Thus, Starbucks promises that it will voluntarily increase the amount of tax that it pays to the British treasury, even if the company is running at a loss. Why? Because Starbucks has “learned it is vital to listen closely to our customers,” and Starbucks’s customers are among the huge swaths of the British public that, having bought lazily into the notion that corporations do not pay “enough” in income tax, never stop to think what that actually means. As David Giampaolo and Geoffrey Wood asked in the Guardian last week, “Why is it unethical to comply with the law? That is precisely what anyone who claims a company is immoral if it legally minimizes its tax is saying.”
It’s certainly not unethical to comply with British tax law. But that doesn’t really matter, providing that the usual suspects have a chance to put together a good protest and get it all out of their system. What matters is that Starbucks has fallen for the ruse. Engskov might well be “surprised” at the hullabaloo, but, by indulging such follies, he has ensured that there will be an awful lot more surprises in the company’s future — something of which its employees, shareholders, and customers might want to take note.
The City of London did. This “is the first time I have seen public opinion make a company change its mind,” said Chris Morgan of the financial-services giant KPMG. Perhaps so. But not, one suspects, the last time. After all, who needs Parliament when you can just allow the mob to pass its “moral” judgment and then wait for everyone to cave in under its threats? Who needs economics, either? How dare you oppose President Obama’s health-care plan? Just shut up — and then cough up, or we’ll picket your joint and give you bad reviews.