By: Savan Reddy, Contributor
We’ve all heard of the great Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon, and the enormous amount of riches that he has produced. However, in recent times, his morality has greatly come into question, namely his avoidance of taxes. Now, don’t get me wrong, his rags-to-riches story is certainly remarkable, but how “good” or “right” is it can definitely be debated. I will be using Kant’s moral philosophy to deduct whether or not Bezos’ actions are morally correct. To Kant, a “good” action is one which is based upon a goodwill and not one motivated by external rewards or pleasures.
Kantian ethics states that a certain action can only be deemed to be “good” if the motivation behind it is due to a moral law. The key idea of Kant’s moral law is the categorical imperative, which was introduced in his 1785 essay, Groundwork of the Metaphysics of the Morals. In layman’s terms, you should only act if it makes sense for you to will everyone else to act in the same way. For example, if you are tempted to lie, ask yourself: would you want to live in a world where you will everyone to lie. In such a world, the barrier between truth and lies would break down and I’m sure you wouldn’t want to live in such a place.
Jeff Bezos made $5.6 billion in profits in 2017 and paid no income tax. According to Alyssa Pagano and Steve Kovach of Business Insider, Amazon used a variety of legal tax credits and tax exemptions built into the U.S Federal Tax Code such as the research and development tax credit. Furthermore, Amazon really took advantage of the 1992 Supreme Court case, Quill Corp. v. North Dakota which prevented states from collecting sales tax from e-commerce companies.
There are many arguments as to whether what Jeff Bezos is doing is morally correct or not. Technically speaking, most of his tax exemptions have been legal and some people argue that the government should not be involved in private business. Regardless of whether Amazon’s avoidance of tax is legal or not, is it morally correct? If 325.7 million people paid federal income tax, then why shouldn’t amazon? What if everybody avoided paying tax? I’m sure many people would love to avoid it but how beneficial will that be for the country? In a conclusion based solely on Kant’s categorical imperative, Amazon’s avoidance of tax is inherently wrong.
What do you think? Is Bezos justified because he acts within the law? Is he not?