Pubdate: Wed, 13 Apr 2016
Source: Rome News-Tribune (GA)
Copyright: 2016 Rome News-Tribune
Note: From The Orange County Register


Sometimes the curtain is pulled aside, allowing us to see what's 
going on in the often-opaque worlds of government and finance. Such 
an occasion has been happening with what's being called the Panama 
Papers, released by the International Consortium of Investigative 
Journalists. It's going to take not months, but years, to wade 
through the estimated 11 million documents leaked from a Panamanian 
law firm that specializes in crafting tax shelters.

But initial disclosures are both troubling and offer insight. "The 
documents reference 12 current or former world leaders, as well as 
128 other politicians and public officials," CNN reported. 
Implicated, in particular, are associates of Russian President 
Vladimir Putin; FIFA, the global soccer governing body, 40 of whose 
officials were indicted in 2015 by the U.S. Justice Department on 
corruption charges; and Iceland's Prime Minister Sigmundur David Gunnlaugsson.

Panama is notorious for money laundering, especially of drug cartel 
proceeds. Doing so is wrong. But it also should be put in context. 
People launder money gained through illegal activities, or to avoid 
high taxes. A fundamental reform against corruption, therefore, would 
be to reduce taxes and consider legalizing some activities that don't 
involve harm to people.

Here's a great example. "Marijuana legalization may have accomplished 
what the 'war on drugs' has failed to do - put the squeeze on Mexican 
drug cartel activity," the San Francisco Chronicle recently reported. 
"The U.S. Border Patrol has released 2015 data showing that the 
number of marijuana seizures throughout the Southwest U.S./Mexico 
border has fallen to the lowest level in a decade.

"Mexican manufacturers of illegal marijuana bricks have driven down 
prices as residents in California, Colorado and Washington state now 
have safe access to reasonably affordable medical marijuana and/or 
recreational cannabis." Prices have dropped by as much as two-thirds, 
to about $30 a kilo.

More details will be coming out on the Panama Papers. And some 
activities - robbery, murder and terrorism - always will be illegal, 
and related money laundering ought to be punished. But government 
best can focus on real crimes by reducing or eliminating punishment 
of nonviolent, victimless offenses.
- ---
MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom