Transcript: Episode 68 (Google is Evil?)

Virginia: Is Google evil?  Yes.  Case closed.  End of podcast.

Nick: I think once companies get to a certain size in an area, they get the biggest gains by cutting bottom-line things.

Andrew: I think it’s more an issue of an organization getting too large for one group of people to control the entire group.  Even if the top-level people don’t want to be evil, there are still so many areas of the company where evil stuff can happen without them knowing about it.

Nick: Just like them dodging taxes.  As the world’s economies are going bankrupt, places like Google are pushing their earnings around to the lowest tax areas.

Virginia: But, you didn’t write a bigger check to the IRS this year, did you?  Did you give an extra five grand?

Nick: But I didn’t dodge out of anything.

Virginia: By having an accountant doing your taxes and itemizing your deductions, you’re taking advantage of the system.

Nick: They’re taking advantage of the global tax system.

Virginia: Meh.

Nick: There’s letter of the law and intent of the law.

Andrew: As a corporation, you have a responsibility to your shareholders to be as profitable as possible.  One of the easiest ways to do that is to cut costs.  I can do the basic tax and pay an accountant to get it done.  But, as you get bigger, it makes sense to spend more time and money to find these loopholes.  It’s not really the corporation’s fault that they take advantage of this stuff.  They’re so much pressure on them to be profitable.  Then we also create all of these loopholes in the tax code.  If the tax codes were relatively simple, this sort of thing wouldn’t be possible.

Nick: But the taxes that they’re talking about still would be. They’re pushing profits overseas to avoid the US taxes.

Leland: You see a similar situation with Hollywood.  A lot of studios fudge the numbers to show that they didn’t make any money off of these massive blockbusters.  They would make a fraction of what they made if they didn’t do these things.

Nick: Let’s try to push this back to Google being evil.  Them dodging out of paying their taxes seems like it doesn’t really affect us.  But, it’s sort of like the buying local thing.  I try to support my community.  I feel like supporting Google is a form of “buying local” because they’re in the US.  Them sheltering tax revenue is actually stealing from me.

Andrew: I would argue that taxes are theft to begin with.  I don’t see taking advantage of the tax code as they are as stealing.  If I had enough money that I could take advantage of some of these loopholes, I would.  That’s why people itemize.  It’s a similar sort of thing in Google’s case.

Nick: But you’re following the word of the law and intent of the law in that situation.  Google might be following the word of the law, but not the intent.

Andrew: What you’re implying is that they’re breaking the law.

Nick: They are.

Virginia: The IRS would want to be involved.

Nick: They are.

Andrew: I’m not entirely qualified to speak on this subject.

Virginia: The Google being evil thing seems to be more related to their size and their outlook on privacy.  You cannot function in the modern world without using some sort of Google product: the email, the ads, social networking, etc.

Leland: I don’t know that that’s necessarily true.  You could find other ways of doing these things.

Virginia: You can, but it’s harder.

Leland: Sure.  That’s probably due to the ease with which they’ve made their products available.

Andrew: Gmail is an arguably better product than most of the free stuff out there.

Nick: It’s arguably better than most paid stuff.

Leland: Does having a superior product absolve them of some of the privacy infringements?

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