Beyond the Pale

Published 15 years, 1 month ago

First Nike claimed (so far as I can tell) a right to deceive the public under the First Amendment, and now Citrix is claiming that paying taxes violates its First Amendment rights.  I find it odd and faintly troubling  that I keep finding references to these cases on the O’Reilly Network, and not via more traditional news sources like CNN.

You know, I’m a big fan of capitalism.  It’s the one form of economics I’ve ever seen that best fits with basic human nature.  It allows capital to move around freely, which is the key to a healthy economy.  It’s based on currency, which is a very useful way to abstractly (and yet tangibly) represent the effort one expends in doing a task, and the worth of that effort.  It’s one step up from the barter system, but it’s an unimaginably powerful step.  It makes possible everything we take for granted in Western society.

Nonetheless, I do not and will not ever accept that capitalist actors—companies as well as individuals—should be totally unfettered and untaxed by government entities.  The government provides very useful services, ones I wouldn’t want to live without and that I can’t reasonably perform myself.  Like the people who inspect food to make sure it’s not going to kill me, for example.  They’re sort of important.  They aren’t perfect, but without them around I suspect food poisoning deaths would be a great deal more common in America.  After all, cleanliness is expensive.  Similarly, I think the EPA is useful, or would be if allowed to do its job.  In any case, taxes support those services.  Not to mention the military, which I’ve been given to understand is a popular institution with the American people these days.  No taxes?  No military.

I can hardly believe that any company has the gall to claim that they have First Amendment rights to not pay taxes.  Maybe, just maybe, the cumulative effect of these cases will be to have the Supreme Court definitively rule that corporations do not have rights, but are instead accorded privileges.  Am I dreaming?  Yeah, probably.

Meanwhile, I’ve heard credible rumors that Apple, while it was working on Safari, filed Bugzilla evangelism bugs so that the Standards Evangelists at Netscape (of which I’m one) would get the sites to fix their code to work with Gecko and other standards-compliant browsers.  This would then, they apparently hoped, get the sites working in Safari as well.  If this turns out to be true, I’m going to be furious; just the idea that it could be true makes me angry.  I don’t mind helping out Apple.  I’m a Macintosh guy and have been for more than a decade now.  I do mind being tricked into doing their work for them.  Hey, guys, what’s wrong with saying, “We’re both working on standards-based browsers, so let’s work together to get sites to support standards?”  You know, being honest?  How about that?  Anyone think of that?

The more I learn about corporate behavior these days, the more I think about becoming a hermit.  A high school friend of mine always said he could easily see me being a backwoods hermit philosopher, muttering about the Deep Mysteries to a bunch of squirrels and throwing a waist-length beard over my shoulder while munching wild strawberries.  Maybe he was just being prescient.

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