Wednesday, February 20, 2002

It used to be that Delaware was the place that corporations maintained paper headquarters. But who wants to winter in Delaware?

The hot new health spot for the truly fashionable corporate maildrop is Bermuda, where your shareholder proxies and official correspondance can enjoy sandy beaches, palm trees waving in the breeze, and no corporate income tax. As the New York Times reports:

Kate Barton, an Ernst & Young tax partner, said that incorporating in Bermuda "is a megatrend we are seeing in the marketplace right now." Many corporations that are planning the move have not yet announced it, she said.

In a Webcast to clients, Ms. Barton cited patriotism as the only potentially troubling issue that corporations consider before moving to Bermuda, and she said that profits trumped patriotism.

"Is it the right time to be migrating a corporation's headquarters to an offshore location?" she asked. "And yet, that said, we are working through a lot of companies who feel that it is, that just the improvement on earnings is powerful enough that maybe the patriotism issue needs to take a back seat to that."

Well, at least they have to think about it.

But let's not get the impression that American companies aren't committed to American values. American companies are seeding Internet technology throughout China, for example, allowing for free communication. Or something like that...

Yahoo! was particularly eager to please. All Chinese chat rooms or discussion groups have a "big mama," a supervisor for a team of censors who wipe out politically incorrect comments in real time. Yahoo! handles things differently. If in the midst of a discussion you type, "We should have nationwide multiparty elections in China!!" no one else will react to your comment. How could they? It appears on your screen, but only you and Yahoo!'s big mama actually see your thought crime. After intercepting it and preventing its transmission, Mother Yahoo! then solicitously generates a friendly e-mail suggesting that you cool your rhetoric--censorship, but with a New Age nod to self-esteem.

Of course, Yahoo's not the only American company serving China's unique needs; Cisco sells custom-configured routers, with specially tweaked firewall software to make it easy for the government to meet its unique needs. Like preventing their citizens from reading such "politically sensitive websites" as CNN.

So this is how free markets promote freedom, and corporate America defends American values.

Greed is an American value, right?

(See also Joshua Marshall's and Ginger Stampley's takes on the Bermuda tax angle, and the Slashdot discussion of the Great Firewall of China).


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