Albert Einstein and Tax Havens

This post was printed in Dagbladet on July 25th, 2014, as a reply to an op-ed by Hans Eirik Olav. As it wasn’t published in English, and you can’t print links, I’ll publish it here, as well.

Screen shot from Dagbladet's opinion section online.
Screen shot from Dagbladet’s opinion section online.

In an exceptionally pompous op-ed titled ‘J’accuse, Hans Eirik Olav, charged with tax fraud, writes in Dagbladet July 20th: «Albert Einstein understood; that tax is an enemy of innovation, productivity and growth — an enemy of the world’s poor.»

How Olav came up with this impression, I do not know. When the independent socialist journal Monthly Review was first published in 1949, however, Einstein wrote an article titled Why socialism?‘.

Broadly speaking, Einstein professes a rather orthodox socialist criticism of private ownership of productive capital. He points out that the distribution of value produced under this principle of organising production leads to the result that those who don’t own the means of production don’t acquire ownership of the values produced. Einstein voices his support of a planned economy and social ownership to productive capital, yet acknowledges that socialism has challenges of its own.

The article is probably mainly of historical interest, and yet it remains relevant in many ways. The following passage, in particular, gives an interesting perspective on Olav’s op-ed:

I have now reached the point where I may indicate briefly what to me constitutes the essence of the crisis of our time. It concerns the relationship of the individual to society. The individual has become more conscious than ever of his dependence upon society. But he does not experience this dependence as a positive asset, as an organic tie, as a protective force, but rather as a threat to his natural rights, or even to his economic existence. (…)

[This] crippling of the social consciousness of individuals (…) I consider the worst evil of capitalism.

Developing countries are at particular risk with regard to capital flight and tax evasion. The total effect of this is difficult to determine, but it seems safe to assert that brave entrepreneurs who heed the moral call of Hans Eirik Olav and deny their states income, are stealing values that easily surpass total investments in development. Tax havens threaten states’ ability to secure basic human rights.

Benjamin E. Larsen
Labour relations officer, Oslo Socialist Left party


Forfatter: Benjamin

Trebarnspappa fra Oslo med røtter på Vestlandet. Farmasøyt. Prøver å forske. SVer.