The challenge to democracy is from capitalism

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 21/03/2018 - 6:27pm in

Like many I am grateful to the Guardian newspaper for its work on Cambridge Analytica. Its expose of the use of data trawled from Facebook to seek to subvert choice in elections is well worth another year’s voluntary payments, however much I get annoyed by the paper on occasion.

But in amongst all the issues raised I want to point out the big one that is not being stated clearly enough. The challenge to democracy that the Guardian has exposed does not come from Russia. Nor is the issue particular to Cambridge Analytica. And I doubt it is peculiar to Facebook either. The challenge to democracy comes from capitalism itself.

If anyone used the weaknesses in the systems of Facebook for their own ends (and it seems certain that they did: that was Cambridge Analaytica’s raison d’etre) then this was not a case of ‘bad apples’. This happened because capitalism is designed to exploit weaknesses in pursuit of profit unless prevented from doing so.

Facebook let data be used because it thought it would profit from it.

Cambridge Analytica looks to be a company without a moral compass. But there are a multitude of those.

And the cost is to society at large. The fact that in this case the cost is very large indeed, maybe resulting in the world having to suffer Trump as US President and in the UK opting for Brexit. As costs go, these are staggering.

And yet they are only the specific costs. The systemic ones may be larger still. The greater cost is to trust.

Bizarrely, the whole edifice of capitalism has to be built on trust. In the absence of the perfect information that economists assume exists as the basis for their prescription that markets deliver the optimal allocation of resources within the global economy, trust that the purveyor of any product or service can be relied upon to supply the product as described is essential to the effective operation of markets. Ultimately, it is what we all have to rely upon. That we cannot do so is indicated by the fact that we have so much regulation. But even so, trust remains at the heart of the system. And so pervasive is that requirement that the whole edifice of governance, whether within business, or beyond in greater society is built on the same basis.

The actions of Facebook and Cambridge Analytica shake that assumption that we might trust the corporate world to its core. Of course, they are not the first companies to have done that. They will not be the last. But their cases are exceptional in one way, and indication of what might be to come in another. Few companies have ever had data on a quarter of the world’s population before now. And few that we know of have used that so ruthlessly, and apparently with so little conscience, to seek to undermine the system of democracy that is, in my opinion, essential in providing the checks and balances that are the only things that make any form of capitalism acceptable. This can only get worse if unchecked now.

In that case might I make a quiet plea? Might we stop obsessing about Russia? If they have exploited this they are just one of many who might have, or have been willing, to do so. Lowest common denominator market players will find customers. Instead might we ask what it is about capitalism that must be transformed (I use the word rather than reformed, wisely) to ensure that what it can do - which is provide us with choices and the opportunity for billions to work in the ways they wish using their skills in the way they want - might be of best service to human kind without putting at risk the whole of society as we know it?

This has to start with changing the rules of the game. The idea that limited liability is sacrosanct, most especially for those who run companies, has to end. Such a provision may be appropriate for shareholders. For directors who permit wrong doing it cannot be permitted.

Nor can the assumption that capitalism can operate behind closed doors be sustained any more. We know government has been improved by the right to know. Maybe the time for freedom of information enquiries of big business has arrived.

And, of course, the interests of shareholders cannot come first. They are important, but only amongst equals. That means employees, suppliers, customers, government, communities and civil society rank equal alongside them. As does the environment, even if it has to rely on human custodians to act for it.

Whilst the boundaries of what companies may do may have to be re-written.

And the whole idea of audit may need to come in to vogue once more, with a focus not just on accounting but on governance, ethics and community risk. And it is not an activity that could be done in pursuit of commercial profit.

Whilst if we are serious about defending democracy - and I am - the idea that seeking to subvert democratic choice must be an offence has to be taken seriously.

I accept these ideas need development, and discussion. But my point is clear. Let’s not get lost in the detail of the abuse Cambridge Analytica has undertaken. Let’s look as well at the systemic issues that they and Facebook raise. They are much more important. And existential in nature.

Books on God and Religion

On Thursday, Jo, one of the great commenters to this blog, asked my a couple of questions on the nature of the Almighty, which I tried to answer as best I could. I offered to put up here a few books, which might help people trying to explore for themselves the theological and philosophical ideas and debates about the nature of God, faith, religion and so on. I set up this blog about a decade and a half ago to defend Christianity against attacks by the New Atheists. I don’t really want to get sidetracked back there, because some of these issues will just go on forever if you let them. And I’m far more concerned to bring people of different religions and none together to combat the attacks by the Tories and the Blairites on the remains of the welfare state, the privatisation of the NHS, and the impoverishment and murder of the British public, particularly the disabled, in order to further enrich the corporate elite. Especially as the Tories seem to want to provoke war with Russia.

But here are some books, which are written for ordinary people, which cover these issues, which have helped me and which I hope others reading about these topics for themselves will also find helpful.

The Thinker’s Guide to God, Peter Vardy and Julie Arliss (Alresford: John Hunt Publishing 2003)

This book is written by two academics from a Christian viewpoint, and discusses the Western religious tradition from Plato and Aristotle. It has the following chapters

1. Thinking About God – Plato and Aristotle
2.The God of the Philosophers
3. The God of Sacred Scripture
4. Religious Language
5. The Challenge of Anti-Realism
6. Arguments for the Existence of God
7. The Attributes of God
8. Life After Death
9. Miracles and Prayer
10. Jesus, the Trinity, and Christian Theology
11. Faith and Reason
12 Attacks on God, Darwin, Marx and Freud
13 God and Science
14 Quantum Science, Multi-Dimensions and God

God: A Guide for the Perplexed, Keith Ward, (Oxford: OneWorld 2003)

1. A Feeling for the Gods
God, literalism and poetry, A world full of Gods, Descartes and the cosmic machine, Wordsworth and Blake, the gods and poetic imagination, Conflict among the gods, Friedrich Schleiermacher: a Romantic account of the gods; Rudolf Otto: the sense of the numinous; Martin Buber: life as meeting, Epilogue: the testimony of a secularist.

2. Beyond the gods
Prophets and seers; The prophets of Israel and monotheism; Basil, Gregory Palamas and Maimonides: the apophatic way; Thomas Aquinas: the simplicity of God; The five ways of demonstrating God; Pseudo-Dyonysius the Areopagite; The doctrine of analogy; Three mystics.

3. The Love that moves the sun
The 613 commandments; Pigs and other animals; the two great commandments; The Ten Commandments; Jesus and the Law; Calvin and the Commandments, Faith and works; Theistic morality as fulfilling God’s purpose; Kant, the categorical imperative and faith, God as creative freedom, affective knowledge and illimitable love.

4. The God of the Philosophers

God and Job; Plato and the gods; the vision of the Good; Appearance and Reality; Augustine and creation ex nihilo, Aristotle and the Perfect Being; Augustine and Platonism; Anselm and Necessary Being; Evil, necessity and the Free Will defence; Creation as a timeless act; Faith and understanding.

5. The Poet of the World

The timeless and immutable God; The rejection of Platonism; Hegel and the philosophy of Absolute Spirit; Marx and the dialectic of history; Pantheism and panentheism; Time and creativity, The redemption of suffering; History and the purposive cosmos; Process philosophy; The collapse of the metaphysical vision.

6. The darkness between stars

Pascal: faith and scepticism; A.J. Ayer; the death of metaphysics; Scientific hypotheses and existential questions; Kierkegaard: truth as subjectivity; Sartre; freedom from a repressive God; Heidegger and Kierkegaard: the absolute
paradox; Tillich: religious symbols; Wittgenstein: pictures of human life; Religious language and forms of life; Religion and ‘seeing-as’; Spirituality without belief; Non-realism and God; The silence of the heart.

7. The personal ground of being

God as omnipotent person; The problem of evil; Fichte, Schelling, Schopenhauer and Nietzsche: beyond good and evil; Omniscience and creative freedom; God: person or personal; Persons as relational; The idea of the Trinity; The revelatory roots of religion; Conclusion: Seven ways of thinking about God.


Teach Yourself Philosophy of Religion, by Mel Thompson, (London: HodderHeadline 1997)

What is the philosophy of Religion?
Why study religion in this way?
What is involved?
The structure of this book
What this book aims to do.

1. Religious Experiences
Starting with experience
What happens when you experience something?
What is religious experience?
Induced religious experiences
Charismatic experiences
Some features of religious experience
What can we know?
Authority and response

2.Religious Language
A private language?
Knowledge and description
Faith, reason and beliefs
The rational and the non-rational
Interpreting language
Cognitive and non-cognitive
Language games
The limitations of language

3. God: the concepts
God as creator
Transcendence and immanence
Theism, pantheism and panentheism
Atheism, agnosticism and secularism
Nietzsche: God is dead
Secular interpretations of God
A postmodernist interpretation
The Christian concept of God: the Trinity
Beliefs, language and religion
Religious alternatives to theism
Basic beliefs

4. God: the arguments
The ontological argument
The cosmological argument
the teleological argument
the moral argument
the argument from religious experience

5. The Self
Bodies, minds and souls
Knowing our minds
Joining souls to bodies?
Identity and freedom
Life beyond death
Some conclusions

6. Causes, providence and miracles

7. Suffering and evil
The challenge and the response
the problem
God as moral agent
Suffering and the major religions
Coming to terms with suffering
The devil and hell
Religion and terrorism

8. Religion and Science
The problem science poses for religion
the key issues
the changing world view
the methods of science and religion
the origin of the universe
evolution and humankind
Some conclusions

9. Religion and ethics
Natural law
absolute ethics
Morality and facts
How are religion and morality treated?
Values and choices

Postcript, Glossary, Taking it Further

God and Evolution: A Reader, ed. by Mary Kathleen Cunningham (London: Routledge 2007)

Part One

1. Charles Hodge ‘The Protestant Rule of Faith’
2. Sallie McFague ‘Metaphor’
3. Mary Midgley ‘How Myths work’
4. Ian G. Barbour ‘The Structures of Science and Religion’.

Part Two
Evolutionary Theory

5. Charles Darwin, ‘On the origin of species
6. Francisco J. Ayala ‘The Evolution of life as overview
7. Michael Ruse ‘Is there are limit to our knowledge of evolution?

Part Three

6. Genesis 1-2
7. Ronald J. Numbers ‘The Creationists’.

Part Four
Intelligent Design

10. William Paley ‘Natural Theology’
11. Michael J. Behe ‘Irreducible complexity: Obstacle to Darwinian Evolution’
12. Kenneth R. Miller, ‘Answering the biochemical argument from Design

Part Five

13. Richard Dawkins, ‘The Blind Watchmaker’
14. Richard Dawkins, ‘God’s utility function’
15. Daniel C. Dennett, ‘God’s dangerous idea’
16. Mary Midgley, ‘The quest for a universal acid’
17. Michael Ruse, ‘Methodological naturalism under attack’.

Part Six
Evolutionary Theism

18. Howard J. Van Till, ‘The creation: intelligently designed or optimally equipped?’
19. Arthur Peacock, ‘Biological evolution-a positive theological appraisal’
20. Jurgen Moltmann, ‘God’s kenosis in the creation and consummation of the world’.
21 Elizabeth A. Johnson, ‘Does God play dice? Divine providence and chance’.

Part Seven:
Reformulations of Tradition

22. John F. Haught, ‘Evolution, tragedy, and cosmic paradox’
23. Sallie McFague, ‘God and the world’
24. Ruth Page, ‘Panentheism and pansyntheism: God is relation’
25. Gordon D. Kaufman, ‘On thinking of God as serendipitous creativity’.

The Bleak View of the World’s Problems (Or: They’re All Going to Have to Die)

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 17/03/2018 - 4:06am in

The Course of Empire by Thomas Cole

The Course of Empire by Thomas Cole

So then, the simplest gloss of humanity’s problems is that the world’s problem is humans.

We have clear threats to our existence, threats which, at the least, will credibly kill hundreds of millions to billions of people. We have known about these problems for a long time (recently, a friend told me about learning the science of climate change in 70s high school) and we have done nothing.

Well, not nothing…in most respects, we made it worse. When we did do something, we knew did what we were doing was not enough.

This is a human problem, caused by humans. It is simple to say “Well, the more powerful bear more responsibility,” and this is true, but as a whole, these are the leaders humanity has selected (this doesn’t imply most people want them).

As a race, we have proven incapable of managing the collective action problem and the leadership problem.

This is true despite what appear to be our great success: We can take massive actions, but we cannot control our actions for the common good.

Common good does occur at times; sometimes it is even intended, but we repeatedly drive ourselves off cliffs.

WWII being the easily predicted consequence of WWI is a good example. But take another example: the cradle of civilization, Mesopotamia. Understand that from the invention of agriculture, to today, about 10K years, Mesopotamia was probably the most advanced region in the world. Only Egypt and India were competitors.

Mesopotomia declined because they kept chopping down trees and draining swamps, and eventually turned their land into a desert or near-desert.

They had to know they were doing it, it was obvious. But they kept doing it.

We simply have never been good at collective action with a time-span beyond a generation. Sometimes we can act for three generations. And that, essentially, is it.  And those periods during which we manage to act for three generations are rare, and come out of successfully handled crises, like the Great Depression and World War II. They last as long as the generations which experienced and understood the causes of the crisis exist, and then as long as the momentum of whatever works they created last.

So the New Deal generation and the post-war liberals created institutions and infrastructure, which despite their problems, worked. When these entities started to fail in the 70s, they did not collapse and they continue to stand, buttressing against the worst. As each component has been destroyed, a crisis has ensued; the most recent example being the financial crisis, which was the result of the removal of laws that control the financial industry, put in place after the Crash of ’29 (the removal of these laws was signed by Bill Clinton).

The New Deal generation over-built: They created bridges and roads meant to last a long time. They laid down more infrastructure than needed. But they didn’t, and couldn’t, build forever-infrastructure.

Their great work has concealed the nature of the decline, the nature of the ongoing collapse.

But the accounts of work they put away is mostly gone, in many cases in deficit.

Those who replaced them, having never survived a real crisis by pulling together, do not know how to do so. They cannot run a society for the common good, nor a society for the future.

And so billions will die and there is a great die-off of non-human species.

The common good and future generations matter because they are a way of making sure that what economists call negative externalities don’t get out of control. When we think only of ourselves and a few people we care about, rather than thinking about everyone and everyone’s grandchildren, we don’t properly manage society’s real wealth: people, knowledge, and the environment.

And we haven’t.

And the problem is this keeps happening. Over and over again.

We have too much power, and we cannot control it, because as a species we cannot control ourselves.

We claim, at times, to be creatures of reason, but not only are we driven by short-sighted, selfish desires, even when we use reason, we use it as a slave to those selfish desires.

And so the only solution to our problems is going to be a lot of death. It is nature’s solution, “you have exceeded carrying capacity, now you will die.”

It is too late to stop a lot of it. But mitigation requires different leadership than we have now. That leadership must be replaced, and it must be replaced by whatever means necessary.

Meanwhile, we need to understand that we, the masses, are complicit. The leaders are worse, of course, but they are the leaders which have arisen from humanity. They are not separate, they are a symptom of our pathologies.

We must become different people, different humans, if this is to end. That is, perhaps, possible, since we do most of our adaptation socially.

It’s that or die, and possibly wiped out.

The results of the work I do, like this article, are free, but food isn’t, so if you value my work, please DONATE or SUBSCRIBE.

Share on WhatsApp

The sad fact is that professional ethics are not enough to make accountants comply with the law

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 14/03/2018 - 8:08pm in


Corruption, Ethics

Two reports have come to my attention that highlight just how the world really sees the accountancy profession. The first was from Reuters, yesterday and said:

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - European Union finance ministers agreed new measures on Tuesday to force accountants and banks to report aggressive tax schemes that help companies shift profits to low-tax countries.

The second was from the OECD in the last few days:

Responding to a request of the G7, today, the OECD has issued new model disclosure rules that require lawyers, accountants, financial advisors, banks and other service providers to inform tax authorities of any schemes they put in place for their clients to avoid reporting under the OECD/G20 Common Reporting Standard (CRS) or prevent the identification of the beneficial owners of entities or trusts.

As they noted:

[T]here are still persons that, often with the help of advisors and financial intermediaries, continue to try hiding their offshore assets and fly under the radar of CRS reporting. The new rules released today target these persons and their advisers, by introducing an obligation on a wide range of intermediaries to disclose the schemes to circumvent CRS reporting to the tax authorities. The new rules also require the reporting of structures that hide beneficial owners of offshore assets, companies and trusts.

The sad fact is that accountants cannot be relied on to be compliant with the law without measures being specifically targeted at them.

Every time an accountant says that the ethical codes of their profession are enough to ensure high standards just remind them of this.

It is the pursuit of knowledge rather than the pursuit of wealth that has produced the most significant gain in our standard of living

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 13/03/2018 - 5:52am in


Economics, Ethics

I love this statement made by Charles Adams on Progressive Pulse today:

[I]t is the pursuit of knowledge rather than the pursuit of wealth that has produced the most significant gain in our standard of living.

The claim, which I think to be self-evidently true, is made in a piece by Charles (who is a professor of physics at Durham University) on the folly of the government's new approach to appraising the value of a university education as if a student is a consumer. As Charles puts it:

The problem for politicians is that you cannot buy knowledge, you have to create it, by yourself, sometimes with help from others, but always by hard graft. Students are not consumers, they are workers, working on acquiring the knowledge and skills that help to make the world a better place. More enlightened countries like Denmark pay their students to refine their skills. We used to do that too.

But we no longer live in enlightened times.

Which explains a great deal about the UK today.

I recommend reading Charles' piece.

Project to Develop Code of Publishing Ethics for Philosophy Awarded $75k

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 10/03/2018 - 12:07am in

The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation has awarded a $75,000 grant to a a team undertaking the development of a code of publishing ethics for philosophy.

The project is led by Fairfield University associate professor of philosophy Kris Sealey (Fairfield), and includes the Executive Director of the American Philosophical Association (APA) Amy Ferrer, academic consultant Rebecca Kennison (K|N Consultants), and philosophers Yannik Thiem (Villanova),  Adriel M. Trott (Wabash), and Kyle Powys Whyte (Michigan State).

This group, according to a press release from the APA, “will work with philosophers and publishers on publication policies, best practices, and recommendations for a code of publication ethics. The goal is to create a resource that journal editors, publishers, and professional societies both in philosophy and in the humanities more broadly can use and adapt.”

Issues on the table include:

  • scholarly misconduct
  • diversity in citation and engagement practice
  • varieties of plagiarism
  • bias in research, peer review, and editorial practices
  • correcting the scholarly record

The press release adds: “in order to address widespread disagreement about these issues, the grant will bring editors, scholars, and publishers together to develop a set of explicit and clear guidelines.”

Further details here.

The post Project to Develop Code of Publishing Ethics for Philosophy Awarded $75k appeared first on Daily Nous.

What the Tao Teaches Us About the Good Society’s Devolution to the Bad

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 09/03/2018 - 3:35am in


Ethics, Justice

In the Tao Te Ching there is a famous passage, as follows:

When a truly kind man does something, he leaves nothing undone.
When a just man does something, he leaves a great deal to be done.
When a disciplinarian does something and no one responds,
He rolls up his sleeves in an attempt to enforce order

Therefore when Tao is lost, there is goodness.
When goodness is lost, there is kindness.
When kindness is lost, there is justice.
When justice is lost, there is ritual.
Now ritual is the husk of faith and loyalty, the beginning of confusion.

The idea that when one is in the Tao nothing is done causes a lot of confusion. This is a psychological / physical state, where there is no feeling of effort. One takes the actions appropriate to the circumstance without any sense of doing anything, even though things are still done. Because this is a very clear mental state, what is appropriate tends to be obvious.

The key word, for social ethics, however is “appropriate.” What is appropriate isn’t always what is good, but what is good makes up the vast majority of what is appropriate.

When one no longer knows what is appropriate, one devolves to the good and is still doing most of what should be done.

Kindness makes up most of what is good, so when one loses what is good, one devolves to kindness and retains most of what is good.

Losing kindness, one retreats to justice. The loss here is steep. Justice is maybe half of what is kind, because justice without kindness is about balance and tends to not restore people, but punish them: “an eye for an eye” and all that.

And then there is ritual, and ritual, in this context, is without any of the higher virtues, and thus leads to injustice, cruelty and evil, because it has lost almost all of appropriateness: it simply accepts that action A should lead to action B, and that will often be the wrong action, unguided by appropriateness, goodness, kindness or even justice.

I would add that when even ritual is lost; when people no longer obey the rules and are guided by no sense of ethics, that all chances of a good society and good results are lost.

Regular readers will know that I tend to emphasize kindness as a golden rule. I think it’s the highest guiding star the vast majority of people in our society can use: most people still know how to act kind, they just don’t do it and they have many justifications for not doing so. But they do know what it is, with exceptions like warped market disciples, libertarians, and so on, who are so identified with ritual ideologies (market outcomes are just) that they cannot see when they are not even that.

The reform of society comes through the proper use of ritual, ironically. You work your way back up. Ritual done right attaches appropriate emotions to appropriate circumstances to appropriate objects of attention, and once that is the case, one can climb back up the ladder. Indeed, done right, one can jump past justice back to kindness.

But only when done right. Ritual is an obsidian knife: It cuts everything and it’s dangerous, and it’s only a useful tool when both made and used just right. Only someone operating at a level higher than ritual can design rituals which will do more good than harm.

In the meantime, unless you’ve been deformed by the wrong ideology, you probably still understand kindness. I suggest living there. It’s also a rather nice place to live.

The results of the work I do, like this article, are free, but food isn’t, so if you value my work, please DONATE or SUBSCRIBE.

Share on WhatsApp

The ten commandments of AI

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 05/03/2018 - 7:15pm in


Economics, Ethics

The Bishop of Oxford, who sits on the House of Lords artificial intelligence committee, has come up with a ten commandments of AI:

AI should be designed for all, and benefit humanity.

AI should operate on principles of transparency and fairness, and be well signposted.

AI should not be used to transgress the data rights and privacy of individuals, families, or communities.

The application of AI should be to reduce inequality of wealth, health, and opportunity.

AI should not be used for criminal intent, nor to subvert the values of our democracy, nor truth, nor courtesy in public discourse.

The primary purpose of AI should be to enhance and augment, rather than replace, human labour and creativity.

All citizens have the right to be adequately educated to flourish mentally, emotionally, and economically in a digital and artificially intelligent world.

AI should never be developed or deployed separately from consideration of the ethical consequences of its applications.

The autonomous power to hurt or destroy should never be vested in artificial intelligence.

Governments should ensure that the best research and application of AI is directed toward the most urgent problems facing humanity.

I like them; they provide an essential dimension to this debate.

Now, for ten commandments of tax....

How can we ensure that tax evaders and aggressive tax avoiders do not profit from taxpayer-funded public procurement contracts?

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 28/02/2018 - 8:43pm in

Cross posted from the Fair Tax Mark:

Conservative MP for North Wiltshire, James Gray, recently asked Parliament what steps the UK Government was taking in its procurement policy to tackle aggressive tax avoidance by government suppliers.[1] A reasonable question: why should tax dodgers profit from contracts funded by taxpayers?

The answer from the Parliamentary Secretary at the Cabinet Office, Oliver Dowden, was convoluted, but seemingly positive. He said: “The 2015 Public Contract Regulations implemented the latest EU Public Procurement Directive, and require public bodies to exclude suppliers from a procurement where the supplier has been found guilty of breaching its obligations in relation to payment of taxes and this has been established by a judicial or administrative decision having final effect within the relevant jurisdiction.”

The reality is very different. The UK Government rarely, if ever, considers tax justice in its procurement in a meaningful way. This is in large part because the bar for disqualification is set insanely high. For example, disqualification is admissible where HMRC has successfully challenged a potential supplier under the General Anti-Abuse Rule (GAAR). But, to date, not a single GAAR penalty has been issued in the UK.

Another ground for exclusion is where a judicial or administrative decision has established that a business has been found guilty of breaching its tax obligations. But more often than not, disputes never reach such a conclusion. Instead, “settlements” are reached outside of the courts, as happened with Google, which in 2016 agreed a deal with British tax authorities to pay £130m in back taxes in connection with a decade of underpayment. Again we have an exclusion criterion that is highly unlikely to ever be enacted.

And unfortunately, the same factors are at play in local government procurement – not just in the UK but right across Europe. Which is an enormous missed opportunity given over 250,000 public authorities in the EU spend around 14% of GDP on the purchase of services, works and supplies – a colossal €1.9 trillion.[2]

But action is stirring and change may be afoot. In Spain, 37 municipalities have publicly committed to not work with companies that operate in tax havens – this includes the major cities of Madrid, Barcelona, Seville and Zaragoza.[3] The Danish municipalities of Copenhagen and Albertslund are actively looking to develop a means to identify tax evaders and companies exploiting tax havens.[4] And in Finland[5], the cities of Helsinki and Malmo are seeking to change their procurement and reward suppliers that embrace public country-by-country reporting, with work similarly being progressed by tax justice advocates in Slovenia and Latvia.

In the UK, the desire to take action at a local level is at least as concrete and wide-ranging, as evidenced in 2016, when the Fair Tax Mark[6] and Christian Aid[7] urged local councils to take action. They responded up and down the country. Everywhere from Manchester City Council to Durham County Council and the London boroughs of Southwark and Lewisham. But the new national Public Procurement Note[8] that emerged (which takes the form of revised standard Selection Questionnaire), while being a step forward, suffers from the same weak exclusion grounds that operate nationally, and relies on suppliers to self-declare compliance.

Progress has to date been slow due a number of factors. Firstly – arguably – the EU Procurement Directive constrains action as it requires that exclusion criteria must be linked to the quality of the goods and services involved. There is therefore a perception that progress on the issue of tax evasion and avoidance maybe too difficult to secure and is therefore best left alone. Secondly, there is no database of proven tax evaders for procurement officers to refer to – either in the UK or across Europe.

This isn’t to say that progress is impossible – far from it. The fantastic success of the Fairtrade Towns movement serves as an example and inspiration: there are now over 2,000 Fairtrade towns in 30 countries across the globe, and over 630 in the UK alone.[9] The Fair Tax Mark is looking at how it might build a similar network of Fair Tax towns and cities. This will involve working with bold local councils across the UK and with tax justice campaigners across Europe to explore what progress can be made within existing and amended EU law. The European Parliament signalled its opinion at the end of 2017, when it called on the Commission to put forward a revision of the Procurement Directive which includes measures to prevent public administrations from working with companies that use tax havens.[10]

It will also involve exploring what further measures can be pursued in the UK post-Brexit, as we are doing later this month at the Social Value Summit.[11] Could, for example, the Withdrawal Bill be amended to incorporate enhanced provisions for social value in procurement, with goods and works being newly encompassed (in addition to services) and factors such as ‘aggressive tax avoidance’ being more central to selection and award criteria – as argued separately by both the Society of Conservative Lawyers and the Society of Labour Lawyers.[12]

If like us, you think that public procurement could and should be deployed to punish tax dodgers and reward fair tax payers, then please get in touch. We’ll be shaping our plans over the coming months with a view to announcing provisional action in the summer.

Paul Monaghan, Chief Executive, Fair Tax Mark


[2] &











Hotel Propaganda

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 27/02/2018 - 10:12pm in


Canada, Ethics, USA

by Anthony Black, September 8, 2014, via Canadian Dimension On the evening of April 6th 1994 a plane carrying the Hutu leaders of both Rwanda and Burundi was shot down as it approached Kanombe airport. The assassins had little trouble targeting the flight as only one of the two runways was open, the other having been closed two months earlier on the orders of General Romeo Dallaire. Simultaneous to the shootdown, that is on the eve of April 6th, a 30,000 RPF (Tutsi) army based in Uganda invaded from the north. At the same time, hundreds of covert armed RPF cells came to life in and around Kigali and began attacking Rwandan government forces (FAR). The population, roughly 85% Hutu, and encompassing at least a million refugees in and around Kigali displaced by previous RPF incursions from Uganda, began to panic. A genocide was about to begin. But it was a genocide neither against, nor by, the actors cited in the ?official? narrative. Indeed, Rwanda circa 1994, is, in all likelihood, if not the, then …