- The theft of the ‘papers’ (or data) in the first place.
- The purchase of the stolen data by organisations such as Süddeutsche Zeitung and the BBC – surely a criminal act in itself.
- The violation of the privacy rights of individuals by publishing names of individuals and families.
Apparently our former UK Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, is renewing his support for a petition to “End Tax Havens Now”, based on the Paradise Papers. This baffles me. Isn’t every country entitled to set its own tax rates and choose how it wants to compete in the global economy? Is a country somehow ‘shadowy’, just because it has lower tax rates than ours? (It reminds me of a George Carlin quote: “Have you ever noticed that anybody driving slower than you is an idiot, and anyone going faster than you is a maniac?”)
More fundamentally isn’t every company and individual entitled to act within the law and pay whatever tax is due, but no more? If we’re talking about moral disapproval of the actions of others, I doubt that any of us could make it until breakfast without doing something that someone else could violently disapprove of.
Of course, outrage is not a very helpful emotion, unless it’s a spur to productive action. The ‘Paradise Papers’ episode is probably a useful reminder to us all that privacy is dead, and we may as well act in the expectation that our corporate and personal matters will be disclosed in full to tax authorities, and perhaps also to the public. A life spent in fear of the adverse criticism of others is not a life worth living – but if our corporate and personal affairs are not consistent with our own principles, now is a good time to clean things up.
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