A Universal Basic Income is in the pipeline for a trial in Fife. People, regardless of how much they earn, will get an annual basic sum in cash to spend as they please. Experiments over the past forty years have shown that it works. Lucky Fife.
We’re all getting poorer. As it is the economy pretty much everywhere is structured in a way that benefits a tiny minority of the global population, leaving the rest of us to work for a living with stagnant wages in an environment where the cost of living is rising. What was once the dream of science fiction is increasingly becoming reality; smart technology is doing more of the jobs we used to do, giving people free time they can ill afford. Employers are selling the idea that flexi-time and zero-hours contracts suit workers better because these arrangements give us the free time we have always wanted, but there’s a catch – we have less money to spend.
Governments don’t want to broadcast the fact that the majority of people receiving state benefits are the underemployed and the underpaid – the working poor. This trend towards weaker employment contracts, fewer hours, de-unionisation, and lower pay has been developing for a few decades, and right now, all around the developed world, we are reaching crisis point. Here in Scotland this shift in the economy has put an unbearable weight on the welfare system. It is exactly the same story in England and Wales, and the Westminster government knows that it can’t go on blaming the victims for much longer. We have cottoned on to the massive wealth transfer from the bottom to the top, and we’re not going to let them off with it for much longer. Something has to give.
Now, of course, there is more from Jason but I don’t want to spoil your surprise and delight when you visit his web site for the rest.
What does this have to do with business ethics? Unfortunately what is ethical depends in part on circumstances. What is fair pay? What is a fair return for labor? If we are entering a time in which labor is almost valueless and our economy is job based, how are people to make a living and how is economy supposed to function? Is this a solution?
I don’t know. What I have seen is interesting and something along these lines may become necessary. It is obvious to me although not to too many others that modern capitalism is in crisis and perhaps even close to collapse or, more likely, reconceptualization. (Did I just invent a word??) Again, it is obvious to me that free market fundamentalism is based on flawed and nonsensical assumptions. So, reality is busily destroying the modern assumptions of globalization and international elites, and currently there is nothing to replace the current set of beliefs.
Where we discuss what should and should not be done in regard to national borders and taxes.
Apple, the company, exists and does not exist. It exists very firmly in reality if you wish to buy its products or contract for services. It has no legal geographical existence for tax purposes, that is, it cannot be taxed because it has no locality at which it can be taxed.
Apple in this way is almost identical to the character in Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Hotblack Desiato, a rock singer, who is “dead for tax reasons.” Corporate amorality has reproduced Douglas Addams humor.
It’s fascinating. Modern tax avoidance methods allow multi-nationals to suck up subsidies and the countless benefits of organized societies from education to roads without so much as paying a dime in support. If you were at a safe distance in a society where the tax burden hadn’t been shifted to middle class incomes, it would probably be funny. You’d think, “What kind of silly people would allow that nonsense?” But we are the people whose elected representatives allow and facilitate this kind of “globalism.”
This is truly wretched business ethics. There is an implied social contract under which we cooperate for the common good and Apple chooses to abuse all of us by evading its responsibility.
I never get to be consultant or even work very much in the field. And this is because I write these kinds of posts. What is wanted is a general denunciation of workers stealing from their employers or a long winded diatribe aimed a worker sloth. Writing that gets you jobs. Writing that international business acts in many ways as parasitical pirates makes businessmen uneasy about their own morality and beliefs and if there is anything they loath it is doubts about there own worthiness. In their own eyes, they are doing “God’s work” much like the Wehrmacht.
But tax avoidance is a legitimate subject for business ethics and many, many companies are evading their most basic responsibilities.
Years of Irish wheeler-dealing directed towards attracting business from multinational corporations has produced an at least morally bankrupt near zero rate of corporate tax. While on the books Ireland has two rates for corporation tax – 12.5% for trading income and 25% for investment income, special deals negotiated by the government with the bigger fish in the Irish pond has resulted in companies like Apple paying no more than 0.005% on declared wealth generated in Ireland. In the last few days the European commission has called last orders on this shady dealing and has called in almost €13 billion in unpaid taxes from Apple.
Ireland – of all European member states – could do with this money. In over a decade of failed state “leprechaun” economics Ireland has found itself in a deep dark hole. Social welfare and spending cuts have ensured that more Irish people emigrate or die as a direct result of these decisions. Lower levels of real employment, zero hour contracts, a housing crisis, and levels of homelessness as high as the years of the Great Famine have brought Ireland to its knees, and yet the suits in government are “outraged” that Europe would dare to help them with their money problems. What they have done instead is take the side of the corporate giant and keep up the policy of screwing Irish people.
The international tax system is only as strong as its weakest link. This is the clear message that the European Commission sent on Tuesday when it announced that Apple will have to repay as much as €13bn ($14.5bn) in back taxes due to illegal Irish tax breaks it has received.
Tax justice advocates across the globe lauded the decision as a big step toward tax fairness. Unfortunately, an immediate critical response from US lawmakers, coupled with a slick and disingenuous public relations play from Apple CEO Tim Cook, suggests that American taxpayers will probably continue to pay the price for Apple’s tax dodging for some time to come. This is a shame, because the commission’s goal of ending tax haven abuse is one in which the United States should, and ultimately must, be a full participant.
The facts of the Apple case are straightforward: with the blessing of the Irish government, Apple created a byzantine network of subsidiaries to shelter its profits in an entity that was a tax resident of no country. As a result, billions of dollars of Apple’s income have flowed almost tax free through Ireland’s tax system. The European Commission estimates that in 2014, one of Apple’s Irish affiliates paid a tax rate of just 0.005% on its Irish profits.
Was this week a turning point? It has certainly been expensive for the biggest stock-market listed company on the planet.
Of course, Apple can afford that €13bn (£11bn) tax bill that may be heading for the chief financial officer’s in-tray. And who knows whether it will actually have to pay up.
Perhaps the planned appeal will be successful. But it certainly feels like a very important moment in the battle to get multinational businesses to pay what many governments – as well as ordinary people – think would be their fair share of tax.
It is true that this episode has not brought unity among the governments concerned. The United States in particular is livid about the way the European Commission has gone about trying to get Apple to cough up.
But despite the spat, there’s still a degree of underlying common purpose. It is driven in part by a recognition that voters, many of them at least, detest what they see as the devious behaviour of many multinationals and some wealthy individuals.
Ireland (the government plus the private sector) has by far the largest net international debt of all EU countries (measured as a % of GDP). To an extent this is caused because the Irish state was pressured, by its EU friends, to borrow money from other countries to bail out (the creditors of) Irish banks. The large and fast deterioration of the Irish position in 2014 and 2015 might be caused because large international companies finance their Irish headquarters with inter company international debt. But whatever the cause – it is ridiculous that a country like Greece, which is in a much better state when it comes to its net international investment position, is pressured (among others: by Ireland!) to cut pensions, sell government assets and raise taxes – while the Irish government even refuses to collect taxes due.
There is a genuine disgust and cynicism about the government and how it functions here in the United States. I share that disgust and like so many find many other institutions in this society lacking.
However, we can vote. It is a slender reed but it may yet prove to be important enough to inaugurate some kind of meaningful change in a system rigged against us.
If you can vote in a primary, please vote. But above all vote in the November election. “They” are always saying that this is the most important election in your lifetime. But this time, it looks like that is the call. We have a history making election that could change all of our lives in so many different ways.
I know that there are those who want to blow up this system. And to you, I say, I understand. I get the pain of feeling that the government has forgotten you, sold your jobs and your future. But there is still time, there is still hope, there are still possibilities.
Vote one more time. This is great nation that has forgotten that all must share in economic benefits not just the wealthy and the well-connected. But that can be just temporary forgetting. The path is still here. The course is still to be found. We can get back on track and have a government that serves the interest of us all.
I ask you to give it another chance and participate in this election.
One of my friends, (from Ireland and Scotland) has written something about voting a power that I like and value. Maybe you’ll like it too.
Voting? What was that? What sort of silly loon would waste their time casting a vote? Those that did, marked their paper and chucked it down the pan – for all the good it would do in making things any different for them. In our 300 years of London rule the ballots of Scotland had as much use in Westminster politics as toilet paper. Voting on polling day was the ruin of a decent walk. Change only came about when we re-opened our own parliament up in Edinburgh, and then the transformation began. It turns out, after all, that we are genetically programmed to make political decisions and think political thoughts. Somewhere it was written:
Today I appoint you over nations and over kingdoms, to pluck up and to pull down, to destroy and to overthrow, to build and to plant.
These were always highfalutin words, best kept I thought for school assemblies, until it dawned on me that they were speaking about us. We’ve only been kept in chains by our own consent; be that as working people under management and ownership or a nation under the heel of an empire. It was we ourselves who put up the red stones on John Finnie Street, and it was our own people who broke the backs of nations to prosper imperialists, and just as surely as we did all that we can rip it all back down and build it again to the prosperity of ourselves. It is us who have been appointed over our nation, to pluck up and pull down a kingdom, to overthrow it and utterly destroy it, and plant and build up a nation for ourselves.
He does have the eloquence, doesn’t he? I’ve told him some day I’ll have to come hear him preach. (That’s the American way of talking – preaching, etc.) I think they minister in Ireland.
But he has the same message as me. This is a good time to participate and make your vote felt.
Power in the state is justified only by the state’s ability to protect the people over which it asserts that power. British rule over the whole of the United Kingdom has been self-serving to the point of criminal inequality. Its power is no longer justified.
If you want power over me then you had better be ready to prove to me that you deserve that power. The sole justification of the state’s power over the lives of people is its ability to provide for the freedom, security, and the welfare of those people. Britain is currently ranked as the twenty-third wealthiest nation in the world, and yet, staggeringly, it is the six most unequal in the developed world in terms of income. After four decades of unchecked Thatcherite neoliberalism, with money being sucked up to the top of the economy, no less than twenty percent of the population are trapped below the poverty line. Income inequality in Britain is greater today than it was when Charles Dicken wrote Hard Times.
I believe that income inequality here in the United States as well as in Great Britain and Ireland have a moral component. There is something unseeemly in the economic benefits of a society flowing to a handful of its members while much of the population loses ground and becomes more insecure.
If you watch the actors in 1960’s television programs like Gunsmoke, you’ll often seen the stuntmen playing small parts as members of crowds, parties, jurors, etc. In the episodes where there were no stunts to be performed it was customary to make sure they still had some income. And it wasn’t just in Hollywood that this kind of kindness was practiced, there was an expectation that there would be human decency in all walks of life.
But somehow, somewhere, the accountants took over and the world of business began to focus not on human beings, making a product, or even some modicum of service to the nation, but on pure profit. And that profit is realized more and more by turning away from investment and from making products to stock manipulation chiefly by stock buy backs – companies buying their own stock instead of looking toward the future or anywhere else.
Human decency, compassion, and kindness are outmoded models of conduct in the modern business world. In fact, they are often considered gateway “drugs” to the theft of monies from the shareholders. Pensions, disaster relief, scholarships, etc; are all stealing from the worthy investor and giving to the undeserving fellow citizens like our children.
Morality and citizenship are key factors in the success of modern civilizations. What can become of us in a land where greed is the only rationale for every action? We’ll get what’s happening now, a loss of faith in our basic institutions, the perception that every politician, every pundit, every newspaper, every television station are bought and paid for, and that playing by the rules is a game for suckers.
We are seeing the breakdown of this society and quite possibly the end of our civilization.
Already we stand on the precipice of a post-nation state future. Globalisation of private corporate interests has successfully unshackled the international market from the controls of individual governments and so has positioned the legal entity of the Corporation above the law. In the twenty-first century the transnational corporation has become a law unto itself, governed only by the imperative to increase the value of its shares for its wealthy private stakeholders. So successful has been this corporatist revolution against the bourgeois state that is has now arrogated to itself the right to sue the state when the actions of the latter undermine the corporation’s interests – a move which has cemented the subjugation of democracy to the whims of global corporations.
Above we have used the word Revolution, because a revolution is precisely what we have witnessed. It is no longer in the realms of conspiracy theory that the Corporation has become the new order of the world, but conspiracy fact. Years of secretive negotiations, across the developed world, between corporately sponsored governments and the corporations themselves have borne fruit in the creation of globalised treaties granting effective domination of the world’s economy to unelected and legally unaccountable super-boards-of-management. Now these new Lords of the Philistines play the tune to which elected governments must dance, regardless of the thoughts and better interests of the people who have elected them. Democracy has lost its teeth.
We the people, the newly dehorned electorate workers of the world, must think carefully about this new direction of global social evolution. Until recently we have each been, within the social contract, an asset of the state in which we have had a meaningful vote. Today the very governments we elect have become the clients of a new superstructure of suzerains over which no one has control save for the profit principal. Our multinational corporate overlords, with an overwhelming share of the world’s wealth, can now buy and sell the resources and assets of any nation – and this includes us for we too are state assets.
One does not need a crystal ball to see that this trajectory is leading to somewhere very dark. Whether it is the economy, the environment, or human rights, individual states and international bodies of states the likes of the United Nations have been rendered powerless in a post-nation state reality. Of course there is the chance that we are worrying over nothing. Corporations may discover that what’s best for people and the environment is best for business, but we have seen precious little evidence of this in the past. Our most likely path into the future is one of a dystopian hell where human and workers’ rights exist only on the statute books of pacified nations, and where the wonders of nature are broken down in ledger books to crude cash value.
I met Jason Michael McCann online. He teaches in Ireland. He is a philosopher. Here he is commenting on my blog post – “No More X-Rated Searches!!@!” (He has a wonderful blog, homophilosophicus, and if you don’t read it you are missing out on the works of a learned and thoughtful man.)
As Christians also, Dear James, we have a moral obligation to preserve the dignity of others. Without doubt there is the question of a trade-off between the perceived need for security and human dignity. My fear is that this too may be related to the circle; a refusal on the part of security keepers to acknowledge respect to the human person may fuel the need for security.
He is absolutely right. There is a Christian duty here. We have a duty to God and man to act with respect and kindness to blameless others. We are failing in this.
These searches are indicative of a wider malaise in our society. Our willingness to accept any means to thwart a possible terrorist attack is turning us into shadows of human beings. We are so frightened we are unable to say stop without being attacked for “strengthening” the terrorists.
These searches are wrong.
These searches are an example of this nation losing its way.
We are better than this.
Tell me, if there is a terrorist attack at a grade school, are we going to pat down every six year old, run them through a magnetic resonance machine? What about at a federal building, the Statehouse, the Governor’s Mansion, County Courthouses? Are we going to get “felt” up everywhere we go? every bank? every factory? Where does the fear end? ever?
Should we start building bunkers in our backyards, stocking up a years supply of canned goods?
Is that where I live? Is that the moral fiber of my fellow citizens? To be led around by the nose like cattle because we’re afraid?
Are we like the cowardly lion, possessed of a half trillion dollar defense, but never feeling safe?