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Two authors see America from above and below and are not happy with what they see


In “The Raging 2020s,” Alec Ross also argues that our social contract is broken, that the roles of business, labor, government and foreign countries need to be rethought, and he provides several of his favorite role models. Osnos’ point of view comes from the land, Ross’s point of view, that of the political scholar, comes from above, not the point of view of the people or even the politicians. The best chapter (by far) is an immensely (and unusually) readable account of how tax havens and competition between countries have allowed multinational companies, especially big tech companies, to avoid paying taxes in the world. one of the many jurisdictions in which they operate. .

We learn how the ‘Irish double with a Dutch sandwich’ technique transferred most of Google’s global revenue to Bermuda, and how Apple’s fiscal maneuvers increased Ireland’s GDP by 26% in one year, but not the income of the Irish. Reading this chapter is like watching a master jewelry thief at work, except that it is not about the movies, where the transfer is often from the rich to the poor. Rather the opposite. Tax havens, while praised by libertarians, strangle governments and their ability to provide for their citizens – which is why libertarians love them. As Ross argues, governments could stop much of this if they wanted to, but if Ireland thinks it can attract tech and pharmaceutical companies with low corporate taxes, it’s not easy. for others to stop it, even if they want to. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen is making progress on the issue, which is a priority for the Biden administration, as is strengthening the IRS’s ability to collect monies owed under existing laws, a move strongly opposed by well-funded political facilitators of the rich.

As a board member of a venture capital firm, Ross repeatedly tells us how busy he is – the introduction takes us through the start of a typical grueling day – and we hear about it. of him leading missions to Syria and West Africa, as well as trips to the World Economic Forum meeting in Davos, Switzerland. He thanks the “researchers in their twenties who worked for me in writing this book,” but perhaps as a result much of the analysis has an innocence which, while at times charming, is more often inconsistent or infuriating. He wants to kill shareholder capitalism and hates share buybacks, because “a buyback is as productive for society as a bonfire of banknotes” and “the money just disappears”, noting that buybacks allow business leaders to swallow their personal wealth at will. , another way to increase inequalities. I’m all for banning buybacks – or taxing them – but exactly how this will tackle climate change or reduce the need for safety nets is never clarified.

On Ross’ ideas for finding a new social contract, some will no doubt agree with his recommendation that when “we come to the fork in the road that the countries of the world are facing” we should follow the sign. indicating Denmark. But surely he owes us some explanation of the policies that could bring about this, the kind of practical coalitions that could support them, and how to stop the looting of the dispossessed that Osnos so eloquently describes.

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