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Apple's Dark Side

Entry 1758, on 2015-12-22 at 12:10:36 (Rating 3, Comments)

Everyone knows I'm a bit of an Apple fanboy. Most fanboys (or fangirls, or fanpeople or whatever the gender neutral term is) will defend their chosen cause to the death but I, of course, am far more rational about the whole situation. While I appreciate the undoubted (well some of my Microsoft fanboy colleagues might say there is doubt) advantages of Apple products I do see the bad side of Apple as well.

I bring this subject up because recently Apple CEO, Tim Cook, has made a statement defending Apple's tax payment record which I disagree with. Here's what he said: "Interviewer: Apple is engaged in a sophisticated scheme to pay little or no corporate taxes on $74 billion in revenue held overseas. Cook: That is total political crap. There is no truth behind it. Apple pays every tax dollar we owe."

Of course, he (Cook) is wrong (by not really answering the question). Apple might be following a literal interpretation of the laws, and part of the reason the company doesn't want to bring those profits back to the US is because of American tax law, but that doesn't excuse deliberate manipulation of the tax laws, in every country where they operate, in a cynical way which is clearly against the laws' intended purpose.

So Apple might make great products - perhaps the best in the world - and they might make some sort of contribution to improving their environmental and labour impact on the world, but they still have a long way to go until they could really be looked with any real admiration regarding their moral standards.

We all know that every large corporation is the same. They all avoid paying their fair share of tax in every country they work in. And what they do might be legal but who cares about the law? What they are doing is still evil, whether it's legal or not. After all, large corporations are one of the major groups contributing to how the laws work so the fact that they can easily bypass a law they had a lot of influence over really doesn't make them any more moral.

So everyone else does it but does that still make it OK for Apple to do the same thing? Of course not.

And then there's the capitalist imperative of returning the maximum amount possible to the shareholders by paying dividends or increasing the value of the company. Again, all large corporations do this. They ignore their obligations to society as a whole (through minimising tax payments, creating poor working conditions, polluting the environment, influencing politics for their own benefit) so that they can pursue that one goal of maximising return to the shareholders.

Again, this is an almost universal attitude, and Apple maybe doesn't quite follow it to the same extent as some other corporations, but it's still just not good enough.

What about Apple's contribution to the world through their products? Well, as I have said on many occasions, I think that Apple produce the best products in the world in the categories they participate in.

I'm currently sitting in a cafe writing this post, and I am doing it on a high spec MacBook Pro. I also have an iPhone 6S, an iPad Air, and even an Apple Watch with me, and I don't want to get started on all the Apple gear I have at home! So I obviously like Apple products. Does this mean that the end justifies the means? Can I excuse all of Apple's corporate antics because at the end of it all they produce great products?

Well to an extent I can, but I would make three observations here...

First, Apple could make equally good products while paying much more tax. They have more money in the bank that most countries so clearly they don't need it all for R&D or any other essential activity related to creating better products.

Second, many of the technologies and scientific advances core to the products Apple makes come from the non-profit sector, especially universities and other research organisations, where almost all of the truly fundamental breakthroughs originate. These organisations are funded through taxes. That's right, the taxes you and I pay but Apple and other corporations don't!

Third, I believe that a properly set up and funded non-profit organisation or even a series of smaller companies with no corporate culture could create even better (and cheaper) products. Look at the new technology that the big corporations use in their products and you will see it is often from a smaller company which has been assimilated into the corporate juggernaut.

I think that big companies, despite their propaganda to the contrary, are rarely genuinely innovative (except in their accounting practices).

So yes, I agree with my anti-Apple colleagues who say that Apple sucks. They really do suck, there is no doubt about it. But I think they suck a bit less than the alternatives, like Microsoft, Google, Samsung, etc. And as a member of the technical elite I guess I have no choice but to continue to support them.

Finally, it's OK for Tim Cook to tell us about Apple's successes but I really wish he would be a bit more honest about its dark side too, because that undoubtedly exists.

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Comment 1 (4459) by Dave on 2015-12-24 at 09:49:33:

Yes I also think Apple sucks. I refuse to buy any of their products. I am a capitalist, but in Apple (and many other large corporations and sports) case, Capitalism has gone over the top. It is obscene how much cash Apple holds. It just proves that their products are overpriced (and they donít pay enough tax!!!).

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Comment 2 (4460) by OJB on 2015-12-24 at 09:49:58:

Agreed. Can I ask what type of computer, phone, tablet, etc you use? Is is something not made by a large corporation?

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