Bye, Bye Facebook

The Big Bad Ban is Coming

The ban is coming back.  It is a long favoured tool of centralist authoritarian governments; it was well favoured by the previous Labour regime.  The most recent Labour leader, Helen Clark tried to ban incandescent light bulbs, long showers, and human kindness.  The present aspiring Labour regime is promising to bring out the big ban all over again.  But bans associated with global warming are so passe.  Now the ban is going to go after the really big fish.  Labour is talking about banning the internet.

Normally one associates such draconian controls with totalitarian countries, such as China, North Korea, or Saudi Arabia.  Labour wants New Zealand to join these esteemed ranks.  This, from 3News:

The Labour Party has put forward a possible solution to force multi-national corporations to pay more tax – ban them from the internet.  It says the Government should first talk with companies like Facebook, but if that doesn’t work it is important to have a backup, something Labour is describing as a credible threat. Facebook is the world’s largest social network by far, but pays little tax here in New Zealand.  “The Government should always have in its back pocket the ability to ban websites,” says Labour revenue spokesman David Clark.

Let’s unpack this a bit.  Labour is claiming that banning websites should be a stock-in-trade power of government.  It should keep such power in its back pocket all the time.  Then, let’s consider Facebook (since it is named).  Millions of kiwis have Facebook accounts.  Since Facebook is an international conglomeration, what is really being proposed is that kiwis will have their Facebook accounts blocked by the government, not that Facebook will be banned from the internet.   New Zealanders will be banned from using Facebook. 

That would not be an attack upon Facebook; it would be an attack upon the liberties of New Zealand citizens. 

Secondly, Labour’s revenue spokesman, David Clark has a justification for such drastic totalitarian controls and abuse of power: he says paedophile sites are banned regularly:

“Paedophile websites are banned the world around,” says Mr Clark.

So, companies engaged in lawful business are guilty of crimes equivalent to paedophilia.  What subterranean world do these people inhabit, one wonders.  But no paying enough tax–that’s a crime is it not.  Well, if the government says so–but it has to say so subject to law. There are tax laws in New Zealand last time we checked.  There are also international tax treaties where nations agree how income earned across borders shall be treated and taxed. 

So either Facebook is subjected to such treaties, or it is not.  If not, then it can be legally prosecuted by any number of governments in countries where it operates.  If it is subject to such international tax agreements and it is still not paying “enough” then ordinarily countries will sit down and attempt to renegotiate the respective tax treaties.  That’s the lawful way things are done. 

Why the big brouhaha over Faceboo?.  Well financial guru, David Clark says that Facebook “made” $790,000 in New Zealand in 2012.  But, after expenses it made a loss.  So it only paid $28,000 in tax.  And the problem is . . . ?  Can our dear Mr Clark be confusing revenue and gross income with profit.  Is he really suggesting that New Zealand companies should be made to pay tax even when they are losing money and making no profits?  That’s what he is implying.  For if the principle be just with respect to Facebook, it must be equally just for the corner dairy.

Naturally, Labour’s political opponents wound up their mockery meters at this startling disemboguement from Labour’s revenue spokesman, who by any measure must be a few sandwiches short of a picnic:

But Finance Minister Bill English says “frankly, that sounds nuts”.
“Fine print, he’s going to close down Facebook,” says Prime Minister John Key. “That’ll be interesting.”


Of course this silly notion will be swatted away by lunchtime.  But it reveals a familiar mindset in Labour–the same mindset that led them to want to ban sugar, fatty foods, tobacco, light bulbs and bad breath.  Americans call it Bloombergism.  We call it Clarkism.  If Labour is elected it will soon show that it has plans–for all of us–and its most favoured tool will be “the ban”. 

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