Sometimes capitalism just infuriates me. Like today when I skimmed through articles on food delivery platforms, on Finland becoming a subsidiary economy* and on Apple not having to pay back tax benefits. The FANGMAN (Facebook, Amazon, Netflix, Google, Microsoft, Apple, NVIDIA) is worth more than most countries but when a pandemic strikes, the governments have to deal with it (with the taxes they collect from their people). And if this was not enough, someone tweeted that AirBnB is asking people to support their favourite hosts who are suffering because COVID killed tourism.
I mean, tax evasion is one thing but platforms are scary in general, especially from the perspective of small economies. Because the main product is a tech marketplace of some sort, there is very little responsibility, accountability, liability and whatnot, which gives the platforms pretty much free reign to decide how their country operates. At the same time, the immediate benefit to the customer is clear: things are cheap (unless surge price) because providers are competing for the users and there is no pressure of profitability yet. Customers celebrate until the investments run out but at the end of the day FANGMAN will win because of their endless resources and superior technology to replace human workers, and all that remains is a pile of dead e-scooters the cities need to give a decent burial to.
I am such a social democrat it’s almost embarrassing, but I do appreciate the safety of regulations. I want to trust a media source at least to some extent, to know that when I book a room, it is legal to stay there, and to trust taxies to have a driver of certain competence. I also like to know that the delivery person is paid at least the minimum wage and that their employment is subject to national agreements instead of modern day slavery. But I have very little compassion for the people who bought apartments to become hotel owners. I mean, they took a risk and wished to benefit but now won’t. Hey ho, sell the place, preferably to a real person who lives there, while I donate to local entrepreneurs and the Guardian.
In the beginning of Internet and micromedia platforms the plurality of voices and perspectives was a value which is harder to find right now with FANGMAN and the polarisation fuelled by the trolling machinery. Fragmentation would enable some plurality still. It is not good for us to have just a few media platforms, marketplaces and centralisation of services so please let’s continue shopping for the next best thing that does not oppress the precariat and go local to keep the money in. It is better to have many options even if it means the technological advancement is slower because there is safety in fragmentation. And then there is China.
*I don’t know much about this but they say foreign subsidiaries are not good for countries because when ownership and headquarters are abroad, they are also taxed abroad and thus do not benefit the country where they operate. Of course this applies to only those companies who pay taxes…