It turns out that not everyone who is French is a Socialist, wealth-redistributing hack. Amongst the sane is legendary French actor Gerard Depardieu, who has rejected this position not solely because of taxes but rather because France has chosen to punish "...success, creation, talent." Americans are following suit.
France's new president, Francois Hollande, and his Socialist government is imposing a 75% marginal tax rate on income over 1 million Euros, or $1.3 million. Depardieu has decided to move to neighboring Belgium, which has no personal income tax. He purchased a home in the neighboring town of Nechin. 25% of the town's residents are French nationals.
It's like people from California moving to Texas. Only closer.
French politicians immediately moved to vilify the star. Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault called Depardieu's move as "pathetic" and "unpatriotic." Depardieu responded in a letter to le Journal du Dimanche:
Pathetic, you said pathetic? How pathetic is that?...I am leaving because you believe that success, creation, talent, anything different must be sanctioned
America held an election on whether to raise taxes on the wealthy to pay for our gluttonous ways. Class warfare was the centerpiece of Obama's campaign, with wealth (and the wealthy) being vilified at every turn. The now-defunct Occupy movement contributed the concept of the 99% vs. the evil 1%, a new twist on the Marxist lie of the bourgeoisie and the proletariat. (Not to say that it's the only Marxist lie. Everything Marx said was a lie!)
While class warfare won the day, many Americans (especially small business owners who have worked hard and achieved some level of success) are left with a bitter aftertaste. President Obama's odd claim of "You didn't build that" and his objective of "spread[ing] the wealth around" along with his (unsolicited) opinion that at some point "you've made enough money" unsurprisingly elicited the wrath of many hard-working Americans.
What we see in Depardieu is the coming to fruition of what so many have been saying -- if the Takers keep taking, the Makers will stop making. In Belgium, Depardieu has found his version of Galt's Gulch. In the United States, citizens are leaving in record numbers, in search of theirs. An estimated 8,000 Americans will leave the US in 2012, up from 3,800 in 2011.
According to the Heritage Foundation, the United States ranks 10th in economic freedom, behind Hong Kong, Switzerland and Australia. Hell, even Canada ranks #6 on the 2012 list. Socialist Canada is more economically free than the United States. But the move out of the United States, like Depardieu's move out of France, is about far more than money.
No one likes to feel like a slave, and no one likes to actually be a slave. Yet this is the inevitable result of class warfare, and the progressive claim on culture. As Thomas Sowell wrote, "Not since the days of slavery have there been so many people who feel entitled to what other people have produced as there are in the modern welfare state, whether in Western Europe or on this side of the Atlantic."
The American Makers and Depardieu proves that the desire to live free does not derive from government, but from our innate desire to choose our own path. That, "...success, creation, talent," should be celebrated when achieved, and seen as something to strive towards to better one's life. Depardieu summed up the values of the American way, that is, to say, the values of the free man:
"We no longer have the same homeland," Depardieu said. "I no longer have any reason to stay here. I will continue to love the French and this public that I have shared so much emotion with."
"Who are you to judge me, I ask you Mr Ayrault, prime minister of Mr Hollande? Despite my excesses, my appetite and my love of life, I remain a free man,"
The human spirit craves freedom and respect. Even in France.