While on the subject of economic and cultural Armageddon...
Yes, I voted 'remain' in the EU referendum. But I find the antics of the rabid anti-Brexiteers incomprehensible. Every day we are inundated with scaremongering about the possible negative impacts on the economy and employment of the UK's exit from the EU. But there is not a single word from these activists about the disastrous here-and-now impact of online commerce on the global economy and employment.
Livelihoods in both small and large urban retail enterprises have been shattered by predatory online retailers, with poster child Amazon - market value $1 trillion (£779bn) - leading the charge. Widespread store closures are blighting city centres, leaving the door wide open to social unrest. Then there is the cultural cost. Anti-Brexiteers are very keen to speculate about the negative impacts of leaving the EU on the small but important geographically mobile group at the top of the arts food chain. But these activists resolutely ignore the major here-and-now negative impact of online retailing on the much wider and less peripatetic base of the food chain. Internet businesses now effectively control music and book distribution - in 2017 Amazon had a 45.5% market share of US print book sales. This gives online retailers and streaming services control over musicians' and authors' incomes, and over consumer choice.
Disruptive technology change may be unstoppable. But the privileged tax position enjoyed by online corporations can be stopped - in 2016 Amazon paid just £15m in tax on European revenues of £19.5bn. During last year's BBC Proms season Daniel Barenboim gave an impromptu speech advocating European unity. It would have been refreshing if that speech had been followed this year by one from him advocating unity with all those in Europe and elsewhere who have lost their livelihood, or whose livelihood is threatened, by the uncontrolled and marginally-taxed growth of online commerce. But, of course, the music industry has never been keen to bite the hand that feeds it.
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