Expect another round of revelations and reverberations from the Panama Papers, the mega-leak of documents from Panamian law firm Mossack Fonseca, later today. The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists will release an online database of more than 200,000 offshore accounts used by the ultrarich at 11 a.m..
One key question is whether governments will do more to crack down on the whistleblower behind the leak than reign in or prosecute the wealth-hiding and tax avoidance it revealed. Nothing was known about the identity of the leaker until last Friday, when he or she released an anonymous 1,800-word manifesto under the byline "John Doe."
Doe poses this question: Why does extreme income inequality exist? Why now?
The Panama Papers provide a compelling answer to these questions: massive, pervasive corruption.
Doe says he does not work for any government, intelligence agency, or contractor. But he offers to provide the original cache of documents to law enforcement agencies in order to enable prosecutions. At the same time, he notes that governments have exiled whistleblowers like Ed Snowden, instead of welcoming their disclosures:
Legitimate whistleblowers who expose unquestionable wrongdoing, whether insiders or outsiders, deserve immunity from government retribution, full stop.
Doe argues the United States Congress is incapable of addressing the problem. They can hardly be expected to properly regulate what the wealthy do with their money when their positions depend on that money:
It is an open secret that in the United States, elected representatives spend the majority of their time fundraising. Tax evasion cannot possibly be fixed while elected officials are pleading for money from the very elites who have the strongest incentives to avoid taxes relative to any other segment of the population. These unsavoury political practices have come full circle and they are irreconcilable.
Finally, Doe invokes the central role of Capitalism, with a capital C, and hints at more megaleaks to come, thanks to "limitless digital storage and fast internet connections that transcend national boundaries":
The collective impact of these failures has been a complete erosion of ethical standards, ultimately leading to a novel system we still call Capitalism, but which is tantamount to economic slavery. In this system—our system—the slaves are unaware both of their status and of their masters, who exist in a world apart where the intangible shackles are carefully hidden amongst reams of unreachable legalese.