Who Rules the World?
Edited by Georgina Murray and John Scott
Chapter 4: The Transnational Capitalist Class and Tax Havens
Anthony van Fossen In April 2010 an oil rig, Deepwater Horizon, sank, killing 11 crew members and leaking oil into the Gulf of Mexico, in what was presented as the greatest environmental catastrophe in American history. The media reported the story as a conflict between two national interests – British Petroleum, which operated the rig, and the American residents of the polluted coasts of Louisiana, Florida and Texas. What did not enter public consciousness was that the Deepwater Horizon was flagged by the Pacific tax haven of the Marshall Islands (which defined its relevant environmental, labour, safety and tax laws) and was owned by a Swiss tax haven company, Transocean, which leased the oil rig to British Petroleum for over $490 000 a day. What appeared to be a conflict between two nation-states involved complicated transnational capitalist relations mediated by tax havens. Tax havens or offshore financial centres1 (OFCs) are the vehicles of the world’s secret political economy – mostly taking place in small, inconspicuous states (see Table 4.1). Since tax haven operations are often secret, their influence is largely invisible and outside effective political contestation. Yet OFCs strengthen the transnational capitalist class (TCC), with the global financial crisis (GFC) of 2007–08 only temporarily impeding this process. William I. Robinson (Robinson 2004, 2005a, 2005b; Robinson and Harris 2000) has suggested that since the early 1970s there has been a profound, qualitative change in the capitalist mode of production – creating a new structure dominated by the TCC. In this view, the enormous...
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