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Friday, 31 May 2013

Style over Substance

It seems to me that the current attack on the excesses of capitalism is quite 'pick and mix' - a symptom of unclear thinking and thoughtless (perhaps considered) hypocrisy. Over here we are told by our monopoly purveyor of news that the Murdoch Press is a bad thing because it threatens to become…a monopoly.

Margaret Hodge fulminates and barnstorms in her role as chairwoman of the Public Accounts Committee against such companies as Amazon and Google who legally avoid tax. Presumably if they didn’t seek legal loopholes to avoid paying tax I would pay more for my Amazon books…hmm. Difficult choice. Besides it’s a bit rich coming from Margaret whose family firm Stemcor also ‘legally’ avoids paying tax in much the same manner. The great majority, denied these opportunities, are encouraged to fulminate against carefully selected scapegoats, presumably to ease the pain and distract us from other areas of the establishment where tax avoidance is common.

Early tax avoidance ‘hate figures’ proved easy enough targets. You could castigate Top Shop and shop somewhere else. Similarly with Starbucks. Plenty of coffee shops. News Corporation proved harder. Its fight to the death with the BBC reminding me of Godzilla Vs King Kong, and the banana skin of an inaccurate report of a murdered girl’s hacked phone.

News Corporation is down but not out. There may be a rematch. But what about Apple? 

Remember the outpouring of adulation and grief when its founder, Steve Jobs, died? Even now Apple is seen as the epitome of cool, its products and outlets temples for the ‘must have or I’ll die’ brigade. It is perhaps why there has been no widespread vilification of Apple as there has been against the Murdoch press. It’s cool to own an iPad, less so to read the News of the World.

But Apple and News Corp share the same shadow. 

An email from the late Steve Jobs to James Murdoch of News Corporation illustrates this:
“Throw in with Apple and see if we can all make a go of this to create a real mainstream e-books market at $12.99 and $14.99.” 
This email is being used by the U.S Justice Department as evidence that Apple was ‘ringmaster’ in a price fixing conspiracy for e-books. Their intent was to force Amazon to raise its e-book price from its standard $9.99 to the higher one favoured by Apple and publishing giants like News Corporation owned Harper Collins. Two days after that email Harper Collins signed an agreement with Apple to force all e-book sellers to adopt to the new pricing model. 

Random House held out so Apple played rough using its power over apps to coerce it.

In July 2010, Steve Jobs told Random House it would suffer a loss of support from Apple if it continued to hold out and threatened to block an e-book application by Random House from appearing in Apple’s App Store
Random House eventually succumbed  and in 2011 ‘Eddy Cue, the Apple executive in charge of its e-books deals, sent an e-mail to Mr. Jobs attributing the publisher’s capitulation, in part, to “the fact that I prevented an app from Random House from going live in the app store.”

Amazon was next, with talks of withholding books from the retailer until they accepted the higher prices. In short Apple were seeking ‘Agency pricing’ allowing a small monopoly of publishers to dictate price instead of the retailer. 

Capitalism is greedy. It's the nature of the beast - just don’t pick and choose - or worse - allow others to pick and choose for you. There are no saints – except perhaps Bill and Melinda Gates - and even they have their critics.


Maria Zannini said...

Pot + kettle = black

It's the same the world over.

Mike Keyton said...

Texan terseness
A laconic haiku

Misha Gerrick said...

So true. People jump to criticize things that are easy to criticize, but not when it's inconvenient.

Thinking like that is pretty much the reason why I don't follow news any more. Just makes me angry.

Mike Keyton said...

I know what you mean, Misha. Unfortunately for my physical and mental health, I'm a news junkie : )

Anonymous said...

In recent Congressional hearings, Apple was chided for not being willing to pay more in taxes than is already the case. It's amazing to me that the crowd who view government as a panacea will vilify capitalists/capitalism and the profit motive that provide them with quality products which enhance their lives, but ignore facts such as Medicare rejecting 40% more claims than any private insurance provider.

Mike Keyton said...

That last fact confused, me Crash. But yes, I'm reluctant to throw money into a bottomless and unacountable hole.

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