Shaxson is a highly regarded expert on international finance who has written for publications including Vanity Fair, the Economist, and the Financial Times. His work on tax havens gained international attention in the wake of the Panama and Paradise Papers as Shaxson was one of few journalists who had written extensively on the subject before these scandals and had warned of the huge scale of this issue. In 2012, the International Tax Review named him as one of the “Global Tax 50” most influential people in international tax.
The Finance Curse is a shocking and important book—controversially, Shaxson argues that the financial sector, which makes mind-boggling profits at the expense of businesses, their employees, and the tax payer, is a net negative for the economy.
Shaxson’s thesis is attention-grabbing: he argues the idea that countries and states must give tax breaks and other financial incentives to banks and big business in the name of “competitivity,” to avoid them fleeing for more accommodating climes, is a falsehood. Shaxson also discusses the brain drain to finance that Western democracies suffer—young men and women who could be contributing in business or the public sector are drawn to an industry that produces little good for the business world at large. These themes and the many other talking points in the book are sure to get him attention in print media and radio.
The Finance Curse grounds its argument historically, showing how we got to the point where the banks and big business determine our tax code and much of our corporate policy. Shaxson reminds us that it wasn't always like this and shows us how through regulation and rebalancing of political priorities we might be able to shift the power back towards businesses that are engaged in society and produce something towards the public good, as well as the public sector.
Shaxson’s book uses stories from the great rise of the banks in the twentieth century to strengthen his argument. He also talks about the little-known history of some of the first purely speculative financial instruments, the so-called Eurobonds which were first issued in 1963 and proved resistant to regulation.
As we enter a time of low unemployment, increased deregulation, and record highs in the financial indices, it is important to keep a keen eye on the workings on the financial world, as well as on questions of wealth redistribution and the future of American business. Shaxson’s books is a timely look at all of these subjects.
For fans of Michael Lewis, Daniel Kahneman, Niall Ferguson, and Paul Krugman.