Apple’s Disingenuous Patriotism
Yesterday, Apple posted an open letter explaining why they will not be complying with a court order to defeat it’s own encryption within iOS. Reading through it, I applauded their very public stance, given the history of law enforcement’s grasp of technology, a PR push was the way to go. Kudos. Then I got to this sentence:
We are challenging the FBI’s demands with the deepest respect for American democracy and a love of our country.
Hold up. Wait a minute.
Apple is not a company that I associate with deep respect for democracy, largely because of their intense history of tax avoidance. If they truly love the country, they would do their democratic duty and pay their corporate taxes — billions of dollars every year that could fund schools, social programs, and infrastructure.
In many ways, it’s not their fault. They’ve stashed money all over the globe in tax-free, banking-friendly jurisdictions because they have to. As a public corporation, they are legally obligated to provide the largest possible return for shareholders. One way to get a larger return is to jump through tremendous international banking loopholes to avoid giving a cut to Uncle Sam.
Of course, one way to solve this problem is to close these loopholes. But it’s not like Apple is going to lobby for these changes (again, their shareholder obligation). They have lobbied for a federal tax holiday, though. Tim Cook has said that he will bring the Apple profits back to the US, provided that they come in tax-free — basically holding his own company’s money for ransom, money that it could use to invest in jobs and manufacturing within the US, boosting the economy. But in order to do that, federal programs must take a hit.
Another way to solve this problem, and a solution that’s 100% in Apple’s court is to reincorporate the company as a B Corp. B Corps like Etsy and Warby Parker are not beholden to the traditional “profits or else” rules of capitalism because they are governed by a charter dictated by the leadership. This charter could dictate that 10% of a year’s profits go directly to charity or require a gender blind hiring process or any number of progressive ideals that Apple already embodies, without necessarily the bloody drive for maximum profits (which will trample any stated ideology when it comes down to it).
So Apple, become a B Corp and focus on the design and innovation that you are already known for. No longer focusing solely on profits means that there are no longer odd point-releases of products just to keep the money moving. Every product could be an innovation. That’s the legacy that Apple should have.
And the tiny cost for that legacy? Supporting your country that made it all possible by paying your goddamn taxes.