Business On-Line

I've gone into the internet tutorial business to make a little extra money. Armed with a web-cam and a microphone, I can teach undergraduates or sixth-formers for the money cost of my time and the additional price of their having to stare at my online face for an hour--for which, I suppose, I should reduce the fee. There does seem to be a lot of work out there for Saturday mornings and the evenings.

I was thinking of this today (and yes, I know it's bad for my health) when I wandered onto the website of Mrs Mary Rosamund Hilda Honeyball MEP, late of this blog. She is depicted with her colleagues at the top of the post. You can search for most of my car-crash encounters with my soi-disant representative in Brussels in the archive. By some bizarre alchemy, she usually gets the best of things, largely by doing nothing and not responding.

Mary is supporting a campaign for 'fairness' in online selling. As far as I can make out, some of the commentators want e-bay regulated; e-bay wants high street stores and chains to put their stock online; and Mary wants 'fairness' in selling.

For what its worth, I think the internet should be regulated only by two things. You should be able to verify the name and identity of the person from who you buy, or who communicates with you, or the system by which you communicate should do it. You should also know that you buy at a price you find acceptable and which the seller wants. Thats it. No regulations, no fuss, no tax bureaucracy. That is what the internet promises.

If you want fairness in the competition between small businesses, or for that matter any business on the high street, and the internet, here's what you need to do;

slash taxes, regulations, restrictions, and property company privateering on the high street.

Currently, a 'non-online' business has to meet a huge number of employment regulations. Owners have to pay for complex VAT, serviced office, corporate rent, or Company tax charges. They have to employ more people than an internet operation, and are (rightly, often) restricted in how long they can stay open. Often, their properties are owned by big, conglomerate property companies that have no clue about, and no interest in, their business.

One, local sales tax. One, flat income tax, with no exceptions. A link between land and the business done on it. And a scaling back and abolition of other taxes. That would be fair. Calling chalk cheese, and interfering even more, would not be.

Then again, the west is burning at the minute at both ends, and will probably only learn this lesson too late. Here's another Rocky video, in which Mr Balboa holds forth on the pursuit of happiness and Lockean contract theory, quite convincingly I might add.

UPDATE: Before you say it, by the way, I think high street chains, either via land banks or price-fixing, do need to be investigated and punished if any unjustifiable price fixing appears. That doesn't require more regulations, however, just enforcement of the rules. The internet, especially when based around auctions, functions in those circumstances as a cut out, but a risky one--remember the icelandic banks? Cheaper, but riskier. Adults ought to accept that. The world can be mean, people are fallen, and you have sometimes to take risks--in fact, you do every time you step out.

By the same token, you can't force a duck to be a cat, and you can't force the high street to be online if it can't be or doesn't want to be. There are times when I wish consumer political styles, and consumer politics, would just go away....


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