Duly Noted: Tax Haven, Bulwark of Free Men


George Handlery about the week that was. The spongy cogs of the distributing bureaucracy. Lost: The moral compass. NATO: Danger? What danger? The façade of fake facts. Furthering or restraining achievers. System competition through taxes.
1. The approach sounds great. Take from the rich, give it to the poor. Fill the deficit-pit while doing so. The genially simple solution brings surprises. The initiators of such projects prefer to have them discussed in the abstract. These peddlers of snake medicine do not tell how much will be absorbed as a lubricant between the spongy cogs of the distributing bureaucracy. Approving citizens assume that they will be filed under “poor”. (Are we not all poorer or “non-richer” than we think that we deserve to be?) In practice, when the duped wake up as the bill is delivered, they discover that they are classified as “rich”. It is not good to be rich when it means, “plucked” and not “getting”.
2. Government programs designed to impose equality multiply. These might work in favor of groups held together by some common trait to which it (and outsiders) attributes significance. With the help of this emphasized and often fetishized characteristic, these associations are inclined to separate themselves from others. Being separate is defined as being artificially kept unequal to the extent that special protection and financing can be demanded. Separatism pays if the demand is met. If the trend toward the compartmentalization of societies continues, we will wind up as being equal only before the taxman. Exempted will only be those who will be able to demand that, in recognition of their collective personality, their exceptionality be acknowledged. For instance, by tax exemption and public support to maintain their uniqueness.
3. Prejudice comes in a large variety of wrappers. A fascinating mutation bears the label “we harbor no prejudice”. This happens to be the case when, for example, a past crime gets treated “tolerantly” (translation: with tacit approval) as sanctions might be a sign of intolerance. The idea is that anything less than the acceptance of the perpetrator, would reflect a prejudice (translation: disapproval out of principle) against a (preferably leftist) cause served with devotion. In such cases the proof of being devoid of prejudice is that, to the maximal extent, nothing is remembered  -or at least not mentioned. Meanwhile, what is still recalled is not judged because the offender must have had a reason for doing what he had done. When this is the case, artificial ignorance, stewed in the denial of preferably ignored facts, is indulged in so as not to have to take what might turn out to be non-PC action.
A cute case that illustrates the foregoing –it is also the item that triggered this note – was a TV program. It presented the case of a woman who fell victim to a Romeo working for East German intelligence. The agent easily seduced the culprit, a so-so looking woman in the service of the US embassy. He then asked his “love”, who now disingenuously claims not to have noticed anything suspicious, for secret material from work. After the collapse of the “GDR” the pair got caught. At that point, the man revealed that what he did was not out of love but out of duty. Now the woman lives in lonely exile in Holland. (Is she prepared to do for Holland what she had done for Germany?) She complains about her reduced pension. Some people at home still look at her oddly. How cruel this is, after all, she deserves sympathy for having been cheated in love. Obviously, this person, and those who accept her story, have misplaced their moral compass. Reporters have more compassion and allow her to hide behind a PC concept, according to which our circumstances can make all of us guilty. This makes us all, regardless of what we might have done, innocent.
4. Is a recovering and rising Russia’s aim the restoration of her former imperial influence? This is the question that torments newly independent and neighboring countries. In the West of the Continent, the palliative idea is gaining acceptance that the artificially inflated fear of Russia had overstated the dangers her system before 1989. A similar prejudice exhibited by those who are influenced by their experience, correspondingly exaggerates her role and intention at present. Due to these opposed views rooted in divergent experiences with the “dictatorship of the proletariat”, the original Western and the new Eastern members of Nato find themselves at loggerheads. It is discomforting that old Europe is making it a proof of reasonableness that new members should forget everything their history had taught them. Regrettably, this dichotomy of perspectives involves the major purpose of the alliance.
5. Not remembering the past, or recalling it the way it has not been because the retouched version is soothing, is not entirely accidental. There is an officially accepted past of those that had not lived it – as in the case of the West that had escaped living under applied socialist theory. There is also a past kept distorted by those eastern and central European governing cabals whose continued rule requires amnesia. These re-writes of the past reflect political needs. In most of Eastern Europe and especially in Russia, the Stalinist past is to the highest possible extent a well-kept state secret. Archives have been shut because the current governors find their legitimacy in continuity with the old, therefore Stalinist, system. Therefore, discrediting Stalin and making holes in the “improved” record is more than depriving the desinformed of their opiate. Keeping the truth from leaking out is a precondition of retaining power. Maintaining the façade of fake facts implies the ability to command society in the pursuit of old and restorative goals.


6. A number of governments think that, to regain prosperity, they must combat “tax havens”. The popular cause needs critical examination. Not all so called “tax havens” are specialized on accommodating elements whose activities are illegal in anyone’s book. Doing business in some “indicted” tax havens is rather difficult. Some demand proof that the money to be entrusted to its banking system has been earned legitimately and that it is the property of the identified depositor. (Last year in Switzerland, action was taken in 849 cases against would-be customers who failed to fulfill the foregoing criteria.) Thereafter the account might enjoy no more than the privacy of local depositors. This implies that, once probable cause for a criminal investigation is established, help is extended to foreign jurisdictions to discover the holdings of identified individuals. The problem: Some states engage in fishing expeditions. They cannot identify specific persons and their generalized suspicions involve entire categories of people. It can also happen that the charge does not involve deeds that are a crime in the “tax haven”.
It is not accidental that, mostly it is the high-tax countries that are exercised by bank secrecy/privacy. At a certain level of taxation, people respond by trying to avoid being plucked. This they do by either reducing their work or by taking their property, often seen as a nest egg for bad times, on dry land. The current fight against the “tax havens” is only the first round in a longer campaign. The goal is to standardize taxes internationally. That would mean the end of today’s “tax competition”. Efficiently governed communities can afford to have low taxation. This results in a competitive advantage. The low charge for “participating” in such systems induces skilled persons and capital to seek their advantage there. Uniform taxes would end this competition and cancel the free choice related to it. It would also end the embarrassment caused when the educated – skills represent invested capital! – and savings depart to settle where more favorable terms are offered. Here is the explanation for the attacks of P. Steinbrück (Germany’s Mr. Tax) on Switzerland. Not only the savings of many “little people”, but also tens of thousands of highly educated Germans move to the German-speaking neighbor. The motive is not clean Alpine air – Bavaria, brewing better beer, has plenty of that. Much rather they want “less state” in their lives and in their pockets. In short, they seek better terms to enjoy that portion of the fruits of their labor that they deem to be an appropriate expression of their input.
(The above had been written before the G-20 met in London. Following an impulse to understate, the gathering concluded that it had saved the world. Besides a French-German sponsored victory for regulation, the only concrete item in the final statement expressed the summiteers’ smallest common denominator. It is a white list, a grey list and a black list of tax havens. The classification represents the interests of the participants. So, do not look for Jersey or Delaware on the darker lists.)

On Public Policy and the Russian Enigma

1) Governments do not need a freedom of the media or speech in order to make good policy. However, the transition from absolutism to parliamentary democracy in Western Europe is notable for a wealth of effective public policies and masterful grand strategies, particularly in Great Britain and Germany. Western democracies are more open to Aristotelian criticisms now than ever before; Western public administrations resemble more the monolithic and Byzantine bureaucracies reminiscent of the Soviet Union, than the invisible army of civil servants that made the British Empire the first global superpower. Western electorates are simply incapable of the analytical and decision-making skills necessary to run a country. Nor are legislatures or cabinets challenged by the power of a head of state or the influence of religion, save that of the Islamic creed. Is the term of four years sufficient to produce policy whose impact will be felt decades later? Are short-term aims intended merely for a continued tenuous grip on office any different than the aversion of complacent imperial mandarins to change? When Joseph Heath postulated the the notion of an "efficient society", he neglected to mention the pressures essential to cause and measure efficiency. These remain the right combination of competition and crisis, and the right response. England was able to overcome socio-economic issues far more painlessly than France, whose revolution was minimally destructive when matched against the excesses of the Russian Revolution and the seizure of power by the Bolsheviks. 20th Century Sweden was able to enact successful socio-economic legislation without the impetus of revolution or invasion. Therefore, as Paul M. Kennedy noted, culture is not a factor to be ignored.


2) Russian intentions have deceived the West since the October Revolution. Lenin's Russia was greeted with enthusiasm despite his failed attempt to expand Marxism-Leninism into Weimer Germany and France via Poland. Stalin's postwar Russia was frowned upon with the suspicion of hegemonic ambitions, despite Stalin's clear and present disdain for international revolution and contentment with his "sphere of influence" i.e. the Eastern bloc. Andropov's Russia was seen as intent on trying the Fulda Gap, despite the Kremlin's Afghan adventure, internal decay and fear of NATO. Yeltsin's Russia was hailed as a democratic phoenix from the ashes of the USSR, despite its corruptness, poverty and weakness. Putin's Russia is now seen as a reincarnation of fascism, in spite of his less than public cuts to the military and the only serious campaign against corruption in the federation's short history. Russia is an enigma and should be treated as such. Moreover, when Gorbachev is decrying Washington, we should listen. Gorbachev sacrificed his own power for the sake of liberty (i.e. a "core" humanitarian value of yours), rather than the economic pragmatism of Xiaopeng.


3) Ireland remains a partitioned island. The Protestant stronghold in the northern counties is due only to their colonization by Scots mainly, at the behest of English occupiers. The Catholics in the north at least deserve unification with their co-religionists in the south. Kosova cannot be exposed for anything other than Anglo-American hipocrisy. When Russian intervention in Abhkazia, South Ossetia and Transnistria is denounced, hipocrisy becomes imperialism under the guise of "humanitarian intervention".


4) I never argued that the "race to the bottom" is anything other than a hypothetical scenario useful only in debate.


5) Again, "100%" refers to my opinion of your comments and their ideological bias, not to a particular issue. As regards Russia you have shown neither an open mind nor a clear and well-articulated position against it. A continued state of suspicion is not a strategy, nor is subtle containment. Truman at least had the cojones to lay out a clear opinion on Moscow and a plan of action to follow.


I.  "But I have confidence in the Kremlin to change..."

In the absence of freedom of speech and free media?  This is the sort of anti-historical wishful thinking that is contrary to empirical observation, and that one would expect coming from the likes of Jimmy Carter, GW Bush, or Barack Hussein Obama.  It could also come from most contemporary West Europeans (and those of the 'interwar period' as well). 

II.  But, Northern Ireland IS part of Britain, and will remain so for the foreseeable future.  Moreover, the citizens of Northern Ireland DO live today in a genuine democracy (although freedom of speech is under grave attack in Britain, as elsewhere in Western Europe), without any bullying from any outside authoritarian power.  Your comparisons boggle the mind, and the utter absence of a 'human value core' in your cold pronouncements is disturbing.  

III. There is no "race to the bottom" (in the specific sense that you mentioned), and there never has been one.  There is only an ever-growing overall tax burden and government expenditure ratio, relative to GDP, in most Western countries today.  And there is also no good rationale for "taxing foreign capital" in the sense of 'foreign direct investment'. 

IV.  "100%, no less" is the hallmark of fundamentalism, which comes in many varieties.  Nevertheless, thank you for your attempts at further elucidation.

The "Russian" and other questions

I. Most Western governments face the same problem: what to do about Russia? The national interest provides a quick and simple solution. Yet factoring Russia into one's grand strategy requires an objective and empirical analysis for the long-term, unbiased by the aims of incumbent cabinets constrained by time, ideology and the fickleness of their electorates. Russia must be integrated into Europe in order to avoid its rather reluctant drift into an alliance of convenience with China or isolation.


Why? Russia's tentacles stretch deep into Central Asia, where American and European inroads are but tenuous at best. Russia's capacity to defuse tensions and outright conflicts in the Balkans, Belarus, Transnistria, Abkhazia, South Ossetia and in the Baltic states is unmatched. Lastly, Russia has the clout to represent Slavic interests at Brussels and Washington, given that the former is determined to force its new acquisitions to conform, and the latter has been engaging "new Europe" purely to support its foreign policy as regards Russia, the "rogue states" and the War on Terror.


Naturally, this assumes that the Kremlin is no more controlled by ex-KGB operatives and that Russia can be reconciled with its former Cold War "allies". I believe that there is a clear demarcation in the European Union, and that Moscow's interests are more closely aligned with those of Warsaw than Berlin. East-Central Europe has much to offer Western Europe in exchange for access to markets and capital, and in addition to human and natural resources. This includes an importance of history, culture, religion, ethnicity, and a capacity for new ideas and executing them; strengths borne out of the crushing effects of Marxism-Leninism and the chaotic aftermath of its collapse.


These recommendations are elucidated rather generally here, and the subject no doubt merits several volumes. But I have confidence in the Kremlin to change; more than in the Obama administration, Brussels or the capitals of Western Europe. And if Warsaw can engage Moscow on Katyn, the Kresy deportations, etc., without sabotaging Russian pipelines as Kiev has done, then this is all possible. Finally, Russia's neighbors do require the capacity for coventional self-defense, which can only come from the Europeans or Americans.


II. More than Western Europe is dependent on Russia for energy. Even Lithuania and Poland rely on Russia for a substantial share of their gas. When Berlin and Paris challenged the Bush administration's stance on Russia, they should have done so for reasons other than energy. Abhkazia and South Ossetia are no more part of Georgia than Northern Ireland is part of Britain. And Kosova justifies both, including foreign support for the secessionists.


III. I am well aware of the government's growing share in GDP. However, I assume that you are opposed to this trend, which allows for discussion of alternative trends. In any event, a global state is so far off that either extreme is useful only in argument. "Race to bottom" refers to tax cuts intended to attract foreign business and capital. It is as impossible as the global tax regime scenario.


IV. It is difficult to extricate your empiricism from your ideological positions. Until you can hold a debate or discussion without reference to labels that are unable to keep pace with complex and changing issues, my opinion of you will remain as such, 100% no less.

Fin (bis)

@ KA

1) One could only wish that all your assertions were true.  The "Russian question" can mean anything. Without a proper explanation, your para 1 says.....what?  Does it say anything?

2) So, you seem to be saying that because Western Europe is increasingly dependent on Russian energy supplies Western Europeans should be blind to Russian realities and dangers.   And what do I have to do with Georgia?  I do know that the Georgians recently lost a big chunk of their country.  That is a fact, not an opinion, nor a fear, nor a wish.

3) Yes, perceptions are very important, and so is the need to make judgements about their accuracy and validity.  So, what is your point?

4) You have just presented a list of 6 or 7 mantras from the ruling naive-left orthodoxy in Western  media and government?  All of them, except 1, are highly debatable, and certainly do not deserve to be declared and treated like dogmas.  None of them have anything to do with your silly assertion that the 'war on terror' was about "merely  revenge for 9/11".  So, what is the relevance here of these mantras? 

5) Just like your cryptic "Russian question", what does "race to the bottom" mean?  It is a silly leftist slogan aimed at promoting the idea of ever-expanding government.   Nobody is racing to any "bottom", and any honest look at the factual data shows that the shares of government in GDP in most countries are rising, not falling.  Unless you can explicitly state what you mean by "race to the bottom" I cannot know where exactly your 'reasoning' about taxes and economic growth is faulty, and therefore cannot help you 'see the light' (so to speak).  But parroting empty slogans does not help anybody.  On the contrary, it helps perpetuate misconceptions and can advance destructive 'agendas'.

6)  Your assertion about "100%" proves just the opposite of what you claim.  I would never make such a silly assertion, precisely because I am not the one who is "determined by ideology".  Nobody is totally free from ideology, but some of us are also guided by empiricism.  Only ideologues can make silly claims of  "100%" in such matters of geopolitics and economics.    


I.  I lend credence where credence is due. The 'Russian Question' remains unresolved; to do so requires an objective and balanced perspective, not one clouded by ideological commitments or historical grievances.


II.  This "palliative idea" is mainly due to Western Europe's increasing dependence on Russian energy supplies and infrastructure. One might accuse you of falling for the "we are all Georgians" bit.


III.  So the Kremlin's perception of Able Archer '83 was irrelevant? So too the German perception of the Paris Peace Conference? The Bush administration's perception of the Iraqi nuclear programme?


IV.  The War on Terror has thus far failed to make the West safer from Islamic terrorism; on the contrary, new and bolstered counter-terrorism measures have. It has resulted in the erosion of certain civil liberties in the United States, and is incapable of making Islamic countries "free". Muslims are interested in preserving their traditions and keeping out foreign interests, not in liberal democracy. Lastly, Operation Iraqi Freedom made much of the world change its opinion of the 'War' - from one of self-defense to one of aggression.


V.  The "race to the bottom" scenario is just as likely as the global tax regime. Both assume a global state.


VI.  Your outlook on everything from economics to foreign policy is determined by ideology. Instead of embracing openness and proper scientific/academic debate, which invariably entails an understanding of all arguments involved, you ascribe differing positions to ideologies. In my case, you have been incorrect 100% of the time.

There you keep going....

..on the suicidal naive-leftist road of moral relativism.

@ Kapitein Andre

4 (a)  Indeed, there is little doubt that the Russians were never better off for the ambitions of their (authoritarian) leaders.  But, that is irrelevant to the issues I commented upon, which were (1) that you appear to give more credence to Russian concerns than to East European ones, and (2) that you have fallen hook and sinker for the "palliative idea" that Mr Handlery rightly complained about.  Also, American foreign policy was not really at issue here, but you seem to have a need to constantly return to it.  And, no, perception is NOT reality. Perception is an attempt to catch or see a certain 'reality', and perception can be accurate or false.  That is why you should go beyond concerning yourself with professed Russian perceptions, and make judgements about their accuracy and veracity, rather than just take them at 'face value'.  Once more, moral relativism can be (a) the refusal to make necessary moral judgements, and/or (b) the tendency to make absurd moral equivalencies, or both.  Furthermore, your assertion that "there is no threat of Russian aggression" is anti-historical and "palliative" in nature.

4 (b) Indeed, terrorism is nothing new.  It is as old as mankind.  But your claim that the current 'war on terror' is "merely revenge for 9/11" is NOT serious.  It is either infantile or, worse, irresponsible.  While you cannot be blamed, perhaps, for not fully grasping the enormity of what happened in lower Manhattan on 9/11 (to you it probably was a far-from-my-bed show, possibly coupled with some Schadenfreude), you surely are failing to grasp two important 'realities'.  The first is the impact of changing technology, and the probability that the West (including Israel) can not much longer afford " a low level" of islamic terrorism and of "unconventional warfare".  Technology is changing that rapidly.  The second is that the world's rogue regimes as well as the world's totaliarian 'super powers', are not blind to the reality of the naive-leftism that has been ruling Western Europe for several decades, and that now rules the USA as well. That means concretely that the West's deterrence credibility is at an all time low today, and therefore that the risks of 'miscalculation' by the world's enemies of freedom is at an all-time high.  While there is surely room for debate and disagreement among serious Westerners about strategy and tactics in the 'war on terror', your assertion that the war on terror is about "merely revenge" - as opposed to being about safeguarding a free future - is highly irresponsible, despicable even, and certainly a sign of a head-in-the-sand attitude.  Ideally, every American should read your para 4 (b), and come to realise that the contemporary ruling elites in Western Europe cannot be relied upon to act as 'allies' in the war on terror.  Sadly, of course, in the temporary midst of Obamamania they won't, and they will have to find out the 'hard way'.  Whereas Europe's history will repeat itself.      

6) I never claimed that you referred to Switserland as a "banana republic".  My point on that score was that the Swiss can put their existing resources to work in many different areas, and that they are only in a short-term sense dependent on exporting certain financial services.   My main point was that so-called 'tax havens' do NOT "extract wealth" from other economies, just like Germany's exports of BMW's do not extract wealth from other countries.  And, your "race to the bottom scenario" is just another empty meaningless leftist slogan, which illustrates once more that the naive-leftist elites that currently rule us have not progressed from 19th century 'luddites'.   A bit more economics training in high school, and a bit less of social studies and of so-called sex education, might better help safeguard our common future.

RE: "There you go again..."

4. (a) I have an extensive and personal knowledge and appreciation of Russian aggression. However, Soviet forces had to contend with multiple insurgencies in Warsaw Pact states that remained active until the 1980s. Even Stalin was particularly concerned about anti-Russian sentiment in Poland, and gave it incredible lattitude in order to avoid provoking a popular uprising. It is doubtful if the Russian military today can mount an effective operation against Ukraina, given its performance in Chechnia and Georgia. Moscow's concerns are the Russian minorities (which I personally believe should be expelled/repatriated) in neighboring states, and access to energy resources and markets.


Indeed, the Ukrainians hurt Russian interests more by siphoning gas, than the Georgians did by storming into South Ossetia. Yet there are no Russo-Ukrainian insurgents running amok, no airstrikes and no activity from the Black Sea Fleet. The Russian state, in all its various incarnations, is guilty of a great deal. Yet one must remember that the principal victims of the Kremlin's occupiers were always the Russian people themselves. The East Germans and Baltic nations had higher living standards in the Eastern Bloc; the Poles, Czechs and Hungarians had more liberties; and the Belarussians ended up with the latest conventional weapon systems due to their forward geographic position. The Russians never were the better off for the ambitions of their leaders.


Washington opened the door to humanitarian intervention when NATO took Serbia to task over the Kosovar Albanians. So long as the Baltic republics and Ukraina tow the same line as post-Milosevic Serbia, there is no threat of Russian aggression (assuming it was feasible).


Lastly, perception is reality. Able Archer 83 was a preparation for a nuclear first strike according to the Kremlin. The absurdity of this conclusion was irrelevant; what was relevant was that the conclusion nearly caused a nuclear conflagration. Today, many Russians are convinced that the United States is an aggressor, and that it will resort to hard power to secure its interests in Central Asia. After having reneged on agreements not to expand NATO eastward, its hand in the Color Revolutions and its incitement of T'bilisi, how can Washington justify its foreign policy?


4. (b) The War on Terror was merely revenge for 9/11, given added meaning by its confluence with geopolitical strategy and the humanitarian facade of "nation-building". Terror is nothing new, neither is Islamic terror. Israel has tacitly accepted that low level and unconventional warfare is the daily fee for past victories and territorial expansion. Americans believe that they are exempt due to their exceptionalism, and the backwardness of their enemies. After centuries of war and terrorism, Western Europeans are not eager to commit to an endless struggle without battles or memorials, but only casualties. If Europeans must confront Islam - and they must - it will be within Europe, not "over there". The War on Terror is an American conflict. As Delta operators do not work with the SAS to eliminate PIRA and RIRA targets, the SAS has no business in either Afghanistan or Iraq.


6.  I never referred to Switzerland as a "banana republic". Moreover, I reiterate that I morally and practically agree with Swiss policies, which have evolved over centuries and have been beneficial to both the Swiss and their clients. However, I also understand the frustration of Berlin and Paris. Preserving competition invariably means preserving the tension between "winners" and "losers". It is necessary for individuals to make use of "loopholes" and "technicalities" to avoid or reduce taxes; it is also necessary for governments to close them. I am as opposed to an international tax regime from which there is no alternative, as I am to a "race to the bottom" scenario.

There you go again...

@ Kapitein Andre


4-A)  You continue to provide the 'living proof' that Mr Handlery's fears are justified, in this case concerning the "palliative idea" entertained by most West Europeans that the fears of East Europeans about the dangers of Russia's "system" are overstated. This is not the first time that you try to obfuscate the easy lessons from relatively recent history with much more dubious pronouncements about much more distant (and less knowable) history.  It remains remarkable that you as a westerner give more credence to Russian "concerns" than to those of East Europeans.  The latter certainly are justified in believing that they will not be able to count on Western Europe for their defense.  Hence, they would be fools if they were to follow your implicit advice to seek extrication of the United States from East-Central Europe.

4-B) As always, your absurd moral relativism is so...contemporary and common.  To even suggest that the issue here is "supplanting one bid for 'mastery' for another" is ludicrous.  And, there is something very cowardly about hiding your own opinions behind those of Moscow (by attributing them to Moscow without any 'evaluation' of their validity).   In any case, sensible Americans can only see confirmation that most Europeans do not take the war on terror seriously, as confirmed by your parroting the Russian regime's official view w.r.t. "rogue states".   Since the current lot in power in the US is as blind and moral-relativistic as you are, there is little chance that they will learn the proper lessons in time.  It is therefore easy to predict, that the geopolitical situation that Obamania will leave in its wake, will be significantly worse (from a Western perspective) than the abysmal one that Jimmy Carter left behind in 1980.   


6) Those "statelets" that you seem to despise do NOT "extract wealth" from other economies (money and bank accounts are not "wealth" from a macroeconomic perspective, only from an individual perspective within a functioning economy).  What they do, is selling financial services to foreigners.  And, whether they operate or maintain "welfare states", or not, has nothing to do with the composition of their output.  Welfare statism rests on political decisions that are independent from the size of the financial sector or the composition of the financial services sector of any state.  Switserland is not a banana republic.  If it is 'exploiting' certain financial opportunities, it is because these opportunities derive from poor fiscal policies followed by other countries.  In the absence of those specific opportunities, the Swiss would be quite capable of pursuing other economic opportunities (both financial and otherwise).   The problem with your 'socialistic' thinking is that it is based on ignorance of the fundamental economic concept of "opportunity cost".  And it is the same ignorance that also explains most  socialists' opposition to 'free trade'.        

RE: Duly Noted



3.  I recall the "cute case" quite vividly. It is interesting that the HVA monitored the woman in question for 2 years before the 'Lothario' ever made contact, indicating that it believed that she was of the malleable sort. One had to be hiding in a nuclear bunker with no access to the outside world, not to hear of the many Eastern bloc spy scandals, especially those of the Bonn secretaries. She is a traitor, plain and simple; treachery does not distinguish between complicity and conspiracy. As for the Lothario, he has stood by his actions, and made a rather plausible claim that the HVA's dirty work helped prevent nuclear war. In contrast, she has acted cowardly. Stupidity is not an excuse. However, permitting stupidity is one social trait that differentiates humans from animals, the careless zebra having no recourse from the sort, sharp, shock of lioness' justice.


4.  Russia desires the clout and prestige that should accompany over 2,000 nuclear warheads. Naturally, Russia retains an interest in the affairs of former Soviet and Warsaw Pact states. Part of the solution is to provide the Baltic and East-Central European states with the capacity to defend themselves from a Russian incursion, such as that of the South Ossetian War. Given Russia's limited conventional capabilities - the units invading Georgia were the most modern and were veterans of the former Yugoslavia and Chechnia - this means air defense and anti-armor systems. Warsaw was never interested in the radar installation or the ABM missiles; it was very interested in Patriot batteries. The other part is to extricate the United States from East-Central Europe as much as possible. Moscow sees a rivalry in Central Asia for natural resources that compromises NATO, and is convinced that Washington (at least the Bush administration) will use NATO in this effort. Moscow now regards NATO, despite attempts to transform it into a peacekeeping and policing force, as permanently tainted. Just as the Catholic League's mandate to counter the Reformation and defend Catholicism in the Holy Roman Empire was subordinated to furthering the House of Habsburg's bid for mastery of continental Europe, Moscow fears the War on Terror and the cordon sanitaire around "rogue states" is but a pretext to press the alliance into the service of American hegemony, as outlined clearly by the PNAC.


However, one must not supplant one bid for mastery with another. The Red Army lost any goodwill it might have had when it "liberated" and then occupied East-Central Europe. This was compounded on centuries of Imperial Russian aggression against Poland, the Baltic states, Ukraine, etc. It will take generations for the Poles, Hungarians and others to ever trust the Russians.


6.  On the one hand I completely understand the need of Western economies to attack tax havens, as these allow miniscule statelets such as Liechtenstein to extract wealth from much larger economies and earn interest on it, using this to fund their own welfare states. On the other, I believe in competition, including tax competition, and believe it allows for different socio-economic systems to be tested. If Cuba is a poor example of a successful Communist economy due to its massive Soviet funding, then Switzerland is no paragon of capitalism due to its reliance on investment from abroad.