I've been having trouble with Tiscali, my ISP, lately and wrote an email to their customer support people just after Christmas. Unusually, they replied the next day to tell me that 'yes, your local broadband circuit is near to full capacity and we have booked a local upgrade that will take place in 14 days'.
Now, the fact that my ISP has been delivering me 1960's acoustic coupled modem speeds at a 21st century broadband price is probably of little interest to anyone except me, but it got me thinking …
How would Tiscali feel if I wrote to them saying that my monthly payment would be delivered 14 days late or that, due to high levels of demand in my area, I would only be able to pay 20% of their charge this month? Presumably they wouldn’t be too chuffed. Nor would they be over the moon if they had to make ten telephone calls to me on premium rate lines to chase up that payment.
But it's not just Tiscali is it? Miss a plane by five minutes and the airline will screw you royally. However, if it decides to delay your flight by a few hours or cancel it altogether the airline will, um, screw you royally. Ditto for banks. And credit card companies. And insurance companies. And pretty much any company really. Peculiarly for supposed democracies, companies always seem to have the law on their side rather than the individual. Companies also possess the economies of scale to enable them to employ people whose sole function is to jerk you around whenever they make a mistake.
- pay lower tax rates
- can set aside expenses against their income when paying those lower tax rates
- are immortal and therefore, ultimately, can aim to outlive anyone making a claim against them provided they can string out the process long enough
- find out the name of the parent company Finance Director, then
- fill out a small claims form with his name at the top, then
- fax a copy to the company head office with a note saying I'll be popping the claim in the post to the court the next day
Yes, it's great being a company. They have all the upsides of being people with none of the down. Like us mere mortals, they too can have personalities, travel the world, even sire families. About the only thing they can’t do is vote but, with all the money they save on their taxes, they usually have enough put aside to cut out the middleman and buy politicians direct.
An excellent recent example in the UK was the proposed introduction of legislation to permit enormous super casinos in the UK. In my entire life I have never heard anyone else in this country bemoan the lack of domestic super casinos. No political party has even placed such a suggestion in a manifesto. Yet, somehow, this proposal appeared from nowhere. The estimated £100m spent on 'lobbying', i.e. free holidays and jig-a-jig, politicians possibly, just possibly, had something to do with it.
But I digress.
As a philosophical point, even if humankind were ever to conquer death we would probably be well-advised to reinvent it all over again. Think about who would benefit if such technology were ever available. The richest, the most powerful, the downright naughtiest of our kind. Death is a winner. No matter how cruel the tyrant , how crazed the despot, he is always guaranteed to pop his clogs in the end. Having said that, when was the last time you heard of a head of state or CEO of a corporation dying prematurely? They live longer than the rest of us anyway and, until a time comes when these people can extend their lives even further, companies and other large organisations offer a form of ersatz immortality.
Yes, I have decided to incorporate myself. Stef plc would have the potential to live forever and be able to set the cost of its lunches, mortgage payments and toothpaste against its already significantly reduced tax bills. Anyone calling me would have to do so through a premium rate telephone number and I could perform all of my secondary bodily functions in low-rent 3rd world countries, attended by a dirt cheap work force. How can I lose?