Sunday, 17 May 2015

What the Hell is the Point of Richard Rohmer's E.P. Taylor?

I've got to go back over some things in E.P. Taylor -- Stan, how close are you to finishing it? -- but lemme start the discussion with this, from Diane Francis' column in the National Post, 4/5/13:

My first job in Canada was to create one or two corporations every day for the country’s richest individual and industrialist, E. P. Taylor. This was because my boss, Taylor’s tax lawyer, divided Taylor’s huge income into thousands of new corporations to pay a tiny small business income tax.

Taylor, who treated taxes like a nasty rash, created the world’s first exclusive gated tax haven, Lyford Cay in the Bahamas in 1959. Residents included author Arthur Hailey, Sean Connery, Henry Ford II, Aga Khan IV, Prince Rainier, Stavros Niarchos and Sir John Templeton, to name a few...

[This] “business” model has been copied by an offshore industry of banks, lawyers, accountants and shadowy characters that span the globe. And with Tax Spring, as the rest of us pay to politicians an inordinately high portion of our incomes, evidence has come to light that the extent of tax avoidance has become bigger than the U.S. economy itself.

See?  Unlike a single word in Richard Rohmer's E.P. Taylor, that's interesting.

Here's what I want to ask you guys: Is E.P. Taylor dull because the man E.P. Taylor is dull, or because its entire intent is so profoundly misleading?  Is obfuscation the whole point? Is that why the subject is such a cypher and why nothing connects?

Because the through line of E.P. Taylor's life (and I'm only guessing, because you wouldn't know from reading this sleeping pill) could be "this well-connected guy from a family in the beer and banking industries uses his access to capital to acquire competitors and reduce competition."  (And his access to government to influence the regulation of his industries.)  But without that thread, all you've got is a catalogue of incidents where lucky things happen to E.P. Taylor, a guileless dullard who God keeps giving tractor factories and supermarket chains and pulp and paper companies.

The last chapter -- where Rohmer dismisses out of hand the idea that evading taxes had anything to do with Taylor moving his fortune to the Bahamas -- is just one particularly egregious example.  Well, then why did he renounce his citizenship and decamp for an island with no income taxes?  Rohmer doesn't say.  Just another one of those things.

Nothing to see here.  Move along.

It's about a beer baron, and I swear you could read the opening chapters and not get that Taylor's family owned a brewery. 

So that's what I wanted to ask:  Is there a line between hagiography and nonsense?

You can tell one side of a story, but can you tell no side of a story?

If you knew anything about E.P. Taylor going in, would you be baffled, or enraged?

Is this Monty Python's cheese shop?  Is the author deliberately wasting your time?

Because it sure feels like that. 

No comments:

Post a Comment