The world's leading technology firms are becoming increasingly unhappy at the backlash over their tax arrangements and efforts to regulate their activities. Apple chief Tim Cook flew to Brussels to lobby against a tax probe and Google and Facebook have also faced tax protests. Mr Mark Zuckerberg put much of his wealth in an investment trust for good causes in a tax-efficient way. In the face of public anger, this column has got hold of a fictitious joint letter from tech leaders to an ungrateful public.
As technology titans and world-changing entrepreneurs, we have resisted explaining ourselves to lesser mortals. It is now clear, however, that some people, especially in the undeveloped world of Europe, have begun to question our motives, our integrity and even our right to skirt round the normal rules that society has rightly put in place to govern the behaviour of those lacking in our higher intuition.
Recently, some of the most life-enhancing businesses in the history of humanity have found themselves assailed like lions pestered by mosquitoes. We have faced impertinent questions over our tax plans, attempts to regulate our work and even the structures of our companies. As Darwin said, compete offshore or die.
Most hurtfully, some have even accused us of being no better than any other company. They refuse to accept our loftier values and desire to reorder this shoddy world. We find ourselves under fire for seeking to minimise our tax exposure in various countries.
What you do not seem to grasp is that we are not seeking to pay less tax in the United States or the United Kingdom, we are merely showing our commitment to the forward-thinking Bermuda and the Cayman Islands. As some of us have shown with our extraordinary acts of philanthropy, we are not motivated by personal greed.
By minimising our taxes, we have more money to give away. Yes, that does mean the tax pot shrinks a bit so services are squeezed and the burden of funding public services falls on ordinary workers. But that is only fair as they don't have any better ideas on how to spend the money. We do.
We are better placed to decide how our money should be spent than governments, which take billions from the taxpayer and waste them on programmes like Medicare which lavish funds on unproductive older units. Governments don't always direct our resources at the biggest problems. Left alone, we can channel our wealth into diseases that interest us. Today, we spend about 50 times more as a society treating people who are sick than we invest in research so you won't get sick in the first place. Wouldn't it be simpler just to stop wasting that money on the sick and work to prevent diseases that we have not yet caught ourselves?
As some of us have shown with our extraordinary acts of philanthropy, we are not motivated by personal greed. By minimising our taxes, we have more money to give away. Yes, that does mean the tax pot shrinks a bit so services are squeezed and the burden of funding public services falls on ordinary workers. But that is only fair as they don't have any better ideas on how to spend the money. We do.
We are the visionaries, committed to building a better future, colonising Mars, beating disease, connecting the world, eradicating taxi drivers, optimising your browsing experience, upgrading your iPhone and creating the most perfectly rounded bevel.
The European Commission is trying to tie us down with red tape, regulate the data we pass to the National Security Agency, and is claiming up to US$8 billion (S$11.2 billion) from Apple in unpaid taxes. And what would they do if they got the money? Waste it on Greek bailouts or Syrian refugees.
Our tax dollars are used only to build bureaucracy and regulation, which frustrates the advancement of humanity. We need to get these elected governments off our backs so that we can change the world. You only need to look at Congress to see the limitations of democracy.
Yes, some of our new businesses will cost jobs. No one likes people being unemployed but we are the good guys here: our unemployment is better than other forms because the job losses we create are in the higher cause of the advancement of society. You should bear in mind that we will not leave the jobless to fester. We have created immersive online experiences to occupy the otherwise- pointless hours of inactivity.
We don't expect you to understand. Just enjoy our products and show some damn gratitude.
Live long and prosper. Well, live long anyway.
Mark Zuckerberg, Tim Cook, Sergey Brin, John Galt, Jeff Bezos, Taggart, Travis Kalanick, and others
THE FINANCIAL TIMES
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 16, 2016, with the headline 'A letter to an ungrateful world from Google, Apple, Facebook et al'. Print Edition | Subscribe
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