Will The Panama Papers Force Transparency For The Better?

During our broadcast on the Panama Papers, political scientist Ian Bremmer, head of the Eurasia Group, suggested that the Panama Papers and other major data leaks — like that of Wikileaks, Edward Snowden, or the Sony Hack — are bringing about a new dynamic of transparency. He called it a “forced transparency" — with the potential to impact world order.

IAN BREMMER: In developed countries it will bring down some individuals. It'll bring down a government in Iceland, maybe a couple others. But the institutions themselves are much stronger than that, much more durable. With dictatorships, of course, this effects the actual lives of large numbers of people whether they be able to continue to exist on the planet and the regimes they're attached to. The weaker and more brittle regimes will be increasingly brought down by the Panama Papers, and by [other leaks] because they won't be able to stand up for this kind of light being shone on the billions upon billions that they're stealing from their people while their countries economy are not doing well and while their people are suffering. Where a country like Russia can lie with impunity to its people. They've got over 80 percent approval, they control the media, they have a strong ability to engage in state surveillance, to engage in violence against potential dissidents, and they'll continue to persist. But there's no question this is a real threat to dictators and dictatorships across the world. 

Bremmer said he doesn’t see data leaks like the Panama Papers making much of a difference when it comes to policy. Instead, the big changes will be in power. Over time in a future world of forced transparency, it will become harder for intelligence organizations to persist and exist the way they have, unless individual nation states go to the extreme of creating an effective police state, he said. Intelligence agencies, and their power, will move away from the organizations of old.

BREMMER: I think this is the beginning of something much more revolutionary. It's not that I think we're gonna change the tax code significantly for corporations or for individuals going forward in a way that would really meaningfully effect that. I don't believe that. Gridlock in Washington would tell you we're not.

What I'm saying is as the problem persists, and as individuals who are disgruntled in this organization have the ability as one person or a small group of people to force transparency on an entire organization-- I mean this Panamanian organization is going to be brought down as a consequence. The one thing they were supposed to be providing to their clients, secrecy, they can't any more. Well, what happens when that effects Bank of America? Or it effects Exxon-Mobil? 

When the practices don't change and disgruntled individuals- whether  they're in the NSA, or the CIA, or a big multinational corporation says Okay I'm just going to take everything you have and make it public. If a bank's email chains become all public, that could bring the bank down. That would have a very significant impact on the American economy. I don't think people understand that this era of forced transparency through technological empowerment of disgruntled individuals that the system refuses to respond to is actually going to create vastly more geopolitical volatility and economic volatility than any of us have experienced before.

Listen to the full conversation on the Panama Papers and their effects across the globe.


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