PARADISE IS MORE THAN A TAXATION
Last week I talked about tax havens, and how they spontaneously appear; in the same way that my dog spontaneously appears every time I sit down to eat. Come to think of it though, I wish there was a term for these places other than “tax haven” because they are so much more than tax. The Tax Justice Network calls them “secret jurisdictions,” which is fine, but it doesn’t go far enough either.
The most prosperous havens provide all the services the rich and powerful want, whether it is to protect them from scrutiny, to sell them works of art, to help them escape justice, etc. And in this context, I am mesmerized by a legal challenge brought by the Irish Council for Civil Liberties, which reveals a dark side of Ireland’s highly successful career as a safe haven for giant American companies in search of a comfortable base in the European Union. Dublin has already repelled attempts by the European Commission to force it to impose higher tax bills on Apple and other big tech companies, but it now appears to be using rather underhand techniques to keep them from having to obey the laws. EU rules.
The EU has sought to provide the world’s toughest regulations on tech companies, with its flagship General Data Protection Regulation designed to give individuals control over their own data. The bloc may not have created a lot of tech giants, but at least it could make sure consumers aren’t harmed by anyone else. Or at least that was the theory.
However, there is a flaw, namely that the application of the GDPR depends on regulators at national level. And that means its fate is in the hands of an Irish government that has built a model of multi-generational development by giving American companies and tech oligarchs exactly what they want, and resisting pressure from the strangers to give them back a dime.
- “There’s also this conflict of interest factor, that Ireland benefits a lot from having these tech companies there, and I think that puts them under unfair pressure to have to keep these things under pressure. “, Frances Haugen, who exposed Facebook’s practices to public scrutiny. earlier this year, members of the European Parliament said. “Because I’m sure Ireland cares about the safety of our children, Ireland cares that our democracies are threatened, but they are also under extreme pressure against them.”
Some of the practices used by tech giants in the European Union are troubling, including this analysis of Google by the Norwegian Consumer Council, which suggests it was cheating consumers by agreeing to be tracked. (Google said it updated its approach.) French regulators fined Google € 50 million, but Ireland has shown much less urgency.
And this is not the only example. Europeans began to notice that complaints against tech companies took much longer to investigate in Ireland than in other member states, and this is what the IPPR set out to investigate. What he found was concerning, not least because Ireland oversees compliance regulation by Google, Facebook, Apple and Microsoft, all of which have major offices in the country, and that’s pretty much everyone. who counts.
- “The Irish Data Protection Commission is the bottleneck of GDPR enforcement against big tech across the EU. Almost all (98%) major GDPR cases referred to Ireland remain unresolved, ”a group report concluded. “No other GDPR enforcement official in the EU can step in if the Irish DPC asserts its leadership role in cases against large technology companies headquartered in Ireland. As a result, the EU’s GDPR enforcement against Big Tech is crippled by Ireland’s inability to present draft rulings on cross-border cases. “
The group has written to the European Commission to complain about its inability to demand action from Irish regulators.
- “The fanfare surrounding GDPR was such that the EU’s global influence would weaken if allowed to fail. Consumers will also suffer, as innovative start-ups and venerable news publishers will not be able to compete due to Big Tech’s internal data being free internally. The worst cost will be that continued data misuse will tyrannize citizens and debase politics, ”the letter said.
It will be fascinating to see the result. Haugen is arguing for the EU to have a single central regulator, which she says would help prevent the kinds of problems she’s been exposing on Facebook (or whatever her name is these days).
- “I think there is a real, real need for there to be some kind of centralized authority in Europe,” she said. “While there are maybe only 200 or 300 people in the industry who have enough experience and knowledge of how these systems work and their consequences, if we expect to spread them across 27 branches, I think it’s going to be very ineffective. “
This of course presupposes that EU member states want their regulators to be efficient, or that they are willing to share their right to tax and regulate companies with their counterparts, even if they do. The EU also has its hands full of challenges to other aspects of its supposedly shared values, notably of Poland and Hungary. However, it is difficult to see how the EU can continue to present itself as an example of technological regulation if it allows a member state to voluntarily refuse to apply the regulations that the Union as a whole has agreed.
In the meantime, however, it’s euros-in for tech companies.
SUMMIT FOR DEMOCRACY? SHMUMMIT FOR SHMEMOCRACY!
So Russia and China are very much in agreement that they were not invited to Joe Biden’s (Zoomit?) Online Summit For Democracy next month, as they explained in a joint article this week. last, because nothing says ‘we don’t care’ better than a 1,000-word rant written in that sort of weird mangled English autocracies used before the world got Google Translate.
- “This trend contradicts the development of the modern world. It is impossible to prevent the formation of a polycentric global architecture, but it could strain the objective process, ”the ambassadors of the two countries told readers of The National Interest, a conservative magazine published by a think tank. founded by the famous supporter of due process, President Richard Nixon.
Both countries vigorously defend their democracy, although I personally would have found China’s insistence that its “eight non-Communist parties” proved the plurality of its configuration more convincing had it simply stated that it had. nine political parties. Likewise, Russia’s claim that a referendum last year strengthened its “democratic institutions” only makes sense if you didn’t know that it endorsed Vladimir Putin’s desire to be president until. ‘in 2036.
- “There is no need to worry about democracy in Russia and China. Some foreign governments had better think about themselves and what is going on at home. Is it freedom when various gatherings in their countries are dispersed with rubber bullets and tear gas? It doesn’t sound much like freedom.
I apologize for the extended quotes. I’m a connoisseur of this kind of nonsense, and this is a vintage example. The article ended with some highlights on how modern history shows that democracy cannot be exported militarily, which would have been more relevant if that was what the White House was doing, rather than to convene the leaders of several dozen friendly countries for a discussion. Some 109 countries are invited, plus the European Union, which likes to pose as a country at times like this, plus Taiwan.
- “Civil society groups have documented 15 consecutive years of global decline in democracy. This, of course, presents enormous challenges to global stability and prosperity that can only be solved collectively, with like-minded democracies coming together to reverse this decline, ”the US Under Secretary of State told Civil Security, Democracy and Human Rights, Uzra Zeya, the last month.
Inevitably, journalists began to try to analyze the invitation list, to determine the criteria by which countries had been considered democratic. It’s definitely a bit tough. Poland was invited, but not Hungary. Iraq was invited, but not Turkey. Angola was invited, but Mozambique not. Either way, the good folks at the Carnegie Institute tried to impose a certain logic on it, which concludes that Iraq was probably only invited to prevent Israel from being the only participant in the Middle East. ; while Pakistan’s participation is more about staying on the anti-China team than anything else. As for Angola, no one seems quite sure what is going on there.
- “Biden’s team intends the December summit to be just the first step in what administration officials are calling a“ year of action. ”The real defining moments will occur in the months to come. come and revolve around a simple question: Can the summit galvanize real commitments to reform and reverse fifteen years of democratic decline? ”asked the authors of the report.
Anders Aslund has written an analysis of the merits of previous attempts to do what the summit is supposed to do, and it’s not very encouraging.
FREE THEATER OF BELARUS
If you do not know the Belarusian Free Theater, you are in for a treat. They are heirs to the legacy of the kind of courageous, creative and innovative voices that opposed communism in Eastern Europe during the Cold War. Unfortunately, due to the difficulties of working in Belarus, their directors are based in London, but they have kept performances and rehearsals at home as much as possible.
If you’re in London on December 10, they’re on the panel discussing the documentary Alone, which will premiere in the UK at the Barbican. Go along.
WHAT I’M READING
I am fortunate to be from the Welsh town of Hay-on-Wye, which is home to the best book and idea festival in the world. We just had the winter weekend, which is like a smaller (and colder) version of the summer gathering, and it was great to be in a big tent with lots of people again. I really enjoyed seeing historian Dan Jones talking about his new book, which squeezed the entire millennium between the fall of Rome and the Reformation into one volume.
So, I’m reading this, and I still have a long way to go, but it’s been very enjoyable so far.