The terminology gives the clue to the nature of these activities: multi-national, global capitalism.
Why would anyone expect these companies to pay their taxes in one country when it is not necessary in another? Why are the press and the various governments so surprised?
I’m not. The likes of Google and Apple, Starbuck’s and Amazon, are, after all, doing what they do. They are in business and by definition must be business-like if they are to continue their success. Paying out millions unnecessarily is not good business. Even I understand that.
But Cameron – educated at Eton, Oxford and Conservative Central Office – doesn’t get it. Nor does Hollande – educated at a private Catholic school, HEC Paris, the Paris Institute of Political Studies, the École National d’Administration and finally by Mitterand himself.
And yet, when Hollande alienated a few of his millionaire countrymen with his taxation proposals, it was Cameron who quickly proclaimed that Britain would roll out the red carpet for any who chose to re-locate across the channel. Now he is struggling to find a way between condemnation of “aggressive tax avoidance” and his natural Conservative instincts, which is to defend whatever is the current reinvention of capitalism.
But something is happening here, and you don’t know what it is, do you, Mister Jones?
You should, however. It is nearly 50 years since I first read Monopoly Capital by Sweezy and Baran, and I have been reading extensions of their theory – the internationalization of monopoly capital, the globalization of labour and the monopolization of communications – ever since. Some of it in The Economist for Christ’s sake. It is more than 30 years since Maurice Saatchi and ‘The World’s Favourite Airline’ discovered the opportunity and potential of globalization in an article in the Harvard Business Review. The analysis was there. The warnings were there.
Did Mister Jones – and it’s a collective Mister Jones: Cameron, Holland, Blair et al – not read these? Maybe not.
The problem is, Mister Jones, “You’ve been with the professors/ and they all liked your looks./With great lawyers/you discussed lepers and crooks./You’ve been through all of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s books;/you’re very well-read it’s well-known.”
But not well enough. Because the way you are stumbling through the current crisis demonstrates no understanding of its global nature.
“And you say, Oh my God, am I here all alone?”
No. But you’re trying to deal with it as if you were. It’s an international problem and it requires international solutions. Little Englander attitudes are only there to be exploited. As are petit Français.
As Eric Schmidt, the boss of Google advised us all,"I don't think companies should decide what tax policies should be. I think governments should.
"All of us are operating in a very, very longstanding tax regime which was set up for various reasons that don't necessarily make sense to me or anyone else.
But they are the way the global tax regime works."
Go on. Google it. It makes sense to me.
I doubt whether there is anyone reading this blog who has not recognised the song from which I have quoted so liberally. It is Dylan’s birthday today, and Jill and I have booked a table in a half-way decent restaurant where we can raise a glass to Bob as he embarks on his 73rd year. May you climb on every rung. P.S. Today’s listening will consist of … Dylan, but to start, the duet of Dark Eyes with Patti Smith from the Paradise Lost tour.