Perhaps they should build a wall

Perhaps they should build a wall June 5, 2012

A reader writes:

It strikes me as something of a turning point in a nation’s history when its leaders feel they have to begin devising ways to prevent people from leaving.

It appears the temporary alliance between our economic and political ruling classes may be starting to break down. Our economic masters, once they are done looting the economy and lecturing us from the collected works of Ayn Rand, give little indication that they feel normal things like “love of country” or “debt of gratitude to the nation that made them rich”. In a world neatly divided between Makers and Takers and founded on the conviction that charity is a sin, bailing on America in her hour of trial is good Randian business. So guys like Saverin can just fly away and leave us holding the bag if the nation looks like it’s going to tank. Their loyal servants in the political class don’t like this, of course, since they don’t like being left holding the bag either. Hence things like the link above, trying to stave off the exodus. Failing states are perpetually in a struggle to forbid people from fleeing them. When they get bad enough, they have to forbid the poor as well as the rich from fleeing.

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  • Mark S (not for Shea)

    “Merchants have no country. The mere spot they stand on does not constitute so strong an attachment as that from which they draw their gains.’ (Thomas Jefferson)

    • Sean O

      Even more so the modern Corporation. What is American about “our” multinational corps?

  • Ben

    I’m not sure your theory holds up, since the proposal does nothing to stop people from leaving. It requires that they pay their taxes if they want to come back.

  • Peggy R

    I don’t agree w/Schumer on this. I don’t have much concern about Saverin leaving US citizenship. He is not originally an American. He’s a man whose country is his bank account. Whatever…

  • Saverin was born in Brazil, is a citizen of Brazil, and lives in Singapore so I don’t really consider it particularly dishonorable of him to renounce his American citizenship without knowing his explicit reasons for doing so. Now, if he were to renounce the citizenship of his homeland then that would be a more personal slap in the face (to Brazil).

  • Marthe Lépine

    Is not there a saying that goes: “Rats are the first to leave a sinking ship”, or something to that effect about rats and ships?

    • Sean O

      Plenty of rats in the upper bracket.

  • Maiki

    I will not argue with your statements on the rich and on politics, but I think you are off-base with your statements about immigrants and expats — that immigrants and expats are twisted for not having completely standard feelings about their original homeland or their new home. Immigration is difficult emotionally, regardless of the reasons for it (sometimes practical, sometimes necessary, sometimes bitter, sometimes expedient). Expecting an expat to feel the same love for their new country as someone who has ever only known one country is ludicrous as expecting the feelings of a military child having the same feelings towards one of his many houses compared to a kid who has never moved from his childhood home.

    • Michelle

      How about their obligation to a country that made it possible for them to become billionaires? Or is it okay for expats to loot such a country under the false pretense of “citizenship” (freely accepted from the host country) and then run “home”?

      • Maiki

        “Loot”? This guy started Facebook, not some banking company gambling on futures while receiving bailouts. He has helped create upwards of 3000 jobs and has a service that enriches the lives of hundreds of millions of people. He didn’t commit crimes while here and paid his taxes while he was a citizen. He isn’t a criminal. He moved to the US because of threats of kidnapping on his family when he was 10ish, not as a personal decision as an adult. The capital he invested in Facebook came from his and his family’s business dealings in Brazil. He has lived in Singapore for two years, now. He paid an exit tax on the stock he owned at the time of renunciation, as if he had sold it at that moment.

        I’m not arguing the his move is not precipitated by thinking the business and economic future will shift to Asia, and choosing to bail on the US, and that it is really creepy when a government has to coerce or force citizens to stay.

        All I’m saying, is it doesn’t take some inhuman amount of disdain to a country for a young first generation immigrant to not feel extreme loyalty to the USA. His cultural identity is primarily Brazilian, I gather. He might not see the US as home. That is not unusual for those who emigrate at a transitional age. I moved back to my home country for a handful of years when I was 10/11, too, and I feel little to no loyalty to the place. It is really hard for me to consider it home. I consider “home” where I have chosen to live as an adult. And I don’t have oodles of money to justify my decision.

      • @Michele From your comment I can only assume that you believe that the only people who should feel free to emigrate from this country are those who aren’t particularly successful. I fail to understand what possible objection you can have to anyone having the right to exit one country, so long as they depart in conformance with the laws of that country. Does not any person have the right to emigrate to another country in which they see themselves as having a better opportunity to achieve their lawful goals, as long as the country to which they are going is willing to admit them? If not, on what philosophical, moral or legal basis do you object?

        The countries which haven’t permitted emigration are notoriously well known. One of them even built a wall to prevent their “citizens” from escaping, if you are old enough to remember East Germany. Would you turn this country into that?

        Pax et bonum,
        Keith Töpfer

        • Dan C

          In a community, there are responsibilities. These individuals lack any sense of that responsibility. Like Grover Norquist, they don’t want to pay for teachers or fire fighters and, by their actions, disdain those who hold those jobs.

          Libertarian constructs define human relationships in the economic sphere in terms of “freedom” like libertinism defines sexual relationship in terms of “freedom.” Both are immoral. Its just that the Church has been clearer to its members about sexual sins and has been unfortunately beholden to those who know the vice of greed.

          Right and just communal relationships are not premised on matters of free markets. The language of the right wing hinges on discussions of “family” and is particularly impoverished in defining and identifying communal responsibilities. But let it be clear-this type of self-centered behavior by such individuals destroys families. If such language is the only currency by which you can understand the error of these folks, let me make the direc tlink for you: ruining communities and failed community responsibilities fails families needing that communal structure.

          • Sean O

            Spot on. He made his money here. He should contribute back to this country.
            And of course his reward is ridiculously outsized by orders of magnitude, but that another discussion on major flaws in capitalism.

      • dpt

        “How about their obligation to a country that made it possible for them to become billionaires”

        Not sure what this means for Facebook as they are a global company with some 700 million (or more) users.

        And I too agree that immigration is a difficult and complex issue for individuals and families. Those of us who’s families have been in the US many generations are removed from these issues and challenges. I know people here in Silicon Valley who have become successful (not billionaire successful) and love and appreciate the opportunity in the US. Others I know appreciate the opportunity, but their hearts/fondness in terms of nationality are else where.

      • We actually actively recruit rich people to defect from their countries and become citizens here and invest their money here. Do you think that these programs should be stopped?

  • Ted Seeber

    The real problem I see is this:
    “”This had nothing to do with taxes. I was born in Brazil; I was an American citizen for about 10 years. I thought of myself as a global citizen,” he told The New York Times in an interview published Wednesday.”

    The concept of a “global citizen” and the concept of “multinational corporations” means that nationalism has been defeated by The Thing that Used to Be Capitalism.

    • Nothing wrong with capitalism as used within the design which is to produce material wealth in as sustainable a way as possible.

  • Kirt Higdon

    If it is immoral to move from one country to another for economic reasons such as lower tax rates, is it also immoral to move from one state or even city to another for the same reason? Or does a moral requirement for economic loyalty just kick in at the level of the nation state, and if so why? Many people move from one state to another within the US to avoid high state taxes.

    • Dan C

      I think the emphasis should start on the following: what are one’s communal obligations? Is it just the duty of the young to pay high local taxes to get their kids educated or is there a broader group who should assist that burden?

      I will say “yes”, if one is escaping high taxes that are going to pay for one’s neighbor’s education or one’s neighbor’s needs, then there is something akin to greed involved. Greed is the enemy of community. Community is the key calling.

      The death of our faith in this country is probably due largely to the death of community, and the isolation of individuals.

      • You might find yourself embarrassed by your own post with a small amount of additional thought. I doubt that you would stay in a place that taxed you at over 100%, for instance. According to your theory, at what top rate of taxation does a departure for less taxing shores start to become greedy?