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Saturday, September 3, 2016

Apple Owes Back-Taxes in the E.U.: Blame Ireland or Apple?


The European Commission issued a formal decision on August 30, 2016 that the state of Ireland “recoup roughly €13 billion ($14.5 billion) of unpaid taxes accumulated over more than a decade by Apple, Inc.”[1] The decision “shows companies could be on the hook for past behavior and potentially be handed big bills for allegedly unpaid back taxes.”[2] E.U. law “forbid companies from gaining advantages over competitors because of government help.”[3] This applies both the federal government and the state governments, so the law could be better stated as, “No state government shall help companies gain advantages over their competitors.” Presumably Ireland’s government made the offer of help, rather than Apple getting that government to comply with the company’s wishes. If so, the state government rather than the company should be held responsible. Put another way, if Apple’s board and management considered the Irish offer to be legitimate at the time, Apple should not be held to pay the back taxes; rather, the state government should pay a penalty to the Commission.


The full essay is at "Ireland or Apple?"


[1] Natalia Drozdiak and Sam Schechner, “$14.5 Billion Irish Tax Bill,” The Wall Street Journal, August 31, 2016.
[2] Ibid.
[3] Ibid.

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Going Off-Shore, Dodging Sanctions, and Laundering Money: The World of the Richest of the Rich

On April 3, 2016, 2.6 terabytes of data—more than 11.5 million documents—leaked from Panama’s law firm, Mossack Fonseca. The documents show that the firm “helped heads of state, oligarchs and celebrities launder money, dodge sanctions and avoid taxes.”[1] Over 40 years, 214,000 offshore shell companies in 200 countries implicate individuals including the family of Syrian President Bashar Assad, and that of British Prime Minister David Cameron, several friends of Russian President Vladimir Putin, and Icelandic Prime Minister Sigmunder Gunnlaugsson; financial institutions implicated include UBS, HSBC, and Société Générale.[2] I contend that the markets themselves had been tilted in the interest of the greater power (i.e., the rich), so systemic rather than incremental or piecemeal efforts would be necessary to solve the problem.

The full essay is at "Going Off-Shore."

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

The E.U.’s Federal System: Thwarting a Trade Deal with Canada

Dwarfed by the arduous trade negotiations between the E.U. and U.S., the E.U. and Canada actually completed negotiations on a free-trade deal in February, 2016. Ratification had to be pushed back from the fall. The drag from the “deep suspicion over the benefits of unrestricted trade” that was increasing globally was ostensibly the reason.[1] I contend that the true obstacle was the amount of sovereignty that the E.U. states still retained in the Union. Americans can think back to the Articles of Confederation as having the same major drawback. In the E.U.’s case, however, the Union had evolved past being a confederation, given the governmental sovereignty already at the federal level. The veto-power of a state government was thus out of place, and thus an obstacle for the E.U. even in fulfilling its existing responsibilities at the federal level.

The full essay is at "Trade Deal with Canada."


[1] Paul Vieira, “Antitrade Sentiment Thwarts Talks,” The Wall Street Journal, August 30, 2016.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Biblical Positive-Thinking Applied to Leadership

“I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.”[1] This biblical verse captures the extraordinary optimism of Norman Vincent Peale. Belief, expectation, and faith—his pillars of the Christian religion—are internals that can move mountains and thus get results. This biblically-based recipe for positive thinking can be applied to leadership, which, after all, is results-oriented. Its desired objective is of course the realization of a vision. Simply put, if religion can be used to do better in a job as Peale insists,[2] this holds for the task of leading other people, which consists of formulating and selling a vision.

The essay is at "Biblical Positive-Thinking." A fuller version is a chapter of Christianized Ethical Leadership. 




1. Phil. 4:13. Cited from Norman Vincent Peale, The Power of Positive Thinking (New York: Touchstone, 2015), p. 3.



2. Norman Peale, Power of Positive Thinking, p. 48

For-Profits Cutting Corners in Higher Education


In my hometown, a local college decided to become a university. Not that the institution was expanding; the draw was tuition money from foreign students whose governments required that aid be given only to foreign universities. So overnight, departments became colleges. The underlying mentality, I submit, is that of forsaking what an institution is and so claiming to be something it’s not in order to get more money. In short, the underlying mentality is more, more, more, even if this means being something an institution is not. The change comes off as pretentious and greedy. The mentality is also in the mix when for-profit colleges take advantage of the U.S. student-loan program to the extent that they become financially dependent on the subsidized loans. Furthermore, some for-profits turn non-profit as a way to avoid oversight without losing the financial benefits of being for-profit. The trend points to an increasing decadence in American higher-education. The good news is that between 2011 and 2016, the enrollments at the major non-profit schools dropped by more than half; the “pullback came as the government clamped down on aggressive recruiting practices and stricter policies intended to ensure that schools are preparing students for gainful employment.”[1] Even the assumption that the purpose of a college is to train students for jobs rather than educate to make students knowledgeable. I suspect that the latter mission ironically makes for better hires among graduates.

The full essay is at "For-Profits Cutting Corners."


1. Mellisa Korn, “Loan Curbs Shut College,” The Wall Street Journal, September 7, 2016.



Monday, August 29, 2016

California Passes Stricter Pollution Targets: Bringing Business Around


California’s legislature approved a bill (SB 32) in August, 2016 that extends the climate targets from reducing greenhouse-gas emissions from 1990 levels by 2020 (the former target) to just 40 percent of 1990 levels by 2030.[1] A second law, which includes increased legislative oversight of California regulators and targets refineries in poor areas, passed as well. Diane Regas of the Environmental Defense Fund pointed to California’s climate leadership. “As major economies work under the Paris Agreement to strengthen their plans to cut pollution and boost clean energy, California, once again, is setting a new standard for climate leadership worldwide.”[2] At first glance, it would seem that the legislature had freed itself from big business to pass the bills, but the sector itself was split. I submit the anticipation of a refreshed “cap and trade” program as an alternative (or mitigating factor) to stricter regulations played a role. Simply put, using the market mechanism in government regulation makes the stricter targets more palatable to market-based enterprises.

The full essay is at "California on Greenhouse Gases."




1. Chris Megerian, “’A Real Commitment Backed Up by Real Power’: Gov. Jerry Brown to Sign Sweeping New Climate legislation,” Los Angeles Times, August 25, 2016.