Anderson Shrugged

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Interesting New York Times piece on space entrepreneur Walter Anderson, who stands accused of being America's biggest tax-cheat. We learn:

The government says that over the last two decades, Mr. Anderson used fake identification papers and a purloined baptismal certificate, and created at least seven aliases.

The most intriguing alias listed in court papers is Ragnor Danksjold, a variation on the character Ragnar Danneskjold in the Ayn Rand novel "Atlas Shrugged."

Danneskjold is a sort of Robin Hood in reverse who steals from the ships of socialist governments and gives the booty to the rich, including a solid gold bar he presses into the hands of an industrialist, Henry Reardon, partly to repay Mr. Reardon for taxes he paid.

According to court papers, Mr. Anderson's Gulfstream IV jet was owned by a company named Dankjold Reed, another variation on the name.

Further proof of that infamous liberal media bias, I suppose, that nobody on NYT staff caught the misspelling of "Henry Rearden." And the author seems to miss the significance of this:

The Justice Department, in a 12-count indictment unsealed Monday, said that Mr. Anderson engaged in elaborate schemes to hide his ownership of his American businesses through two offshore entities, Gold & Appel Transfer in the British Virgin Islands and a Panamanian company named Iceberg Transport.

"Gold & Appel," as some of you will recall, is the name of a front-company run by the Discordians in Robert Anton Wilson's Illuminatus! Trilogy. It's a reference to the "golden apple" Eris (aka Discordia) rolled into a banquet on Olympus she'd been snubbed from, touching off (indirectly) the Trojan War. I'm pretty sure "Iceberg Transport" is a reference to something also, but memory's failing for the moment. Anderson sounds like he was reading his Heinlein as well:

Five years ago, in the interview, he talked about his plans to build a space station, a place he wanted to operate without any government, except himself, where violence would not be tolerated.

"I'm not saying it's fair," he said, "but I've been thinking a lot about human rights in space, and in my space station, people would all be peaceful or I'd throw them out the air lock."

Addendum: Commenter Warren suggests that Iceberg Transport may refer to the Richard Pryor movie Brewster's Millions, in which Pryor's character concocts a scheme to deliberately lose money. I finally remembered what I'd been thinking of—the Nathaniel Hawthorne short story "Dr. Heidegger's Experiment," in which an aging failed entrepreneur who'd blown his money on a series of wild ventures is restored to youth and immediately reverts to form:

On the other side of the table, Mr. Medbourne was involved in a calculation of dollars and cents, with which was strangely intermingled a project for supplying the East Indies with ice, by harnessing a team of whales to the polar icebergs.

Either seems possible.

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  1. So…Mr. Anderson…where shall we begin?

  2. I guess he has a sense of humor. If you’re going to shrug off the government, you may as well have fun with it.

  3. One must wonder about the U.S. tax code when it is cheaper to do all the things that Mr. Anderson did than actually pay the taxes.

    Calling Mr. Laffer…

  4. Mr. Anderson, or should I say, Ragnar Danneskjold? One of these identities has a future, the other does not.

  5. This guy is great! It’s a shame he got caught, except we’d never have know about the cool stuff he did.

    TANSTAAFL

  6. Stretched and contorted stab at “Iceberg Transports”:

    In Pryor’s 1985 remake of Brewster’s Millions, the title character invests in a scheme to mount motors on icebergs with the intention of loosing his money. A situation reminiscent of The Fountainhead’s Monodnock Valley, the resort intended to fail but succeeded contrary to it’s backers intent.

  7. Cool guy. It’s a shame he’ll spend the rest of his life in prison.

  8. Someone please tell me he also had a shell company called YoyoDyne…

  9. Cool guy. It’s a shame he’ll spend the rest of his life in prison.

    He’s probably expecting Hank and Dagny to break him out of jail.

    You don’t think he’s writing a speech, do you?

  10. There was also an episode of the lost Andy Griffifth classic series “Salvage 1” in which they put rockets on an iceberg to steer it to LA in a moneymaking scheme. Salvage 1 was also a thumb-your-nose-at-government and go to space anyway-themed series, particularly the opening movie.

  11. If nothing else,the article reminded me that I never finished the Illuminatus trilogy.

  12. you missed out.

    “without guilt, there is no civilization”

  13. I was mostly through when I has to start writing my thesis. I put it down and forgot about it. I’ll have to start over now, but it should be worth it.

  14. Stretched and contorted stab at “Iceberg Transports”:

    In Pryor’s 1985 remake of Brewster’s Millions, the title character invests in a scheme to mount motors on icebergs with the intention of loosing his money. A situation reminiscent of The Fountainhead’s Monodnock Valley, the resort intended to fail but succeeded contrary to it’s backers intent.

    This may be simple-minded of me, but all I could think of was the Titanic.

  15. Sarnath: “One must wonder about the U.S. tax code when it is cheaper to do all the things that Mr. Anderson did than actually pay the taxes.”

    The answer, as Mr. Anderson will discover, is that it is *not* cheaper. Unless you’re stupid enough to think you’ll never get caught…

  16. I think the “Iceberg Transport” name is a reference to the Economics concept of “Iceberg Transport Costs”, where the transportation costs associated with moving goods around are modeled as the consumption of part of the transported goods in transit, instead of as a monetary cost.

  17. “tax-cheat” That cheapens the word “cheat”. I don’t break the law vis a vis the IRS but this is due to considerations of self-preservation and peace of mind, and not due to my personal ethical restraints that constrain me from cheating people.

  18. I think the Iceberg Transport name is a reference to the Economic concept of “Iceberg Transport Costs”, a method of modelling the costs of transporting goods from one place to another as the consumption of some part of the goods in transit, as opposed to a monetary cost.

    It’s used a lot when dealing with international trade since, by representing the costs in a non-monetary manner, you can ignore the effects of economic, monetary, and tax policy on the relative values of the various currencies involved.

  19. Sorry for the double post. There’s two versions of the article, and if you comment on the other one, it ends up here and looks like the system ate you comment.

  20. Julian Sanchez,

    The notion of trading ice from the north country (Hawthorne’s New England) to distant locales has its basis in reality. New England pond ice was sold as far south as Brazil in the 19th century. When you go to New England fishing locales like Gloucester one of the things you always notice are “X” Pond Ice companies.

    What were his other aliases, BTW?

  21. Maybe Walter Anderson can us his choice of an Ayne Rand Character as an alias as a defense. After all, if a tax-supported education produced such a poor taste in literature, what good are taxes? On the other hand, he was never poisoned by comtaminated drinking water. It’s going to be a hard case.

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