brooke harrington has committed no crime

It is very unfortunate that an American sociologist working in Denmark, Brooke Harrington, has become entangled in immigration law. She is being charged with a criminal violation for giving lectures within Denmark. From Inside Higher Education:

Harrington’s research is controversial in that it deals with tax loopholes and offshore accounts of kind documented in the so-called Panama Papers. Yet that isn’t what Danish officials find problematic. Citing a series of lectures Harrington delivered — ironically — to members of the Danish Parliament, Danish tax authorities and a law class at the University of Copenhagen this year and last, they’ve charged her with working outside her university and therefore the parameters of her work permit.

Denmark has taken a relatively hard line against immigrants in recent years. The charges against Harrington are notable, however, in that she is an internationally recognized scholar, not a refugee or a low-skill worker — those who are more typically criticized in the country. Her case is also part of a bigger reported crackdown on foreign academics sharing their research in Denmark.  Some 14 foreign researchers across Denmark’s eight public universities have been accused of violating their work permits on similar grounds, according to Politiken, a major newspaper.

Harrington faces $2,000 in fines and a much bigger problem: paying up simply to move on would mean admitting to a crime, with major repercussions for the rest of her career. Job applications and even travel visas often have a box asking whether one has ever been convicted of a crime, she said. There’s little room for nuance in answering a yes-or-no question, Harrington added, so “yes” applications typically get tossed in what she called “the round bin.”

Yes, I completely agree with  Harrington’s supporters. She should not face criminal charges and they should immediately be dropped. I also urge that people should reconsider the strict work permit laws that exist in many countries. The state should not place these sort of regulations on work. A moral and just society does not impose arcane and arbitrary rules on how a person can earn a living, or where than can give paid lectures, and that applies to natives as well as migrants. If you feel that Professor Harrington has been treated unfairly, then you will easily understand how such strict rules curtail the freedom of millions around the world. Let’s support Professor Harrington and let’s support the right of people in general to live and work as they please.

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Written by fabiorojas

November 30, 2017 at 5:01 am

5 Responses

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  1. It would be ironic if her (paid) side gigs were not reported to Danish tax authorities. While I’ve not read anything suggesting that to be the case, academics in particular, have an easy time moving their income from high tax to low tax jurisdiction.


    Prof West

    November 30, 2017 at 12:59 pm

  2. Dear Prof. West,
    Three things:
    1) Giving invited lectures to the government is not a “side gig”–it’s part of my job, as mandated by the Danish universities law.

    2) It would not be “ironic” if I failed to report any honoraria I received to the tax authorities–the correct term would be “idiotic.” The reason you have not read any suggestion that I failed to pay tax is that I did pay tax on any honoraria I received: that is one of the very first things the immigration authorities would check.

    3) Your claim that academics have “an easy time moving their income from high tax to low tax jurisdiction (sic)” is absurd.

    Sincerely yours,
    Brooke Harrington

    Liked by 2 people

    Brooke Harrington

    November 30, 2017 at 8:04 pm

  3. Interesting you think it absurd. Yes, academics have an easier time than other professionals, since the work we produce may be done at a different time & location than where delivery of a particular service is performed. I may take a modest per diem for delivering a lecture overseas, but charge the sponsoring organization for my preparation. or I can vary the mix between these prices depending on local tax law. Transfer pricing isn’t very interesting or innovative, but is easier to do than I suppose for a Doctor who is performing a discrete service at a discrete location.



    Prof West

    November 30, 2017 at 9:00 pm

  4. Dear Dr. West,
    Transfer pricing schemes work well for corporations that have local banking services available in the low(er) tax jurisdictions where they do business. But that’s not how individual academics work. Unless the organization paying for your services provides compensation in cash, or pays to an offshore account, or pays directly into a local bank account in the jurisdiction where the services are delivered–circumstances which range from unheard-of to highly unusual–it’s difficult to see how the scheme you describe would work for professors giving guest lectures.
    Brooke Harrington

    Liked by 1 person

    Brooke Harrington

    November 30, 2017 at 10:08 pm

  5. […] Last week, news outlets revealed that sociologist Brooke Harrington, an academic living in Denmark, … Her work permit prohibits paid work aside from teaching position. Her supporters have set up a GoFundMe page to help defer her legal costs. You can find it here. In addition to assisting a fellow sociologist, this is another way to resist migration restrictions. Any amount will help. […]


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