Depardieu goes Galt?

posted at 8:51 am on December 17, 2012 by Ed Morrissey

Not exactly, although I love Instapundit’s headline.  Going Galt means removing your talents from the world altogether until the world comes to its senses.  The French film icon has instead decided to continue providing the world his talents, but for the future having a Belgian address from which to provide them:

Gérard Depardieu has said he is handing back his French passport and social security card, lambasting the French government for punishing “success, creation, talent” in his homeland.

A popular and colourful figure in France, the 63-year-old actor is the latest wealthy Frenchman to seek shelter outside his native country by buying a house just over the border in Belgium in response to tax increases by the Socialist president, François Hollande.

The prime minister, Jean-Marc Ayrault, described Depardieu’s behaviour as pathetic and unpatriotic at a time when the French are being asked to pay higher taxes to reduce a bloated national debt.

“Pathetic, you said pathetic? How pathetic is that?” Depardieu said in a letter to the weekly newspaper le Journal du Dimanche.

“I am leaving because you believe that success, creation, talent, anything different must be sanctioned,” he said.

The arguments in this dispute are very revealing.  Depardieu’s critics in France are heaving volcanoes of emotion, tossing out accusations of unpatriotism and “pathetic” selfishness.  Depardieu, on the other hand, offers the rational argument that (a) he has the resources to choose his tax regime, (b) he has no particular reason to fund Hollande’s socialist tax policies, so (c) he’s moving to Belgium.

To paraphrase from a movie in which Depardieu did not appear — it’s not personal, mon cher.  It’s business.  Except, of course, the French government wants to make it personal.  They want to appeal to patriotism, as if anyone ever pledges allegiance to a tax code, precisely because they can’t win the argument on either rationality or business.  Hiking taxes in France will do exactly what it will do in the US — force the wealthy who are already providing the lion’s share of income-tax revenue to decide whether to stay put, push capital into markets where it’s welcomed rather than punished, and drive revenues down instead of up when the economy declines as a result of both.

So no, Depardieu isn’t going Galt.  He’s simply choosing a better market for his capital.

And one last question, prompted by the commenters in our Headline thread: What government in history has ever “asked” its citizens to pay taxes?


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