If you've been hiding under a rock and haven't heard, France's new socialist president is promising to tax the rich at an astounding 75% rate (over a certain amount of income).
Beyond this shocking scheme sounding like Obama's wet dream, the French tax deal has me once again thinking about Big Ideas, particularly an almost forgotten concept today: economic liberty...
Big Idea: Economic Freedom
For the life of me, I have never understood why the left doesn't understand that economic liberty -- read: being able to retain one's earnings, pursue goals and dreams without constant danger of having one's property stolen by mob force -- is vital to human liberty.
The Founders understood this quite well. In fact, the phrase, "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness" in the Declaration of Independence comes directly from British philosopher John Locke's belief that man had a natural right to defend his “Life, health, Liberty, or Possessions."
Locke's philosophy was a guiding light to much of the Founders' vision, thus, although Jefferson removed "possessions" or "property" from the phrase, "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness," his intent and that of the Founders remains: that property and material wealth are an inseparable component to the overall concept of individual liberty.
From the Future of Freedom Foundation:
With the publication of the Declaration of Independence in 1776, however, the centuries-old notion that government is the source of people’s rights was swept away. It is nature and nature’s God, not government, Jefferson wrote, that is the real source of people’s rights. Government exists by the consent of the people, not the other way around.
Such rights as life, liberty, property, and the pursuit of happiness are natural and inherent to the individual — they are fundamental to his very being. Government’s purpose, as the Declaration expresses, is to protect, but not regulate or destroy, the exercise of those fundamental rights. And when government violates that mandate, the people have the right to alter their government or even abolish it, in extreme cases through violent revolution.
Economic liberty is as elementary and perhaps even more important to the dynamics of human liberty as the right to practice one's faith without government constraint. Even our vaunted and sacrosanct freedom of speech may take a slight backseat to economic liberty. "Liberals" (who are actually society's most illiberal folks today) and unfortunately many "conservatives," who are just statists of a different stripe, do not grasp nor accept the concept of economic freedom. Conservatives and Republicans talk a good talk but their actions over decades have given us crony capitalism. Although the left and Democrats push the evils of socialism, crony capitalism is just as bad for our market freedoms and individual economic liberty.
Our culture and world will change when it is understood and embraced that a just and free society cannot jettison economic liberty.
On another note, I find catharsis in reading comment sections these days. This American (commenting at the NYT article on France's 75% tax rates) rings incredibly true:
I am amazed at the greed in Society today. I don't which is more outrageous, that some people expect those more successful to pay their bills for them, or those who somehow think punishing the successful will somehow help their own plight.The reader above is painfully correct in noting that truly greedy in society today are moochers (those that expect something for nothing and a portion of their neighbors' life energy) and the robber-barron government agents enabling them. If nothing else, Barack Obama perfectly embodies today's true robber barron - a redistributionist hellbent on taking one group's property and giving it to another, even if it means destroying an entire prosperous society for a desperately misguided anti-concept notion of "fairness."
This is a suicidal pact that more and more countries are joining into, stealing the wealth from the successful, to drag down the successful economies so that we are more 'equal'.
This isn't just about wealthy people, it's about wealthy countries. I hope everyone enjoys making the equivalent of the average Chinese or Indian worker when we are all 'equal'.
Here's another one of many incredible comments at the NYT article; this guy (from Puerto Rico, no less) really hits the ball out of the park:
Eventually we are going to stop being shocked and outraged at tax evaders because we'll all be doing it. I swear, when I look at the impossible hours I pull for peanuts, when I look at all the taxes I pay on my little side business and the huge bills that come in for paltry sums, when I look at the potatoes and milk and bread in my cart and compare it to the steaks, ice creams, pizzas, liquor, and cigarettes in the carts of the Food Stamps freeloaders in line with me, I sometimes wonder, "Why? Why even bother?" How can the government do this to us? Whatever happened to the concept of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness? Why should I be forced to pay for their lifestyles, unhealthy foods, smoking and drinking - and then turn around and be forced to pay for the consequences of their lifestyle choices in healthcare and incarceration? How is this just?
Taxes have become nothing more than a mechanism whereby the politicians steal money from productive citizens to give it to the bread-and-circus masses that they have systematically duped into dependancy and dumbed down in their public "schools." It's a system that exists to buy votes. And the more the people depend on the government, the more fear they have of losing that "help," and the more easy it is to whip them into a sheer frenzy of hatred at The Rich.
Sickening, is what it is. Where's the Robin Hood of the working people?
The Founding Fathers are the Robin Hoods of the working people. We have disregarded their timeless wisdom of the greatest experiment in human liberty (and how it should properly function) and supplanted it with the Federal Leviathan that stops short of nothing in controlling (and confiscating by force) every aspect of our individual lives.
We find ourselves where we are today because we ignore history and America's brilliant individual liberty-based founding. Electing Mitt Romney won't change that one iota. Returning to our Constitutional roots will.
Further Reading: Cato Institute: "The Roots of Modern Libertarian Ideas"
Further Viewing: Milton Friedman's fantastic video series, "Free to Choose"