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“Essential reading for anyone truly interested in saving democracy from the predations of kleptocracy and plutocracy.”
—Charles Davidson, The Journal of Democracy
This book expands our understanding of the financial secrecy system dominating capitalism today and shows how we can create accountability to restore our democracy.
Over the last half century, capitalism has created the means for trillions of dollars, euros, pounds, and other stores of wealth to move invisibly—beyond the control of central bankers, law enforcement agents, and international institutions. With an entire financial secrecy system now dominating capitalist operations, riches flow inexorably upward and accelerate economic inequality. And rising inequality is directly imperiling—weakening, obstructing, and degrading—democracy.
This book is not a screed against capitalism—it is a call for capitalism to return to its roots, reenergizing its synergies with democracy. Raymond Baker writes, “Democratic capitalism is, in my judgment, the best system yet devised in political economy, but dysfunctions within its capitalist component are undermining the two-part system.”
Baker explains the tax havens, secrecy jurisdictions, disguised corporations, anonymous trusts, fake foundations, regulatory loopholes, money laundering techniques, and more that make up the financial secrecy system. But he goes beyond the “what” to the “why,” examining the motivations driving the system that generates and shelters trillions of dollars that could go toward spreading wealth, generating public goods, and protecting the environment.
Going deeper, Baker illustrates how these realities further corrode the commonwealth, with chapters devoted to the facilitating activities and impacts of banks, corporations, enabling lawyers and accountants, governments, and international institutions and concluding with the limiting role played in policy silos that are missing the bigger picture.
Finally, he provides specific, pragmatic measures to reset capitalism so that it once again contributes to shared prosperity and sustained democracy. This is a magisterial treatment of an issue that is at the root of so many problems that plague our nation and the world today.
About the Author
Raymond W. Baker is the founder and president of Global Financial Integrity, a research and advocacy think tank organization working to curtail illicit financial flows. He was previously a scholar at the Brookings Institute and currently serves on the Policy Advisory Board of Transparency International-USA, the Advisory Board of the Ethical Research Institute, and the World Economic Forum’s Meta-Council on the Illicit Economy. Baker has been featured on BBC, the CBS Evening News, CNN, NPR, and others, and he is the author of Capitalism’s Achilles Heel.
“Invisible Trillions is a devastating exposé of how secrecy in capitalism has gone badly wrong. Baker then powerfully sets out how the interdependence of democracy and capitalism has to be recognized, understood, and made to work for a better global future. His knowledge, experience, and wisdom equip him very well in producing this extremely important and valuable text. This is a landmark book for the 21st century.”
—Lord Daniel Brennan, King’s Counsel and Chair, Global Financial Integrity
“We are engaged in an international clash of civilizations, pitting democracy and the free market against regimes run by kleptocrats and dictators. Baker shines much-needed light on how the hidden wealth of kleptocrats, criminals, and the ultrarich is stored in rule-of-law jurisdictions and parses the economic, political, and social dangers of such secrecy. Understanding how the free world is harmed by this secrecy is important for anyone who cares about the future of democracy and free markets.”
—Senator Sheldon Whitehouse
“If you want to know why corruption is out of control around the world and how democracy is being undermined by secrecy, then read this book. It is sweeping and highlights one of the biggest problems facing the world today.”
—Gerard Ryle, Pulitzer Prize and Emmy Award–winning journalist and Director, International Consortium of Investigative Journalists
“Raymond Baker has written a wide-ranging, insightful, and thought-provoking book on financial secrecy—it’s worse than you think—and the links between the financial system and the democratic system. Reading the book made me alternatively angry, sad, and frustrated with the state of the world. It also taught me a lot, and Baker’s innovative solutions made me think hard about issues at the core of our economic and political ideals and systems.”
—William Gale, Miller Chair in Federal Economic Policy, The Brookings Institution
“An essential book for all future and present managers and leaders. Raymond Baker vividly describes how illicit trade, dirty money, and corruption, along with a range of enablers and complicit governments, facilitate the movement of these resources around the world through opaque systems. By bringing to life the impact of these lost resources on the inequality of wealth and income, the instability of countries, the deterioration of the rule of law, and the erosion of democracy, the author provides the reader with a sense of acute urgency to deal with this global set of devastating issues. In identifying the required measures based on transparency, accountability, and morality essential to alter the course of this disintegration, Raymond Baker moves the reader from despair to a constructive future.”
—Huguette Labelle, former Chair, Transparency International