D. St. Germain's Reviews > Moneyland: The Inside Story of the Crooks and Kleptocrats Who Rule the World

Moneyland by Oliver Bullough
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it was amazing
bookshelves: corruption, finance, politics
Read 2 times. Last read April 1, 2019.

In Moneyland: Why Thieves And Crooks Now Rule The World And How To Take It Back, Oliver Bullough sets out to illuminate the means and methods First World tax dodgers and Third World kleptocrats use to hide their businesses and wealth from the rest of us.

Moneyland is a place, he argues, where those with assets can buy passports wherever they like, and apply the laws where they are most advantageous to their businesses. It is a virtual space with “American privacy, Panamanian shell companies, Jersey trusts, Liechtenstein foundations.” The wealthy can jurisdiction-shop for any country that meets their needs at the moment - and if a country changes the laws, the Moneylanders, as he calls them, can simply move their money to a country with better laws or persuade a country to change theirs. Beyond that, this global infrastructure allows Moneylanders to be shielded from journalists and prevents stolen wealth from being recovered by those to whom the wealth belonged.

Small countries with not a lot of comparative advantages within our global economic system have found their market niche by facilitating business anonymity; think Jersey, Monaco, the Bahamas, Nevis, and the Original Moneyland, Switzerland. Bullough makes a fantastic example out of Nevis, an island of 11,000 people in the Caribbean where American lawyers crafted an entire set of banking and privacy laws (initially based on Delaware law) to register and protect businesses and hide their assets. Some examples of Nevis-connected shady-doings: it's served as the hiding place for Viktor Yanukovich, the former president of Ukraine (for whom Paul Manafort worked); implicated a corruption scandal involving the former president of Taiwan; the home of money stolen from Russia by corrupt policemen; a crypt for members of the ruling family of Azerbaijan, whose gold mining companies and mobile phone companies were registered in Nevis; the resting place for money from Britain’s biggest ever tax fraud, an operation run through Nevis; a hidy-hole for the British trader who caused the “Flash Crash” of the stock market in 2010; as well as harbor for a number of people in the US convicted of securities fraud, day-trading scams, and pay-day lending schemes. It has also been the location where a number of high-net-worth men have obscured their assets to prevent their soon-to-be-ex-wives from getting their hands on any money in divorce settlements.

The unholy alliance between the wealthy who don’t want to pay taxes in advanced economies and those who rob their governments dry in developing countries poses a serious threat to societies everywhere. As Bullough notes, an estimated 20 billion to 1 trillion dollars per year that is stolen in developing countries is stashed away in Moneyland, rendering developing country governments unable to provide basic services and raise general living standards - leaving poor countries poorer despite any revenues they may accrue. In developed countries a declining tax base means deteriorating infrastructure and underfunded public services in education, health, and other essential services. The result, he writes, is “that whole countries are unable to tax their wealthiest residents, meaning that only those least able to afford it are forced to support the government” - and angry populists are on the rise.

Moneyland is a problem that stems from a broken global system, where capital is free to flow between borders with no regulation while people are not. But the existence of Moneyland is not a conspiracy, Bullough notes, which is what makes it all the more nefarious and difficult to crush - it is instead the work of “well-paid, imaginative and highly-intelligent people” responding in a predictable way to the global loopholes that allow money to flow and citizenship to be shopped around in this way. And without a concerted global effort to close loopholes internationally, which will require finding other productive sources of incomes for the small countries for which this trade makes up the bulk of their GDP, it will be difficult to snuff out. As he writes, “if you squash one ant, or arrest one crooked lawyer, the activities of the rest will continue unaffected. It is the whole system that must be changed, and this is hard."

This book is great for all of the examples of the truly outrageous criminal activity obscured by the offshoring money and hiding of wealth. But it also makes a strong case for reigning in the less criminal but still-very-damaging effects of this shadow system, used by the world's largest corporations and top earners, that prevent the countries that made their success possible from benefiting from that success. As Bulloughs illuminates, Moneyland operates for the benefit of the rich and at the expense of us all.
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Reading Progress

Started Reading
April 1, 2019 – Finished Reading
April 11, 2019 – Started Reading (Kindle Edition)
April 11, 2019 – Shelved (Kindle Edition)
April 28, 2019 – Shelved
April 28, 2019 – Finished Reading (Kindle Edition)
May 1, 2019 – Shelved as: corruption
May 1, 2019 – Shelved as: corruption (Kindle Edition)
June 7, 2019 – Shelved as: finance (Kindle Edition)
June 7, 2019 – Shelved as: finance
June 7, 2019 – Shelved as: politics

Comments Showing 1-5 of 5 (5 new)

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 ✘Paulette & Her  Sexy Alphas❤️☾ ⋆ 📖A great review L💕ve🔥💋

D.  St. Germain Thanks Paulette!

 ✘Paulette & Her  Sexy Alphas❤️☾ ⋆ D. wrote: "Thanks Paulette!"

Always Pleasure L💕ve ツ😘

message 4: by Libby (new)

Libby Totally fascinating D.! Sounds like it will be incredibly difficult to reign in this system.

Doulos Libby, these were my very thoughts even as I concluded the book. While the author pointed out a few things that could probably make a dent in Moneyland, I was left with a pessimistic view of the future, a sentiment the author seemed to embrace even as he tried to stay positive at the end of the book.

All in all, it was a thoroughly enjoyable and enlightening read. I most definitely will return to it at some point.

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