As advertised in yesterday's post ...
With the recent revelations of The Panama Papers, it's pretty easy to get wrapped up in moral indignation and frustration over the world's economic elites hiding their money and dodging the tax man. Unfortunately, what's being exposed today may pale in comparison to what members of the financial aristocracy accomplished during World War II (or tried to accomplish).
In the process the Swiss have demonstrated that markets can operate with little or no moral compass.
In one of the uglier examples of state policy and wealth creation we can look at the "market activities" of the Swiss during and after World War II. Specifically, the Swiss helped the Nazis launder the looted treasures they stole from occupied territories and, especially, from captured Jews before and during WWII (these activities were famously captured in the George Clooney-Matt Damon movie The Monuments Men).
Proving that white collar crime pays, the wealth and secretive contacts Swiss bankers gleaned from their activities at the time would yield significant dividends in the post-war period. Specifically, after helping finance the Nazi war machine, Swiss bankers switched gears and catered to post-war despots and tyrants.
In The Swiss, The Gold, and the Dead: How Swiss Bankers Helped Finance theNazi War Machine (1997), author Jean Ziegler explained:
The hubris that gripped Swiss bankers in 1939 has never let go of them. The bank vaults of Zurich, Basel, Bern, and Lugano have become a kind of sewage system into which flow streams of filthy lucre from all over the world … No longer called Hitler or Himmler, Göring or Ribentrop, their clients have names like Mobutu, Ceauşescu, Hassan II, Saddam Hussein, Abu Nidal, Duvalier, Noriega, Traore, Suharto, Eyadéma, Campaore, Marcos and Karadžić.
Today, in spite of having virtually no natural resources
There's more, but you get the point. The Panama Papers reveal nothing new under the sun. What would make it a real story is if something was actually done to correct this kind of behavior.
Don't hold your breath on this happening any time soon.