If people like Paul Krugman get their way, we will be having this debate in America too.
And actually, it’s not much of a debate. One of the benefits of being free is you get to go wherever you want without government interference. Evidently in France, this freedom may be in jeopardy as some wealthy citizens, refusing to give the government 75% of their income, have fled France for friendlier climes.
Actor Gerard Depardieu is only the most visible individual to choose to leave. The mini-exodus has sparked a fierce debate involving “greed,” “patriotism,” and “solidarity.” Some have even questioned the actor’s morals.
The tax row sparked by Depardieu’s departure has divided France – and not simply along traditional left-right, north-south or rich-poor lines. Fans and critics have spent the last week fretting over the morality of his decision and whether concepts of patriotism and solidarity outweigh those of personal gain and perceived greed.
Even after weeks of speculation, the announcement a fortnight ago that Depardieu, 63, was moving to Belgium to take refuge from Socialist president François Hollande’s planned “temporary supertax” on earnings of more than €1m (£815,000) came as a shock to fans.
The prime minister, Jean-Marc Ayrault, described the move as “shabby”, provoking a furious response from Depardieu (“who are you calling shabby?”), and from Philippe Torreton, a leftwing, César-winning actor who lambasted his colleague in the pages of Libération. In the article, published last week, Torreton, 47, wrote: “You no longer want to be French? You are leaving the French boat in the middle of a storm? Did you think we would approve? What did you expect? A medal? An honorary César from the finance ministry?
“The prime minister considers your behaviour shabby, but you, you consider it what? Heroic? Civic? Altruistic? Tell us. We would like to know.”
Why characterize it at all? Depardieu is acting in his self-interest. Does he now need permission to do so? And in what universe is it considered greedy to want to keep your own money, your own property? He isn’t coveting anyone else’s money. How can that be considered “greed” except by someone who believes the fruits of one’s labor belong to the government?
And why is it considered “patriotic” to pay taxes? How did a concept that refers to the love one feels for country become twisted to mean love of one’s government?
It is a strange and wonderful world inhabited by leftists. An entirely new and exciting nomenclature has been created that makes forced altruism into a civic religion, government a near god-like entity, and the expression of individual liberty into a mortal sin. Depardieu probably still loves France. But the pain administered by the government of President Hollande on successful Frenchmen goes beyond any concept of patriotism. That’s because the reason for confiscating wealth relates to the incompetence and mismanagement — and miscalculation — of the welfare state. Supporting this ineptness and horrible policy making is too much for some.
And thus it will always be.