Book Review by Willard Manus

"Multinationals are increasingly creating their own offshore economies across the world--separate, hidden, and virtually detached from national economies--with enough combined financial power to match the very biggest states," charges William Brittain-Catlin in OFFSHORE--THE DARK SIDE OF THE GLOBAL ECONOMY. An investigative reporter for the BBC, Catlin has written an expose of major proportions, one that is as shocking as it is important.

Catlin's intention is to shed light on the "strange hidden place between capital and the state, the secret heart of Western modernity, the ever-kept secret contradiction between the individual and the authority of the law." The place varies in name only--Cayman Islands, Liechtenstein, Virgin Islands, Delaware--but the game is the same, to provide corporations, financiers and other rich people with a tax haven, a way to keep their fortunes legally out of sight of regulators and the public.

"The biggest and largest of America's corporations--the Wal-Marts, the Fords, the General Electrics--are the best at the onshore-offshore game," Catlin states. "They dominate and control corporate welfare largessse and political access, while with their Delaware incorporations and offshore networks of subsidiaries they expand and grow worldwide with as little restraint as possible. They also pay far less tax on their profits, in relative terms, than smaller companies do, and the difference is what enables them to pay for the onshore premium." (Picador, $15 ppbk.)