Actor Depardieu Says “Au Revoir” to Native France Over Taxes

Like it or not, Ayn Rand and her famous novel "Atlas Shrugged" will always be critical elements of American literary lore. I’ve read most of the book and have watched the first segment of the film series via Netflix. It’s intriguing and makes you think about public policy, that’s for sure. While I find it to be a bit heavy-handed and dismissive of the working class (at least in what I’ve consumed thus far), I think its underlying message is useful: Don’t punish success.

At any rate, famous French actor Gerard Depardieu is said to be "going Galt" by relocating to Belgium due to France’s 75% income tax on top earners — an egregious amount by any standard. The Cato Institute’s blog relays:

Few Frenchmen are more recognizable at home and abroad than the movie star Gerard Depardieu. Last week, Depardieu caused a great controversy in his native land by moving to Belgium – partly to avoid the 75 percent income tax on the wealthy that was introduced by the socialist President of France, Francois Hollande. Depardieu’s move was condemned by the French political establishment, including the Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault who called the actor’s action “pathetic.”

Depardieu shot back and, in an open letter to Monsieur Ayrault, wrote, “I’m leaving because you think success, creation, talent and anything different should be punished. I am sending you back my passport and social security, which I have never used.” The French actor claims to have “paid 85 percent taxes on his revenues this year [2012] and estimated that he had paid €145m ($189m) in total since he started work as a printer at the age of 14.”

The lessons from Monsieur Hollande’s debacle should be obvious. The rich are a mobile lot and there are plenty of countries that will welcome them with open arms. The British Prime Minister David Cameron, for example, has promised to “roll out a red carpet” for the French tax refuges. Moreover, as my colleague Alan Reynolds reminds us, high tax rates on income may discourage many wealthy people from remaining in the labor force, since, to use economic jargon, their elasticity of taxable income is much higher than that of low and middle income earners. Translated into English, people like me have to work even if our tax rates go up, because we have to come up with money to pay our mortgages, student loans, etc. The rich people don’t.

The French government was warned of the negative consequences of tax increases. It chose to ignore those warnings. Instead, the French socialists assumed that they could go on plucking the golden goose indefinitely. (Then again, the socialist grasp on reality has never been very good.) Of course, when idiotic policies backfire, politicians feign surprise and then shift the blame onto others. Thus, French Labor Minister Michel Sapin asked in a radio interview “What is more normal than those who earn enormous amounts of money paying lots of tax?” The French Culture and Communication Minister Aurelie Filippetti bemoaned Depardieu’s action by stating that “We shouldn’t be receiving moral lessons from people who abandon the battlefield when we need everyone to be mobilized.”

So, there you have it. A great actor who started with nothing and built a spectacular career that revived the French movie industry and filled the coffers of the French state is condemned for finally standing up for himself by a member of parasitic political elite that has brought a great country to the edge of fiscal ruin. Straight out of Ayn Rand’s novel.

“Atlas Shrugged” Film to Hit Theaters Around Tax Day

I’m assuming many of the readers of this blog are Ayn Rand fans, or at least are aware of her work. While the idea has been kicked around for years — and likely decades — a film version of "Atlas Shrugged" is slated to hit theaters on April 15.

While I don’t personally subscribe to her entire philosophy of Objectivism, or her seemingly blanket rejection of any sort of a "collective," I do think her themes and warnings of overarching state abuse and its impact on the business community are noteworthy for our purposes.

The film will be released in three parts. And its fan site busts a few myths about its production, as well. Watch the trailer and let us know if you’re enthused:

Economic Redistribution: How Far is Too Far?

Adam Lerrick’s Ayn Rand-ish column in the Wall Street Journal asks a very valid question: How much economic redistribution will the American taxpayer take? From a business perspective, how much can American employers tolerate before the country sees a painful — perhaps even more crippling — backlash? Are we about to find out?

Calculating how far society’s top earners can be pushed before they stop (or cut back on) producing is difficult. But the incentives are easy to see. Voters who benefit from government programs will push for higher tax rates on higher earners — at least until those who power the economy and create jobs and wealth stop working, stop investing, or move out of the country.

Other nations have tried the ideology of fairness in the place of incentives and found that reward without work is a recipe for decline. In the late 1970s and throughout the 1980s, Margaret Thatcher took on the unions and slashed taxes to restore growth and jobs in Great Britain. In Germany a few years ago, Social Democrat Gerhard Schroeder defied his party’s dogma and loosened labor’s grip on the economy to end stagnation. And more recently in France, Nicolas Sarkozy was swept to power on a platform of restoring flexibility to the economy.

The sequence is always the same. High-tax, big-spending policies force the economy to lose momentum. Then growth in government spending outstrips revenues. Fiscal and trade deficits soar. Public debt, excessive taxation and unemployment follow. The central bank tries to solve the problem by printing money. International competitiveness is lost and the currency depreciates. The system stagnates. And then a frightened electorate returns conservatives to power.

The economic tides will not stand still while Washington experiments with European-type social democracy, even though the dollar’s role as the global reserve currency will buy some time. Our trademark competitive advantage will be lost, and once lost, it will be hard to regain. There are too many emerging economies focused on prosperity and not redistribution for the U.S. to easily recapture its role of global economic leader.

No word yet from John Galt on the matter.