government, right? What if the reason for that is that all the really good, competent people that in earlier times would have gone on to work in the government bureaucracy now instead go to work for this shadow system instead. Sort of like the way that Silicon Valley sops up a lot of talented software engineers to the detriment of the rest of the country.
I have found references to this financial system elsewhere like in Frederick Forsyth’s 1974 book “Dogs of War” but I can see that the system has evolved a lot since then. This British ability to put aside the rules when convenient has been noted by other people. A Czech emigre to the UK in WW2 related the following story to illustrate that ability.
A bishop was pained to hear that a parish priest was sleeping in the same bed as his housekeeper so decided to investigate himself before accusing the priest. Upon visiting the parish, he had the priest show him the church and his lodgings and noted the double bed. He asked the priest:
“But where does your housekeeper sleep, my son?”
“Why, right next to me in bed” the priest replied, “But do not be worried as I place this large wooden board between us at night”
“But my son, what do you do if temptation comes your way and you feel those carnal urges?”
“Why I just remove the board then”
And that is how the British deal with rules and regulations that are in their way as seen in this doco.
“The Crimes of Patriots” by Jonathan Kwitny focuses on the not ready for spook time clowns, Nugan-Hand Bank, but also gives a lot of color on tax haven financing/expat swindle/spook narcodollars in its nascent velour suit / fat tie late 1970s form. American muckrakers Alfred McCoy and Sterling Seagrave also fill in important gaps in their works.
But all these offshore havens are just, well, havens, where the money gets hidden and laundered, and piles up. Where it *originates* is the juicy bit. And please don’t say narcotics or terrorists, those ‘industries’ are freeking rounding errors on the 50 year gusher of EM commodities money and the symbiotic stew of multinats, traders and kleptocrats (hey look, People of Color!) who control it.
To glimpse the bottom of the iceberg, “Metal Men” by Craig Copetas (1986) is an essential starting point. It’s the (highly) unauthorized bio of “fugitive financier” and beneficiary of Clinton mercy Marc Rich, the ‘lehrling’ enfant terrible who invented the modern spot market in oil, and whose commodity trading organization metastasized into today’s Glencore. These people make Enron look like the overgrown children they were.
Or else just take the blue pill and keep imagining Bernie can save us….
Where now the horse and rider? Where is the horn that was blowing?… The days have gone down in the West, behind the hills, into shadow.
How did it come to this?
The audacity of small island nation to think they can rule the world , and to pull it off . The gross incompetence of Nations like India, who during the 18th century were wealthy, and did nothing to prevent this.
China and India disintegrated economically and politically for about 200 years. Of course, this coincided with the rise of European power, particularly the British Sassoon dynasty from Baghdad to China and the British East India Company. The Dutch also played a role.
When it comes to banking families, most often the Rothschilds come to mind. But the (almost unknown) Sassoon Dynasty wielded unbelievable power; by 1832 they expanded their banking operations from Baghdad to Bombay; thereafter into China, Japan and the entire Orient. A partial list includes:
David Sassoon & Co, Ltd – China
Imperial Bank of Persia – Iran and Arabia
E D Sassoon & Co Ltd – India
E D Sassoon Banking Co – China and London
Arnhold & Co Ltd – Shanghai, Hangkow, Tientsin, Peking, Hong Kong, Canton, Mukden, London, New York and other locations
The Bank of China – Shanghai
The Eastern Bank London, Bombay, Calcutta
The British Burma Petroleum Company
The Iraq Petroleum Company
The Turkish Petroleum Company
Socony-Vacuum Oil Company (partnered with Standard Oil to open markets in the Middle East – later to become Mobil Oil).
… the list goes on …
Dr Cecil Roth published a biopic on the Sassoon Dynasty in 1941, mentioning a Sassson grandson, Capt D B Fitzgerald, as being a considerable figure of the City of London. Roth documents that during the early 1900’s the Sassoon family largely migrated to London, and King Edward VII was noted as a frequent guest of the House of Sassoon, along with A J Balfour, H G Wells, and Winston Churchill.
As I indicated above, the Sassoon Dynasty joined the Rothschild Dynasty by marriage during the late 1800’s.
In America at the previous turn of the century, Theodore Roosevelt and JP Morgan were rumoured to have links to this power structure, Woodrow Wilson was neutral, and Calvin Coolidge (perhaps my favourite president) pulled America away from it.
Lest we think that the Sassoon Dynasty is past history, note that of David Cameron’s key financial advisors was Baron Jame Sassoon.
India in the 18th century, like most nations outside of western Europe at the time, was not organized as a nation in the modern sense. There was no unified central government, no mass education, no nation-wide communications system or transportation system, and no national mass army. I don’t think that there was a nation-wide currency either. The rickety structures of pre-modern nations were no match for even a partially modernized state like the U.K. in the 18th century.
On top of that, in India’s case, the largest portion of it had been ruled by foreign invaders for centuries and much of it was then exhausted by the fight between the foreign feudal rulers and local ones.
Also, the Indian caste system more thoroughly wasted the potential of a larger proportion of its population than the British class system did.
All of Asia faced many raids, then invasions, followed by conquests from the 16th to the 19th centuries by first by the Portuguese, then the Spanish, Dutch, English, and French often at the same time.
Both the Dutch and English East India Companies, with the legal, monetary, and military aid of their respective states invaded and destroyed the various nations, kingdoms, and empires of India, China, and Indonesia; the respective efforts took each took over a century and involved many actual wars and battles.
Imagine if Chinese company invaded with its own army Europe right after or before one of its many devastating wars with the Chinese manipulating the contestants and increasing the destruction. Furthermore, the English East India Company was much disliked by the English themselves for the destruction and carnage it created. It was only by using bribes was the company able to stay in business or not be nationalized.
This chart from Visual Capitalist illustrates the collapse of China and India, in terms of GDP, coinciding with the rise of the United States and Europe. However, this began reversing significantly during the 1990s (the 1950s technically) and the trend continues.
Here is the extended interview with Michael Hudson from the film.
What will be the impact of a BREXIT on the “City of London”. Is Brexit good or bad for the “City”?
I did a ^f Find on this page for the word “Richard” and noticed that nobody has yet mentioned the Richard Smith investigations on shell companies, , “aged” companies, trusts, nominee directors, and all of these themes. Outstanding, valuable work. I exhort you to go and sit down with them! https://www.nakedcapitalism.com/author/richard-smith