John Seven: Hoarding wealth amounts to a snub to community
NORTH ADAMS — In any end of the world movie, whether it involves pandemics or nuclear war or zombies, the person singled out as the jerk of the story is always the guy who hoards the stuff you need to survive.
Sometimes it's food, sometimes weapons, sometimes he won't let people share his fallout shelter. It always comes down to keeping everything for himself and losing his humanity. Everyone hates that guy.
Thanks to the Panama Papers — 11.5 million records of hidden money from all over the world — we know that those jerks are everywhere. Instead of stockpiling powdered milk and instant soup, they're hiding significant earnings from taxation.
The estimated amount of money being hidden in Panama by the super-rich of the world is as low as $21 trillion and as high as $32 trillion. That's a lot of taxes never collected, a huge amount of instant soup packets to withhold from your neighbors while the world crumbles.
What the Panama Papers tell us about human greed and how it shapes our world is no surprise. I always think its good to have a map of the secret passages in the castle so you know where they are, rather than just a vague understanding that they exist.
Not many Americans are in the papers, it has been pointed out. Apparently the Panama Free Trade deal created more scrutiny in that area and made it a less desirable destination for Americans hiding their assets.
But rich American villains are stockpiling their instant soup elsewhere, that's all. Why bother with Panama when you can just look to Delaware? In the world rankings for tax havens, the United States cames in third, with Delaware is considered the worst offender. A whopping 64 percent of Fortune 500 companies name their home as Delaware.
Panama came in at No. 13 on that same list, by the way.
That makes Delaware one of the biggest places on Earth to hide bribes and illegal profits, as well as to greedily hide stockpiles of instant soup from your neighbors.
This is the result of a major failure to understand our own development as a species.
In the 21st Century, we are far enough from our evolutionary roots to willfully disregard one of the major keys to our early success as a species — cooperation. As we grouped together to form small groups of early humans, it was the understanding that the pack was in it together, and survival could only come from altruism between members.
The idea is that if one member of the group is doing poorly, then the group itself is doing poorly. In such a survival situation, there is no them, only us. With a global economy, the world has become one huge pack. We are all us.
Capitalism is sometimes misconstrued as mirroring the natural world, pushing a "survival of the fittest" mentality that pleases the hyper-masculinity of its biggest enthusiasts. But "survival of the fittest" is a misunderstanding of evolution, a way to justify bullying.
It's the survival of the adaptable that drives evolution, and human adaptability — aspects of which are cooperation and working together — is a much stronger evolutionary factor in our own development when utilized within the structure of the tribe.
According to Oxfam, the "global system of tax avoidance" documented in the Panama Papers "is sucking the life out of welfare states in the rich world" and "denies poor countries the resources they need to tackle poverty, put children in school and prevent their citizens dying from easily curable diseases."
In other words, it is immoral and, frankly, evil to hoard massive resources while people die outside your bunker. Thankfully, angry mobs have a way of storming your hidey-hole and seizing your instant soup packets. Watch out.
Contact John Seven at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @damnjohnseven.
TALK TO US
If you'd like to leave a comment (or a tip or a question) about this story with the editors, please email us. We also welcome letters to the editor for publication; you can do that by filling out our letters form and submitting it to the newsroom.