If you’ve not heard the word ‘immoral’ frequently over recent times, then it’s fair to say you’ve either been living under a bush or in a forest in Borneo. Immoral is surely becoming the buzz word as 2012 rolls into 2013.
The failure of multinationals such as Amazon, Starbucks and Google to pay their “fair share” of tax on their UK operations is “immoral”. It’s simple: if regulation and international tax systems fail, then the companies concerned are ‘immoral’ for not paying their fair dues. Immoral because it’s tough out there and we’ve suddenly realised that the international tax system isn’t built for tax equity in the multinational age.
It’s similar with footballers and their sex lives. If a footballer’s been engaging in some extra-nocturnal activity and taken out a super injunction to block its exposure then, well, frankly, he’s got no chance because the great ‘moral’ masses will expose him on Twitter or other social media. We see that it’s important to have a say about his moral transgressions because he has the behaviour of an alley cat and resent funding his obscene pay cheque to kick a ball around.
All of this is a good omen for humankind – we have an enlightened sense of perspective about the moral hazards of extreme wealth and inequity. Perhaps whether something stands up for the public morality test is the mood music for our more cautious and puritanical times – an effective safety valve or powerful retort.
The speed at which we can expose moral wrongdoing through social media and the often poor and ill-considered reactions online, take the PAYE debacle on Starbucks blog, for example, the more ordinary people can play a greater role centre stage and force change. Moral outrage is the response to a sense of injustice that regulatory, public policy and legal sanctions are not doing enough. And social media is the drum to beat demands and measure whether the response will satisfy.
What’s crucial for those in public life is to recognise this genuine change and to become finely tuned to the morality button. Boris’s announcement last week about Google having a PR tax problem was so beautifully timed and left the Government looking like there wasn’t anyone running the country. He so perfectly tapped into our collective sense of moral outrage about Britain being done over by multinationals and the journalists reacted with aplomb. Becoming in touch with what the public think is ever more important now that we all have a far greater say in our collective destiny; making the right subsequent choices, well, that’s democracy and why we still have an electoral cycle.