Debtors’ Prisons and Debtors’ Paradises: The Laws and Flaws of Estate Planning Through the Ages


ACLS Fellowship Program


Social Sciences


This book project provides a thorough history of the little studied estate planning industry, by revealing important similarities between the debtors’ prison and offshore financial center. Both the 19th century prison and the 21st century offshore financial center have allowed for a bifurcation of credit and debt into separate legal jurisdictions, thereby generating arguments among proponents and opponents over what Albert Hirschman long ago referred to as “exit.” Are “high-net-worth individuals” reducing their tax burdens, or has cross-border trade merely grown so much in the past 30-40 years that the neutrality provided by offshore financial centers has become vital to the flow of capital? By carefully studying the arguments, techniques—and ultimately—reforms that concerned the debtors’ prisons, we can put important debates about the offshore finance center in a new light.