“Despite my excesses, my appetite and my love for life, I am a free man.” Gerard Depardieu, December 2012
In 2012, the French government extracted 44 per cent of gross domestic product in tax revenues. This is ten percentage points above the OECD average. Yet, the newly-formed Socialist government of Francois Hollande has hiked tax rates yet further, imposing a new top rate of income-tax of 75 per cent and taxing investment incomes so heavily that some investors are receiving negative returns (i.e. the effective tax rate exceeds 100 per cent).
In a series of Asterix cartoons, super-human strength enabled Obelix to carry seriously heavy burdens. Gerard Depardieu, the famous once-French actor, played that over-sized Gaul in the movies characterizing those cartoons. However, Depardieu, like Atlas, has now shrugged. He has crossed the border from France to Belgium, locating himself one mile on the right side of tax freedom, and lowering his effective marginal income tax rate by some 25 per cent and eliminating additional punitive taxes on his accumulated wealth.
That is Gerard Depardieu’s definition of freedom. Exit indeed is more powerful than voice in a country that is corrupted by envy and a lack of work ethic among the majority of its slothful population. Ayn Rand identified and ridiculed that disease more than 50 years ago.
The French government, far from rethinking the revenue-raising efficiency of its tax hikes, has pursued Gerard in a moralistic manhunt. The Prime Minister, Jean-Marc Ayrault called his departure ‘pathetic’ and deplored the great actor’s ‘lack of patriotism’. The Culture Minister, Aurelie Filiippetti, claimed to be ‘totally scandalized’. Bernard Cazeneuve, the Europe Minister, complained ‘when a country has given you a lot, there are moments when you must give a bit back’.
‘A bit’ is not exactly how Gerard Depardieu sees it. Having commenced work as a printer at the age of 14, he has amassed a fortune by hard, successful work. He has paid E145 million in taxes over 45 years. Angered by the abuse spilling out from Paris, he has now surrendered his French passport, and rejected all his social security remittances from France.
This great Belgian now resembles the world’s greatest detective (in his own judgment) Hercule Poirot, in his love for a small less envious country, that treats him well and that provides refuge for him against a rapacious government.
BRAVO Gerard Depardieu. May many other wealthy Frenchmen follow suit in defense of their imprescriptible rights to their own property. Remember that the British Prime Minister, David Cameron, also stands by with a red carpet to welcome to the shores of Albion rich Frenchmen yearning for a similar freedom. And Britain’s top rate of income tax is a full 5 percentage points lower than that of Belgium!
Hat Tip: ‘Adieu Obelix’, The Economist, December 22, 2012