Eduardo Saverin, co-founder of Facebook, gave up his American citizenship ahead of the company’s IPO. Saverin is Brazilian, started his company in U.S., and lives in Singapore. Despite his status as a global citizen, his “commerce first, country later” move has rankled many.
It seems like only yesterday that the Treaty of Westphalia (1648) established the idea of sovereignty (and, more importantly, nation-states). Today, we find some populations excessively proud even as they are mired in communal poverty (North Korea), while vast masses of people earn our deepest respect and sympathy when they seek out opportunity outside their borders, leaving behind homes and family. Should we not applaud those who look for something better? Would we not move for something better? Is Saverin’s move not just a natural extension of this?
It’s easy, especially as an American, to be overly proud of our country and disdainful for those, like Saverin, who we think “owe” us something. But don’t we owe him something for creating a global networking platform?
I have watched a handful of academics light up my usually dull Facebook feed over the past 24 hours with inspired debate on the issue of what Saverin owes/does not owe us and the U.S.
One academic wrote: “his seeking to avoid tax liability that might help support a community that has given him so much is not exactly admirable, and that issues of community and solidarity are missed in the neoliberal world view that praises commerce without recognizing the community structures that make commerce possible.”
His peer noted: “[He]’s more honest than [those] living in the States but dodging taxes through the Caymans or Switzerland.”
But can we actually know all the facets of his motivations? My former professor countered: “On Severin, I’d like to know more about the kinds of community involvements he prefers, and the way he sees his identity… I’m not willing to crucify this guy for not conforming to some community or national ideal; such things are full of hidden power and manipulations.”
People are complex, ideas of nations and culture are nuanced, and we should avoid trying to fit into people’s actions all of the repercussions (good, bad, lovely, ugly) of an ever-globalized world. We should instead all thank our lucky stars that we live in places that enable such mobility and have a platform that facilitates such discourse.
Finally, let’s not forget that the U.S. has an “exit tax” for just such an event as this. Saverin will pay something for the wealth amassed in U.S., and that’s no small thing.