Tabby Kinder and Emma Agyemang (“It’s a matter of fairness”, FT Big Read, July 8) describe the collapse of effective taxation on corporations and the wealthiest people of the world. This is added to the articles, and letters you have published received on the failures of auditors to catch fraud, such as in the Wirecard case and letters from David Tennant (July 6) and Randolph M. Siverson (July 9).
It appears from general studies of tax evasion that most of such evasion can be classified as fraud and while much is now not considered illegal without specific proof of intent, this is simply an excuse (Jonathan Ford and Tabby Kinder, “After Wirecard: is it time to audit the auditors?”, July 4).
Ibn Khaldoun, the 14th century Arab scholar and the first person to create a theory of gross domestic product, included in his formula the degree of justice in a society. This idea of fairness as a basis for economic health was also promoted by Adam Smith. Critics of Milton Friedman have often cited his book Capitalism and Freedom as giving license to an immoral and near-criminal type of corporate behaviour.
But it is obvious from reading Friedman that he was not making such an argument. His work promotes the idea of fair dealings and honesty.
Today our society is racked by a general lack of virtue. Such a system cannot stand as any producer or customer will never know who to trust. If we come to assume that one company has a good reputation today, a new CEO may destroy that in a day and with it any wealth it once contained. A culture of virtue, as Abraham Briloff demonstrated in Unaccountable Accounting, may never have existed, yet promoting a sham version can only make matters worse.
Department of Anthropology,
San Francisco State University
San Francisco, CA, US
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