John Harris proves that Google’s value isn’t about tax

Not that he gets that this is the point he’s making:

Down the years, the corporations seen as guilty of amoral capitalism – from Nestlé through Monsanto and Exxon to the multinational banks and beyond – have been separate enough from most people’s lives to allow them to be painted as the evil Other, and loudly decried. The rising controversy about Google, by contrast, is a case study in something much more insidious and sophisticated: a company apparently indulging in some of the worst aspects of corporate behaviour, but because it is both stupendously well branded and tightly woven into our view of ourselves and the wider world, still looking as unassailably titanic as ever.

In 2012, revelations about Starbucks’s tax affairs made talk of a boycott fashionable; indeed, the following year, the company registered its first-ever UK sales fall. Yet for three years, Google’s tax avoidance has bubbled away in the news and calls for any kind of collective action have never got further than a few comment pieces and a bit of noise on social media. Four years ago, one tweeter nailed the obvious reason why. “That’s it. I’m boycotting Google,” he wrote. “Apart from their maps. And their search engine. And the docs. And Gmail. Other than that, we’re over.”

Quite so, the value to us of a producer is the value to us of what they produce. Not the tax they pay.

So, Google produces lots of value for us: what’s the complaint?

7 thoughts on “John Harris proves that Google’s value isn’t about tax”


  2. Month Python: “Apart from the maps and the search engine and the docs.and the Gmail, what did Google ever do for us?”p

  3. And yet, you can do all these things without using Google’s offering. I find the Google adoration amusing, because it’s been apparent for a long time that leftie anti-corporatist types are among their most fervent admirers. The same unkempt mob who complain about corporate branding are the ones most likely to do the “I <3 Google" stuff, apparently unaware that it's a classic example of a corporation successfully inspiring brand loyalty. Like Apple, also.

  4. ‘revelations about Starbucks’s tax affairs’

    The “those bastards are following the law!!!” revelations?

  5. I hate Google for spying on me.

    I love Google Maps for driving, even though it works because they spy on me and everyone else.

  6. “I love Google Maps for driving…”

    Try Waze (since purchased by Google, but still run independently). More stable (in my experience) and the routing around traffic is better. I more often find “turn here to avoid traffic” than with Google, which was more “Oh, too bad – this will take a while to sort out…”

  7. Dear Mr Worstall

    Governments think we exist to pay tax. Companies for the same reason.

    Any benefit to anyone else is merely a by-product.

    Some people seem to agree with governments.


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