One of the main talking points of those who argue that we need to cut taxes for rich people is that rich people will leave the country if we don’t.Why will rich people leave?
Because unlike all the irresponsible deadbeats who don’t pay much in taxes, the story goes, rich people are smart, independent, and resourceful, and they won’t stand for having their money confiscated. Instead, they’ll just move somewhere with lower tax rates. Like Monaco.
This storyline, of course, goes hand in hand with the “you didn’t build that” meme.
One of the defining themes of this year’s presidential election is the conviction of the Republican party that every individual in America is entirely responsible for his or her success in life, as compared to the conviction of the Democrats that we’re all in this together and even productive, responsible people occasionally benefit from collective well-being and shared resources.
Back in the summer, you will recall, Barack Obama tried to make the point that successful companies and entrepreneurs are successful in part because of the healthy American economic ecosystem in which they operate–an ecosystem that benefits heavily from the infrastructure and laws that the government has put in place. “You didn’t build that,” Obama said, referring, it seemed to some, to the ecosystem, not the entrepreneurs’ companies. But this phrase was seized on as evidence that Obama was trying to take credit for all entrepreneurial success and demeaning entrepreneurs and companies in the process. So this phrase became one of the most-often-repeated Republican talking points.
It is with this as a backdrop that it’s worth recalling why the richest woman in the UK, Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling, says she remains a citizen of Great Britain even though she’s now a billionaire.
The bottom line?
Rowling loves her country, and she wants her kids to grow up there. And, as someone who once depended on the safety net designed to help those going through hard times, she feels a debt to her society.
I chose to remain a domiciled taxpayer for a couple of reasons. The main one was that I wanted my children to grow up where I grew up, to have proper roots in a culture as old and magnificent as Britain’s; to be citizens, with everything that implies, of a real country, not free-floating ex-pats, living in the limbo of some tax haven and associating only with the children of similarly greedy tax exiles.
A second reason, however, was that I am indebted to the British welfare state; the very one that Mr Cameron would like to replace with charity handouts. When my life hit rock bottom, that safety net, threadbare though it had become under John Major’s Government, was there to break the fall. I cannot help feeling, therefore, that it would have been contemptible to scarper for the West Indies at the first sniff of a seven-figure royalty cheque. This, if you like, is my notion of patriotism. On the available evidence, I suspect that it is Lord Ashcroft’s idea of being a mug
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