tech and justice essay quotes
[...] Until now, of course, longer-term growth rates have been falling together with peak tax rates, and so has the average tax take of rich democracies. Worse still, in parallel with the declining taxability of firms, their claims for national and regional infrastructure have become more demanding; firms ask for tax reductions and tax concessions, but also and at the same time for better roads, airports, schools, universities, research funding, etc. The result is a tendency for taxation of small and medium incomes to rise, for example by way of higher consumption taxes and social security contributions, resulting in an ever more regressive tax system.
the inherent instability of basing tax policy on the Laffer curve (states lower tax rates to attract large corporations)
feels like a fairly simplistic analysis tbh but maybe worth making note of as a larger general trend in light of all the tax avoidance going on?
[...] capitalism has turned to data as one way to maintain economic growth and vitality in the face of a sluggish production sector. [...]
think about this in the context of Immanuel Wallerstein's World-Systems theory & running out of markets to expand to
but this is just an easy temporary fix, akin to deleting a few stale keys in redis when you run out of memory (or actually that's not a good analogy--think of a better one)
[...] At one end, tax evasion and cash hoarding have left US companies--particularly tech companies--with a vast amount of money to invest. This glut of corporate savings has--both directly and indirectly--combined with a loose monetary policy to strengthen the pursuit of riskier investments for the sake of a decent return. And at the other end, tax evasion is, by definition, a drain on government revenues and therefore has exacerbated austerity. The vast amount of tax money that goes missing in tax havens must be made up elsewhere. The result in further limitations on fiscal stimulus and a greater need for unorthodox monetary policies. Tax evasion, austerity, and extraordinary monetary policies are all mutually reinforcing.
one could argue that this tax evasion/avoidance isn't really that serious since the amount of tax to be paid is arbitrary anyway, and if it's all legal, then why does it matter? the response to that is less moral (for which the answer is obvious: corporations benefit from government infrastructure and thus should attempt to pay the set tax rate in good faith) and more about long-term efficiency ... a corporation operating in a state that has lower tax revenues will 1) have shittier infrastructure and 2) put the average person through more hardship, meaning that not only are they less likely to be able to afford to buy products, they are (hopefully) more likely to rise up and demand change, potentially at a disastrous cost for the corporation
[...] 'once we understand this [tendency], it becomes clear that demanding privacy from surveillance capitalists or lobbying for an end to commercial surveillance on the Internet is like asking Henry Ford to make each Model T by hand'. Calls for privacy miss how the suppression of privacy is at the heart of this business model. [...]
on companies like Google collecting all sorts of privacy-infringing data on users
[...] Google and Facebook are based on what seem to be natural monopolies. Feeble calls in Europe to weaken or break them up lack any alternative vision, economically, politically, or ecologically.
The continual demand by local politicians to launch a European Google, and most of the other proposals coming out of Brussels or Berlin, are either misguided or half-baked. [...] Google will remain dominant as long as its challengers do not have the same underlying user data it controls. Better algorithms won’t suffice.
For Europe to remain relevant, it would have to confront the fact that data, and the infrastructure (sensors, mobile phones, and so on) which produce them, are going to be the key to most domains of economic activity. It’s a shame that Google has been allowed to move in and grab all this in exchange for some free services. If Europe were really serious, it would need to establish a different legal regime around data, perhaps ensuring that they cannot be sold at all, and then get smaller enterprises to develop solutions (from search to email) on top of data so protected.
At a national level, we need governments that do not deliver the neoliberal gospel. At this point, it would take a very brave one to say, we just don’t think private companies should run these things. We also need governments that would take a bet and say: we believe in the privacy of individuals, so we are not going to subject everything they do to monitoring, and we’ll have a strong legal system to back up all requests for data. But this is where it gets tricky, because you could end up with so much legalism corroding the infrastructure that it becomes counterproductive. The question is how can we build a system that will actually favour citizens, and perhaps even favour some kind of competition in its search engines. It’s primarily from data and not their algorithms that powerful companies currently derive their advantages, and the only way to curb that power is to take the data completely out of the market realm, so that no company can own them. Data would accrue to citizens, and could be shared at various social levels. Companies wanting to use them would have to pay some kind of licensing fee, and only be able to access attributes of the information, not the entirety of it.
Unless we figure out a legal-social regime that will allow this stock of data to grow without it ending up in the corporate silos of Google or Facebook, we won’t get very far. But once we have it, there could be all sorts of social experimentation. With enough data you could start planning beyond the horizon of the individual consumer—at the level of communities, neighbourhoods, cities. That’s the only way to prevent centralization. Unless we change the legal status of data, we’re not going to get very far.
The People’s Platform looks at the implications of the digital age for cultural democracy in various sectors—music, film, news, advertising—and how battles over copyright, piracy and privacy laws have evolved. Taylor rightly situates the tech euphoria of the late 90s in the context of Greenspan’s asset-price bubble, pointing out that deregulated venture-capital funds swelled from $12bn in 1996 to $106bn in 2000. Where tech-utopians hailed the political economy of the internet as ‘a better form of socialism’ (Wired’s Kevin Kelly) or ‘a vast experiment in anarchy’ (Google’s Eric Schmidt and the State Department’s Jared Cohen), she shows how corporations dominate the new landscape [...]
[...] the main source of Facebook’s and Google’s profits is other firms’ advertising expenditure, an annual $700bn in the US; but this in turn depends on the surplus extracted from workers who produce ‘actual things’. The logic of advertising drives the tech giants’ voracious appetite for our data. [...]
[...] consumption in mature capitalist societies has long become dissociated from material need. The lion’s share of consumption expenditure today – and a rapidly growing one – is spent not on the use value of goods, but on their symbolic value, their aura or halo. This is why industry practitioners find themselves paying more than ever for marketing, including not just advertising but also product design and innovation. Nevertheless, in spite of the growing sophistication of sales promotion, the intangibles of culture make commercial success difficult to predict – certainly more so than in an era when growth could be achieved by gradually supplying all households in a country with a washing machine.
[...] dreams, promises and imagined satisfaction are not at all marginal but, on the contrary, central. While standard economics and, in its trail, standard political economy, recognize the importance of confidence and consumer spending for economic growth, they do not do justice to the dynamically evolving nature of the desires that make consumers consume. A permanent underlying concern in advanced capitalist societies is that markets may at some point become saturated, resulting in stagnant or declining spending and, worse still, in diminished effectiveness of monetized work incentives. It is only if consumers, almost all of whom live far above the level of material subsistence, can be convinced to discover new needs, and thereby render themselves ‘psychologically’ poor, that the economy of rich capitalist societies can continue to grow. [...]
willing slaves of capital &c
[...] More money than ever is today being spent by firms on advertisement and on building and sustaining the popular images and auras on which the success of a product seems to depend in saturated markets. In particular, the new channels of communication made available by the interactive internet seem to be absorbing a growing share of what firms spend on the socialization and cultivation of their customers. A rising share of the goods that make today’s capitalist economies grow would not sell if people dreamed other dreams than they do – which makes understanding, developing and controlling their dreams a fundamental concern of political economy in advanced-capitalist society
the hellscape that is the marketing industry is nothing more than the psychological arm of capitalism in its attempt to create more willing slaves