Edited by Samuel Cogolati and Jan Wouters
Paying a Fair Share?
Edited by Richard Eccleston and Ainsley Elbra
Richard Eccleston and Ainsley Elbra
Economic liberalisation and the rise of MNCs in recent decades have been a double-edged sword. With the exception of the 2008 Financial Crisis and its aftermath, the rise of global capitalism has been a key driver of economic growth and technological innovation, but at the same time has undermined state sovereignty and exacerbated inequality (Mikler 2018). Nowhere has this dualism been more apparent than in the realm of corporate taxation, which has become a prime example of what Martin Wolf (2012) describes as a ‘contemporary tragedy of the global commons’. The ‘tragedy’ is such that MNC tax avoidance is now estimated to deny governments over a quarter of a trillion US dollars per year, and after years of ignoring the issue governments and firms are being forced to act (Clausing 2015; OECD 2015).
Ainsley Elbra and Richard Eccleston
Blatant corporate tax avoidance has attracted the ire of politicians, citizens and consumers the world over in recent years. Since the financial crisis of 2008, international taxation has become a mainstream political issue championed by social justice campaigners and the progressive press the world over. Globally, governments and intergovernmental organisations have announced a range of reforms designed to ensure that MNCs pay their ‘fair share’ of tax, while some of the world’s most powerful and profitable firms have been subjected to multibillion-dollar fines.
Chapter 4 discusses the governance of markets, and more specifically the finance market and the finance industry. Using two cases, the securities market and the commodities trade market, the chapter examines how the finance industry has persistently lobbied to accomplish the de-regulation that has benefitted its interests. In the case of the expansion of the securities market, externalities in terms of predatory lending by thinly capitalized, late market entrants resulted in overbearing systemic risks, leading to the global finance industry collapse in 2008. In the case of commodities trade, to date less attended to by media and commentators, major finance industry actors are simultaneously granted the licence to both trade with commodities and issue financial instruments that enable speculation on commodities price volatility. Such licences are most likely to result in systemic risks whose cost are carried by third parties, in many cases some of the world’s poorest people suffering from soaring food prices when commodities become subject to speculation. The chapter concludes that the finance industry generates net economic welfare only when being monitored by state agencies and transnational agencies, and when its right to conduct business upstream is limited.
Chapter 1 introduces governance as a legal issue, ultimately grounded in the philosophy of right, a branch of philosophy. Early legal theorists such as Hugo Grotius sketched versions of what is today called governance, and there is today a line of demarcation drawn between liberal economies of the Anglo-American type, and continental and Scandinavian embedded economies wherein the state is recognized as a major agent influencing the economic system. The chapter discusses the differences between John Locke’s liberal view of, e.g., ownership rights, and George Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel’s philosophy of right, developed 14 decades later. Whereas Locke emphasizes a “minimal theory” of ownership rights, serving as the foundation for liberalism, Hegel too recognizes ownership as a fundamental right but locates ownership rights within the realm of the state. Consequently, the intellectual roots of liberal economies and embedded economies share certain assumptions but also diverge regarding assumptions about the role of the state. The second half of the chapter examines the creation of the Berle–Means firm, a key legal vehicle in the liberal economy and in its governance.
Chapter 2 examines the components of the shareholder primacy governance model that has dominated corporate governance scholarship since the early 1980s. Tracing the roots of the economic theory that justifies shareholder governance to the cold war era and what has been called cold war rationality, the chapter stresses how rational choice theory has informed corporate governance through, e.g., agency theory and other economic theories stipulating instrumental rationality as a privileged analytical model. The cold war heritage has been criticized for overstating experimental data and for ignoring rational responses from experimental subjects, resulting in an overtly negative view of human decision making capacities. When transferring such analytical models to, e.g., corporate governance affairs, salaried managers, e.g., are at risk of being portrayed in unfavourable ways to justify the market for management control, in turn resulting in shareholder primacy governance. The chapter concludes that the efficiency criterion that economic theory stipulates is too one-dimensional to serve its purpose and calls for novel analytical models to better assist corporate governance activities.
Chapter 3 examines the governance of the university sector, and stresses how, e.g., the uses of “big data” and algorithms in what is referred to as algorithm governance is now commonplace to commensurate heterogeneous entities, a process integral to market making. The chapter discusses “the politics of measuring,” now pervading all spheres of social life, resulting in new metrics being constitutive of agency. Using the specific case of credit rating on the basis of so-called FICO-scores, determining degrees of creditworthiness in American society, the politics of measuring is today an ongoing and ceaseless control mechanism. The second half of the chapter examines university ranking, another case of measurement to determine the status and position of higher education institutions. The chapter concludes that contemporary university governance is riddled with problems and inconsistencies, not least the problem of handling reactivity, agents’ rent-seeking work within existing governance models.