SF writer David Brin talks about ultimate beneficial ownership (UBO), the concept at the heart of the Panama Papers investigative journalism two years ago. He extrapolates the notion of UBO:

“Elsewhere, I’ve long been pushing the concept of a worldwide treaty for transparency of ownership. Basically, “If I own something, I must state publicly that I own it.”

Oh, sure, It would be a pain to list all you own… and then to look at others’ lists to denounce unmerited claims. Computers could zero in on any overlap and yes, lawyers would have a few very good years. But what would be the chief effects?”

Brin posits,
1) a widening tax base and thus lower taxes as all the hidden stuff comes within scope.
2) a flood of unclaimed property as the current owners will not want to own up that could wipe out half the public debt of the world’s nations (this reminds me of what I read about the period after the black death, where the surviving population suddenly had access to a large surplus of material, fields and livestock)
3) a similar impact on accountability and liability, as negative consequences of ownership (leaking tankers e.g.) could not be externalised and escaped any longer.

Interesting thought experiment.

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