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Sun May 26, 2013, 08:56 AM

a reply from silicon valley{tech, taxes and libertarianism}

http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/georgepacker/2013/05/silicon-valley-taxes-and-libertarianism.html



The same week as my piece in The New Yorker on the political culture of Silicon Valley came two big stories from the tech world: Tumblr, a blogging platform founded by a high-school dropout (now all of twenty-six) named David Karp, was bought by Yahoo for $1.1 billion; and a Senate report revealed that Apple has pushed tax avoidance to its most creative outer limits, incorporating three ghost subsidiaries in Dublin to hide billions of dollars—almost a third of Apple’s profits over the past three years—from the United States Treasury.

Together, these stories tell us that Silicon Valley continues to create hugely popular products that generate fantastic wealth at the top; and that there is no such thing as tech exceptionalism. The technology industry remains another special interest, as intent as the oil and pharmaceutical sectors on maximizing profits and minimizing its obligation to pay taxes. Why is this surprising? Because, as I wrote in the piece, millions of people seem to take technological innovation for a social and political revolution (“Think Different”), a confusion encouraged by many tech leaders. Even Senator John McCain, after chiding Apple’s C.E.O. Tim Cook for doing his best to cheat America out of its share of the company’s patents and intellectual property, gushed to Cook, “You managed to change the world”—thereby echoing a common Silicon Valley mantra, as well as the title of my piece. (By the way, other Senate Republicans, such as Rand Paul, actually praised Apple for starving the public sector of revenue—more evidence of the institutional collapse that’s at the heart of my new book “The Unwinding: An Inner History of the New America.”)

As Alec MacGillis of The New Republic points out, it’s a bit rich for Apple to argue—as Steve Job did for years—that the company needs more visas and green cards for foreign engineers, since there aren’t enough qualified Americans to fill tech jobs, while Apple does its damnedest to keep its contribution toward federal education aid as paltry as possible. This is an example, so blatant I couldn’t have dreamt it up, of the self-deception that exists alongside the hard work, idealism, and engineering brilliance of Silicon Valley. It’s the kind of blind spot to which young, self-confident, super-successful industries are especially prone.

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