Saturday, January 19, 2013

Saturday Afternoon Links

Assorted content for your weekend reading.

- Raz Godelnik challenges the all-too-conventional wisdom that corporations (and indeed individuals) should see tax avoidance and evasion as virtues:
One of the most common arguments is that the tax-avoidance techniques used by corporations like Starbucks or Google are legal and therefore they’re not to be blamed, but the tax systems that make them possible.

Apparently these techniques are indeed legal, but here are couple of other things that are legal, such as: cutting down trees in rainforests, sourcing blood minerals from Congo, working with suppliers in China that release hazardous materials into rivers or with factories in Bangladesh that put their employees in jeopardy, or not paying for externalities. Yet, we have expectations from companies that call themselves responsible to do more than just comply with the law in these cases – after all, it is widely assumed that CSR begins where the law ends. So why should tax payments be any different?

Bottom line: While tax systems should be revised, legality is no excuse for not doing the right thing, no matter if you’re talking about natural resources, working conditions or tax payments.
- Bill Tieleman discusses the impending corporate ad blitz against the B.C. NDP - with plenty of federal Lib links featuring prominently among a group dedicated to keeping a progressive party out of power at all costs.

- I'm not sure the minimal contribution of the private sector and the Saskatchewan Roughriders to the cost of a new stadium should come as much surprise. But Paul Dechene is duly outraged at the fact that the public is absorbing nearly the full risk and cost of the stadium - while even the remote possibility of a substantial deal for naming rights won't lead to any public benefit.

- Finally, Susan Delacourt observes that a governing party shouldn't gratuitously play politics at every single opportunity - a statement noteworthy mostly for the fact that the Harper Cons have raised the possibility of an opposing viewpoint being applied by our current government. And in a related vein, Aaron Wherry makes the case for independent thought from MPs:
We should, in the first place, probably assume that if an individual has been able to win election he or she possesses some basic reading skills and so there is little need for MPs to publicly prove their literacy by standing in the House to recite their party’s talking points. Indeed, there is little more depressing about our democracy than the rote recitation of sentences crafted by 20-something and 30-something party apparatchiks that many of the grown men and women we elect are asked to perform on a daily basis as seemingly the central purpose of their existence here. A certain uniformity and consistency of views is to be expected—it may even assist in the general coherence and understanding of what the parties stand for and represent—but the MP’s primary purpose should not be to spread the good word and attest to the gloriousness of their leader. They should not merely be party news releases made flesh and blood.

Mr. Rathgeber’s distinguishing characteristic is that he has a blog, on which he periodically expresses thoughts that do not seem to have been screened by his party leadership. This should not seem a revolutionary initiative.

Indeed, this should be our wish: more indications that our MPs exist as something other than tools of their parties. They needn’t start going rogue and spilling secrets and condemning their leaders. At least not right away. (And it is, it should be noted, possible to both stridently support the party line and act like a human being while doing so.) But a little less of the rote recitation and repetition and a little more of the using one’s own voice to articulate an opinion or thought would certainly go a long way toward making it a little bit easier to watch our politics get made this year.


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