Friday, April 06, 2007

Gluttons for Punishment

A French group called Alternatives Economiques, best described as a fan of big government and an opponent of globalization (a fan of serfdom, in other words), has issued a petition called "Pourquoi nous consentons à l’impôt" (which, if my college French is still of any value, translates as "Why we consent to taxation"). The left-wing (not America squishy-left, but all-out French left) newspaper Libération has endorsed the petition, under the headline "For a campaign against fiscal demagoguery." (When I was in high school my teachers taught me that "demagoguery" was the sort of rhetoric that Hitler and Mussolini used, not rhetoric arguing for lower taxes during a presidential campaign. But let it pass.) The argument in the petition is that taxes are a necessary expression of social solidarity, of tying the rich to the poor, etc., an argument that Theodore Dalrymple systematically dismantles.

Funny thing, though. In France, the informal economy, the portion of the economy that is off the books and hence escapes taxation, is 15.3% of GDP and $3736.30 (2000) U.S. dollars per person. In the U.S., where anti-tax rhetoric ("fiscal demagoguery") is much more common, tax evasion is much lower, with the informal economy clocking in at 8.8% of GDP and, despite much higher income per capita, only $3000.80 per person. (Source: World Bank.)

The list of signatories includes lots of mayors, professors, "cadres administratifs" and even some economists. The conclusion I draw is that talk is cheap, especially when you're spending other people's money.


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