Rotten to the core

So, Apple was in a joint enterprise with the corrupt politicians and tax authorities of the Republic of Ireland, to ensure that it had an advantage over its competitors – and coincidentally all other honest businesses in the EU, competitor or not – that allowed it to avoid paying practically all of the already very low corporate tax – 12.5% – that country uses to attract so-called “inward investment”. In one recent year the largest corporation on earth managed to pay only £50 on every £1,000,000 of sales on three continents. Now it, and its corrupt partners, have been rumbled.

The European competition commissioner, Margrethe Vestager, has been investigating Apple’s complex tax dealings for the last three years. Yesterday she blew the whistle on this tax scam. She told Apple and Ireland that what they were doing was illegal under EU law, a law Ireland willingly signed up to and which is binding on all EU states. “Member states cannot give tax benefits to selected companies – this is illegal under EU state aid rules.” she said, adding “The commission’s investigation concluded that Ireland granted illegal tax benefits to Apple, which enabled it to pay substantially less tax than other businesses over many years.”

I suppose that after the ‘Panama Papers’ revelations, we should not be surprised that Apple is up to no good. I have always taken it as read that Apple is a company very much on the dark side. How could a company founded by, and modelled on, a sociopathic narcissistic bully, be otherwise? So it probably isn’t shocking for some people that Apple is little better than your neighbourhood money launderer, banana republic dictator, mafia don or Vladimir Putin. But it is, to me anyway, profoundly disturbing.

For here we have one of the leading technology companies in the world – makers of some of the most desired products on earth, whose profit margins are the envy of the business world, and whose skill at consumer packaging is unrivalled – being so greedy for profit that it is prepared to act like a common criminal. This is a company which, because of its exalted position and the love and loyalty it attracts from so many (misguided?) people worldwide, should be setting an example by paying its fair share of taxes. Instead, it funnels vast amount of its very real sales into an almost imaginary company that exists only on paper: it has no staff, no offices, is based nowhere, and is in no tax jurisdiction. It pays no tax what so ever. By comparison, Amazon and Starbucks and Google come up smelling of roses.

Meanwhile, in Ireland the country in which Apple really exists, in which those sales should be booked, and in which it should pay tax, its partners in illegality – some would say crime – make up the loss by passing Apple’s share to ordinary people and honest businesses to pay; or reduces their benefits; and, in the case of public servants, cuts their pay and pensions, because the tax take is not enough. You wonder, should Apple pay its fair share of tax, how many schools could be built, sick people treated, homeless housed in that Emerald Isle?

Is Apple abashed? Hell no. Apple’s CEO Tim Cook, almost in the persona of his dead master, is crying foul, supported by a phalanx of neo-cons and Ayn Rand groupies. Even the American government is threatening to rain down fire and brimstone on the EU for its impertinence in challenging the God given and manifest destiny of any American corporation to cheat the rest of the world.

Is the Irish government jumping with joy at the prospect of a massive windfall? Apparently not. It too is crying foul. The Irish finance minister said yesterday that he would appeal. “The decision leaves me with no choice but to seek cabinet approval to appeal. This is necessary to defend the integrity of our tax system, to provide tax certainty to business and to challenge the encroachment of EU state aid rules into the sovereign member state competence of taxation.” Or in other words, to defend his state’s right to break the law when it sees fit.

Now, there is a phrase in the ministers statement that keeps cropping up and which brings me out in hives: it’s “…provide […] certainty to business.” It crops up in the Brexit debacle as well. Now, only a fool would look for certainty in anything in this universe, for it is a universe built of uncertainty. Like all human affairs, business is based on uncertainty. Businessmen are supposed to take risks to gain profit, and risk is just a measure of uncertainty. Business without risk is not enterprise, it is rent collection. So when a business expects a government to give it certainty, and a government attempts to do so, batten down the hatches and lock your daughters, for evil is abroad. And funnily enough, evil is often Apple shaped.

A Declaration of Interest

I have long held that, whenever the subject of the Apple Corporation and its products are discussed on radio and TV, or written about in the press, the commentators and journalists should be forced to declare an interest if they own or use Apple products. For Apple products have a weird capacity to turn sane men and women into drooling idiots; to reduce them to an infantile state; or to persuade them that a perfectly serviceable machine is now obsolete because the great Apple has released a minor revision. Just think that tedious fellow Stephen Fry. And I even know some techno-literate people who are not immune!

As you know, whenever I write of Apple, I usually add the tag #rottentothecore. That should tell you all. But because I believe in honest journalism, I must declare an interest: I have never owned an Apple product. Nor have I ever regularly used an Apple product, except for very brief periods of less than half a day, just long enough to decide that I can get an equivalent, usually better, product elsewhere, and usually cheaper. Furthermore the alternative product will probably not stop working the day after the minimum warranty expires and will probably be repairable if a fault develops.

But I will admit that I have once purchased an Apple product. Many years ago I gave my faithful life companion, Mrs Bradypus, an iPod Nano, thinking she would enjoy listening to her favourite ‘tunes’ (Vaughan Williams, Beethoven, Chopin, Schubert, etc.) as she wondered around doing whatever it is life companions do keeping sloths like me in good health and grooming. She was delighted. After some struggle she managed to persuade the thing to accept her ‘tunes’ collection from her (non-Apple) computer without Apple forcing her to buy them all over again from something called iTunes. She listened for an hour or so, and then put the Nano in a drawer, where it remains even now, hoping I guess to be liberated, probably by Stephen Fry.

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