Thursday, April 14, 2011

If you owned a 164’ yacht, what flag would you fly?

That is the question I was faced when biking back from Golden Gardens Park past the Ballard locks last month. Now I fancy myself something of a flag aficionado but the flag this super yacht was flying was not familiar to me. It had the union jack and a red field. Okay so that narrows it down to somewhere in the former British Empire, not a lot of help there... (my best guesses are below)

This is the Wabi-Sabi, a 164’ charter yacht coming into Lake Union from Puget Sound using the Hiram H. Chittenden Locks: (I made a mistake with my captions in the video, its lake Union not Lake Washington)



As you can see, this massive yacht is registered out of the Cayman Islands despite the owner's attempt to be discreet and abbreviate Cayman Islands as C.I. For those of you who don’t know, the Cayman Islands is a notorious offshore tax haven.

Watching this behemoth transit the locks I couldn’t help thinking about the irony of such an extravagant yacht in the middle of the great recession. Do you think anyone is paying taxes on this yacht? If they are, I would bet it isn’t very much. Is it fair that this tax dodging super-yacht is able to take advantage of the public structures that our tax dollars pay for?

This story is a parallel of modern American politics. The super wealthy (who now encourage tea-party radicals to protest the very existence of government and taxes) have built their fortunes relying on the shared public structures we all support with our taxes. Government is not a vending machine, the whole of government spending is greater than the sum of its parts. Without it, the wealthy would be unable the amass their fortunes. Many of the super wealthy understand this and happily pay their taxes. But even if you are a super wealthy anti-tax yacht owner, the public structures we all pay for come in handy from time to time.

So really, what flag would you fly?

Bermuda?
 






Manitoba?






Ontario?






Its a tough call, but I am going to have to go with Bermuda, I hear its nice there.

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