Over the past couple of days, I’ve already posted twice on this subject. The multitude of tax-avoiding companies which currently populate the planet is becoming manifest even for people as trusting as my parents: a generation, that is, which took its lead and ways of thinking from traditionally unquestioning sources such as the BBC and our newspapers.
This tax avoidance, whilst legal, leads to situations:
- whereby wages of a minimum nature are paid to staff who then depend on state-funded working-tax credits to reach the end of the month, even as their employers contribute nothing to the state for the top-up payments in question;
- whereby transport infrastructures are used to move products from one end of the country to the other, even as the beneficiaries of such infrastructures manage to avoid any corporation tax which would otherwise help in their upkeep;
- whereby generations of young people are brought up through public education systems to provide a pool of ready-made consumers and employable workforces, even as those companies which take full advantage of such human resources to the benefit of their own shareholders refuse to add value or pay their fair whack to society;
The issue, however, is complex. Do we propose an all-out war on these often psychopathic organisations? Given that most people who work in these institutions are like you and me – they may even be you and me! – it’s surely hardly productive to paint everyone with the same damning brush. Do we engage with them then? Well. Engagement to date – through traditional representative democracy – hasn’t done much more than bring us to a dark place of economic and social dislocation on a massively global scale.
It’s my assertion, therefore, that we need to express our ways of thinking differently. It’s time to use technology to shift our democratic instincts in favour of a continuous participation into a completely different realm. Businesspeople have always argued that they need to be as lightly regulated as possible – mainly because they work under the rule of “voting” consumers every working day of their lives. To be honest, in an age of virtual monopolies, this is all rather disingenuous: the power of advertising and the control large companies share out between themselves mean that consumers rarely take too many decisions on the basis of anything that goes beyond mere product information.
How revolutionary would it be, then, if we could create a mobile-phone application which would allow consumers to take decisions based not only on what corporations sold – the traditional preserve of consumer magazines such as Which?, for example – but also on how they did what they did: their tax behaviours, working conditions, salary ratios, community engagement histories … that is to say, an ultimately unending series of criteria which each consumer, voter and citizen could choose to prioritise in any moment.
Yes. I’m suggesting quite the opposite to what many who marched today in London against Tory-inspired austerity would be looking for.
I’m suggesting we look way beyond the trench-warfare politics of this early 21st century.
I’m suggesting we choose to use technology to take not only the moral but also the political and socioeconomic high ground.
I’m suggesting we engage not from a position of weakness – perhaps in the belief that these corporations are so strong we have no real alternative to capitulating to their wishes – but, rather, from a position of strength: organised through a massively distributed and accurate communication device such as a mobile-phone app, we should believe that we have every right and chance to fight back constructively, productively and in as engaged – as well as engaging – manner as possible.
For it must be true that most people who work in corporations don’t like hurting others. Most people who work in corporations don’t look to destroy. Most people who work in corporations aim to pursue a better life for both their colleagues and customers.
It’s the system that doesn’t allow it.
It’s the fear that economies operate under which drives people to do things they would otherwise never contemplate. The fear of getting left behind. The fear that another company will be underhandedly competitive in some new and as yet uncontemplated way.
That is why this app I propose we create and develop would not only help ordinary people recover a sense of balance and integrity in their lives: it would help corporate managers, workforces and even executives refocus on what really needs to be done.
Create a sustainable planet for our offspring.