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 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.
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.
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.
“Clearly these multi-billionaires cannot be trusted to serve their own best interests, let alone the interests of all. Like Keynes, Baker would therefore like to … render capitalism which is unfettered at present, answerable to democracy, to save humanity and the planet and incidentally, capitalism from itself.” —Kannan Srinivasan, “The Long History of Capital Flight and How It Subverts Democracy,” The Wire (India), August 13, 2023
“By zooming in on particular people and cases, authors lure readers in and make the debauchery and the suffering real. By zooming out, Baker hopes to gesture towards solutions that might go beyond putting a lone trader in jail.” —Michelle Chihara, “Invisible, Offshore, Shadow, Invisible: Financial Thrillers and Global Capital,” Los Angeles Review of Books, July 24, 2023
“An important book for anyone interested in the cause and effect of the lack of transparency, the continuing role of secrecy in the modern world, and, above all, the consequent challenge to democracy itself.” —Laurence Cockcroft, University of Sussex Centre for the Study of Corruption, May 31, 2023
“Baker hurls his grenade of a book at this contradiction. How can Western countries both be an African development sponsor and be responsible for the secrecy system that extracts far more from the continent than it receives in aid? How can Western democracy pledge itself to the rule of law and tolerate financial structures that enable the wealthy to avoid so many of those laws? [Baker] has spent a lifetime confronting himself with these questions that seem to little trouble the occupant of the White House. If confronted with the suggestion of reading a 278-page book about financial secrecy, the former senator for the notorious shell company factory known as Delaware would probably roll his eyes. That would be foolish, as there are few books Biden would benefit from more.”
—Ben Judah, “The Reason Why Sanctions Against Russia Are Failing,” New Statesman, March 10, 2023
“Kleptocracy and financial secrecy are democracy’s multitrillion-dollar problem—we cannot afford to ignore it. That makes Raymond Baker’s Invisible Trillions essential reading for anyone truly interested in saving democracy from the predations of kleptocracy and plutocracy.”
—Charles G. Davidson, “Shell Game,” Journal of Democracy, vol. 34, no. 1, January 2023
“The book’s timely contribution is how financial secrecy threatens both free enterprise and political freedoms. Both are critical to dealing with current inequalities afflicting humanity and to meeting challenges in public health, climate, and elsewhere.”
—John Stremlau, “Invisible Trillions Review: Global Capitalism Operates Beyond the Rule of Law and Threatens Democracy,” The Conversation, February 15, 2023
“Raymond Baker explica que, si queremos que sobreviva el sistema de capitalismo democrático construido en Occidente desde hace más de dos siglos, debemos reconocer y comprender la interdependencia entre capitalismo y democracia y asegurar su buen funcionamiento.”
—Francis Ghiles, “Secretismo financiero: una amenaza para el capitalismo y la democracia,” ESGlobal, February 10, 2023
Praise & Endorsements
“Invisible Trillions is a devastating exposé of how secrecy in capitalism has gone badly wrong. Baker then powerfully sets out how the interdependence of democracy and capitalism has to be recognized, understood, and made to work for a better global future. His knowledge, experience, and wisdom equip him very well in producing this extremely important and valuable text. This is a landmark book for the 21st century.”
—Lord Daniel Brennan, Queen’s Counsel and Chair, Global Financial Integrity
“Reading the book made me alternately angry, sad, and frustrated with the state of the world. It also taught me a lot and Baker’s innovative solutions made me think hard about issues at the core of our economic and political ideals and systems.”
—William Gale, Miller Chair in Federal Economic Policy, The Brookings Institution
“An essential book for all future and present managers and leaders. Raymond Baker provides the reader with a sense of acute urgency to deal with a global set of devastating issues. In identifying the required measures based on transparency, accountability, and morality essential to alter the course of this disintegration, he moves the reader from despair to a constructive future.”
—Huguette Labelle, former Chair, Transparency International
“If you want to know why corruption is out of control around the world and how democracy is being undermined by secrecy, then read this book. It is sweeping and highlights one of the biggest problems facing the world today.”
—Gerard Ryle, Pulitzer Prize and Emmy Award–winning journalist and Director, International Consortium of Investigative Journalists
“Baker shines much-needed light on how the hidden wealth of kleptocrats, criminals, and the ultrarich is stored in rule-of-law jurisdictions and parses the economic, political, and social dangers of such secrecy. Understanding how the free world is harmed by this secrecy is important for anyone who cares about the future of democracy and free markets.”
—Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, Democrat, Rhode Island