Invisible Trillions: How Financial Secrecy Is Imperiling Capitalism and Democracy and the Way to Renew Our Broken System

  • 10h 35m 19s
  • Raymond Baker
  • Berrett-Koehler Publishers
  • 2023

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 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 US Office, 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.

In this Audiobook

  • Introduction: The Stakes Could Not Be Higher
  • Chapter 1 - Capitalism’s Financial Secrecy System
  • Chapter 2 - Underproductive and Illicit Trillions
  • Chapter 3 - Corruption, Crime, and Terrorism
  • Chapter 4 - Income and Wealth Inequality
  • Chapter 5 - Democracy Weakening
  • Chapter 6 - Broken Banks
  • Chapter 7 - Covetous Corporations
  • Chapter 8 - Enablers
  • Chapter 9 - Complicit Governments
  • Chapter 10 - International Institutions to the Rescue?
  • Chapter 11 - Hiding in Silos
  • Chapter 12 - The Precarious State of Democratic Capitalism
  • Chapter 13 - Change: Empowered or Imperiled?
  • Chapter 14 - Restoring Integrity
  • Conclusion: Character Is Destiny