National Competitiveness: a Dangerous Obsession

   1   0 Blog, Finance Curse

Highlighting a presentation by TJN’s Director John Christensen at the Max Planck Institute in December, and a chapter in a new book by two TJN authors, on the same theme. First, Max Planck, which published the details yesterday:

Click here for the presentation

Click here for the presentation and podcast

Governments and societies have been subverted by the view that – as US President Bill Clinton once put it – a nation is “like a big corporation competing in the global marketplace.” The political rhetoric of “competitiveness” has taken as unquestionable fact the notion that competition between nations is a valuable social and economic good, rendering policy-makers unable or unwilling to respond appropriately to domestic economic challenges such as setting up fair tax systems or implementing appropriate financial regulation. The logical outcome of this “competitiveness” drive will not be zero tax rates on capital but a spiraling race to below the bottom leading to negative tax rates, as countries bid against each other using direct and indirect subsidies to attract investment. Yet, the intellectual foundations of the whole “competitiveness” agenda rest on economic fallacies and confusions, which few people have thought to challenge.

Our Finance Curse research partly funded by Enlighten

Our Finance Curse research partly funded by Enlighten

Selected publications

Shaxson, N. and Christensen, J: Tax Competitiveness – A Dangerous Obsession, chapter in Global Tax Fairness, Oxford University Press, 2016

Shaxson, N.: Treasure Islands: Tax Havens and the Men Who Stole the World London: Vintage Books, 2011.

Rixen, T.: The Political Economy of International Tax Governance. Basingstoke: Palgrave, 2008.

Davies, W.: The Limits of NeoLiberalism: Authority, Sovereignty and the Logic of Competition. London: Sage, 2014.

Suggested publication for preparatory reading

Shaxson, N., Christensen, J., Wigan D.,: The Finance Curse: Britain and the World Economy, British Journal of Politics and International Relations, Jan 2016.

Fools’ Gold: a TJN-backed site dedicated to how nations ‘compete’ and the race to the bottom.

Lecture notes
The Finance Curse and Competitiveness. Presentation at Max Planck Institute.

Bullough, O.: The Fall of Jersey: How a Tax Haven Goes Bust. The Guardian, December 8, 2015.

John Christensen directs the research and advocacy work of the global Tax Justice Network. He has devoted his career to investigating the impact of tax havens on globalization processes. His research on tax havens and offshore finance has been widely published in books and academic journals, and he has taken part in many films, television documentaries, and radio programs.

Related Posts

The Offshore Wrapper – Friday 18 August

panama_cityThe Offshore Wrapper is our weekly roundup of news from the world of tax justice. If you want to receive the wrapper every week in your inbox, you can subscribe here.


Swiss Politicians seek to block automatic exchange of banking information with developing countries

Photo by Pedro SzekelyCould we be seeing a return to the bad old days of Swiss Banking? A right wing party in Switzerland, the Swiss People’s Party, has launched an assault on the automatic exchange of banking information, according to Swiss Daily Newspaper Tages Anzeiger.


The Offshore Wrapper – Data havens and new crackdowns on tax avoidance

Gorgeous Computer FixingsBelow is the text of the offshore wrapper,  a weekly roundup of news from the world of tax justice sent out to our mailing list. If you haven’t signed up yet and would like to receive the wrapper in your inbox every week – you can do so here.


Open data for tax justice – designing a new CbCR database

OD4TJlogoThis week, TJN participated in a design sprint in London organised by Open Knowledge International. The purpose of the sprint was to bring together coders and tax justice advocates to start work on building a database for the new country by country reporting data that we hope will be released in the future, if public […]


New research on key role major economies play in global tax avoidance

offshore-network_colorcorrectedAn important new study on Offshore Financial Centres (OFCs) from the University of Amsterdam has made some fascinating discoveries, challenging, as the Financial Secrecy Index has, the popular misconception that tax havens are only palm fringed little islands and exposing that in fact major economies play a key role in global tax avoidance. Specifically they’ve […]


About The Author

Nicholas Shaxson is a journalist and writer on the staff of Tax Justice Network. He is author of the book Poisoned Wells about the oil industry in Africa, published in 2007, and the more recent Treasure Islands: Tax havens and the Men who Stole the World, published by Random House in January 2011. He lives in Berlin
View all posts by

One thought on “National Competitiveness: a Dangerous Obsession

  1. You must be joking, there is no way i am going to read all this stuff linked on this page nor will i read the deeper links. This is just careerism to advance the reputations of your authors.
    Structure your argument like a simple version of a scientific paper. Or better yet like a Wikipedia article where the serious folks can get access to primary sources.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to Top