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Harry Palmer is shrugging, Ayn Rand style

Michael Caine, one of the UK’s best-known actors, is thinking of emigrating due to the UK government’s recent decision to impose a new, top-rate income tax of 50 per cent, which once other changes are taken into account, will be nearer 65 per cent. Iain Martin, writing in the Daily Telegraph story that I linked to, points out how Caine is just one of the more recognisable examples of the sort of person looking to hit the exits. It is often useful, if one’s constitution is strong enough, to read the Daily Telegraph comments sections these days, which are sometimes even worse than those of the Guardian. Several people moan about Iain Martin’s article that the 76-year-old actor has made his fortune so he should shut up and be grateful, etc. How lovely. The fact is that Caine, while he may not employ philosophical abstractions to denounce the looting intent of such a tax rise, is at root repelled not by the economic stupidity of such a tax hike, but its essential injustice. What a top-rate tax like this says, in effect, is that no-one should be allowed to rise above a certain level of wealth because it might make others envious. It makes a mockery of all that progressive-leftist talk about removing “glass ceilings” to advancement, etc.

Funnily enough, it was Caine, along with his UK film star buddy and working-class-boy-made-good pal, Sean Connery, who first legged it out of the UK back in the 1970s when the-then governments of Harold Wilson and James Callaghan introduced tax rates of more than 80 per cent on the “super rich”. He’s done it before, and he is quite prepared to leave again. Arsene Wenger, manager of Arsenal FC, has warned that many foreign footballers will think twice about playing in the English Premier League. No doubt football fans of a nationalistic bent may applaud this trend if it gives local players more of a chance to play for their clubs, but it arguably will roll back one of the benefits to domestic sport in having talented overseas players strut their stuff here in the UK.

It will be interesting to see whether the acting profession’s traditional love affair with the Left shows the strain. I remember reading that Ray Winstone, another English East End boy to have cracked Hollywood, is running out of patience with the tax situation in the UK. And a few years ago, I watched a chat show when David McCallum, who used to star in the 1960s Man From Uncle TV series, vowed that he would only return to the UK when it spurned socialism. And for whatever reason Peter Sellers or Richard Burton chose to live in the Switzerland, it was not for the cuckoo clocks.

24 comments to Harry Palmer is shrugging, Ayn Rand style

  • Gareth

    What a top-rate tax like this says, in effect, is that no-one should be allowed to rise above a certain level of wealth because it might make others envious. It makes a mockery of all that progressive-leftist talk about removing “glass ceilings” to advancement, etc.

    What it says to me is ‘You can earn what you like but above an arbitrary level the State is your boss’.

    If the State is taking more than half my earnings I’m working for it before anyone else.

  • Kevin B

    “Oy! Brown! You’re only supposed to tax the bloody doors off!”

  • It makes a mockery of all that progressive-leftist talk about removing “glass ceilings” to advancement, etc.

    Not really. The progressivist-left talk was always worried about making sure everyone advanced to the same level.

    It will be interesting to see whether the acting profession’s traditional love affair with the Left shows the strain.

    Celebrities have always been astoundingly good at compartmentalizing here. It’s like that joke about how “I was gay … until it was my turn. Thanks for the blow, man – I owe you one.” They’re all about socialism when it’s other people footing the bill. When it’s their turn to pay, they generally use the Chomsky excuse – “I’ve done so much to help the poor already! These rules shouldn’t apply to me.” Look at Bono for the best example of this. OF COURSE the Irish atrists exclusion should apply to him – never mind that he’s neither struggling nor an artist.

  • John K

    Look at Bono for the best example of this. OF COURSE the Irish atrists exclusion should apply to him – never mind that he’s neither struggling nor an artist.

    Nor domiciled in Ireland. He moved U2′s affairs to Holland when the Irish Republic had the temerity to ask him to pay tax so they could help the brown babies.

    Michael Caine can of course live anywhere in the world, and he can afford to live in the nicest bits. He’d have to be mad to stay in a country where the deranged snotgobbler wants to swipe more than half of what he earns. Why should he? Why should anyone with the choice?

  • Jerry

    ‘If the State is taking more than half my earnings I’m working for it before anyone else.’

    There was a time when there was a word for taking HALF of what a man earns !!

    Don’t know where you live but on the west side of the pond, in one way or another, the total tax bill is already 50% !!

    Most people don’t realize it because they don’t THINK about it !!
    federal income tax
    state income tax ( not every state but they’re working
    on it )
    CITY income tax ( yep in some cities !! )
    sales tax
    property tax ( stop paying that one & see
    who REALLY owns the home you THINK
    you paid off and own !!)
    school tax ( wether you have children in the school or
    not doesn’t matter )
    gasoline tax
    toll roads ( gee I thought the gasoline tax paid for the
    roads – you know the gasoline tax which is
    SEVERAL times the evil oil company’s
    profits on a gallon of gasoline !! )
    the myriad of taxes and fees on phone/utility bills
    building permits
    licenses
    car license/inspection

    The list is almost endless but most never sit down and do some simple addition – if they did we just might be in a different situation – or maybe not.

    Part of the problem is that we got here with a fraction of a percentage on this and a dime tax on that and before you know it , the total amount is through the roof !!!

  • I was going to complement JP on a great piece. Then I read what Kevin B had to say and I am still giggling.

  • Paul Marks

    With the changes to how pension contributions are treated (for tax) it is rather higher than 50%.

    Of course, in private, government people admit they will not get any more revenue by pushing up taxes to this level (over time they will get less revenue) – it is all about appealing to envy.

    Although, like the late John Rawls, they do not like admitting they are appealing to envy.

  • mike

    Actually Caine and Connery also made an escape on film in the 70s – from India to Cafristan for somewhat similar reasons. Topper little film.

  • Eric

    Does Caine really think he’ll by paying less in the states? Taxes in the US are going up as surely as night follows day. We’ll have these tax rates in a year or two.

  • Subotai Bahadur

    Eric,

    I believe he said he would be leaving the UK. I assume he is smart enough to read the omens here, and pick a new home friendlier to achievement. I believe that here at SAMIZDATA there was a discussion of alternatives recently.

    Subotai Bahadur

    ps. Yes, I know I recommended Texas on that thread. Keep in mind that 70% of all new jobs in the country were created in Texas last year, and they are ….. somewhat different than the Democrat ideal of a Workers’ and Peasants Paradise.

  • Eric

    Subotai,

    From the article:

    “The Government has taken tax up to 50 per cent, and if it goes to 51 I will be back in America,” he said at the weekend

  • Kevin B

    Cheers Nick M

    I keep thinking that the last scene of the Italian Job – with the coach balanced half way off a cliff and the gold tantalisingly out of reach – out to be some sort of metaphor.

    The trouble is, the film was amusing and entertaining. Not words I can associate with the current bunch of thieves.

  • virgil xenophon

    Paul Marks hits it square on the nuts. The politics of envy is what it’s all about. Most of these politicians (well, some of them, anyway) full well realize that tax revenues to government increases as the marginal rates are lowered and the taxable-base is broadened–but none of that really matters in the event. A classic example of this kind of thinking was the interview ABC TV’s Charlie Gibson did with Obama during the campaign when he pointed out to Obama that his plan to raise the rate on Capital Gains tax would garner LESS revenue to the government, not more–to which Obama replied that: “it doesn’t matter–it’s a matter of fairness.” Says it all, really.

  • John

    Makes sense – Michael Caine named his daughter Dominique after Dominique Francon, the heroine of The Fountainhead(Link).

  • kentuckyliz

    I keep saying…America should be driving down its personal and corporate taxes and become the tax and talent haven of the world.

    Obamanomics are going to be the death of us.

    The Magic Negro’s(Link) magic ain’t working.

  • bandit

    I don’t believe Richard Burton has chosen to live anywhere for a long time.

  • RAB

    Yes Paul Marks is quite right.
    It is the politics of envy and even spite.

    I seem to remember the last time that Caine decided enough was enough, and decamped to the States, him saying (I’m paraphrasing here cos I cant find the quote)

    You know if you buy a Roller in the States and park it outside your house, passers buy will say, great car! If I work hard, I can have one of those.
    But in Britain, they will get out their keys and scratch down the paintwork, muttering,
    Rich bastard! why should he have one of those when I’m on the bus…
    A very pecular British thing.

    Looking at the comments section under the article, it is hard to believe it is the Telegraph.
    Mealy mouthed dissmissal of his talents, fuck of then you second rate etc….

    So he should have stayed home and played Hamlet for a pittance instead of earning a bob or too in Hollywood?

    Yep a peculiarly British disease, envy.

  • Kim du Toit


    “No doubt football fans of a nationalistic bent may applaud this trend if it gives local players more of a chance to play for their clubs, but it arguably will roll back one of the benefits to domestic sport in having talented overseas players strut their stuff here in the UK.”

    Right. Until the local players also decide to make their residence elsewhere (e.g. Monaco, Guernsey) and ply their trade likewise (e.g. Slovakia), where the taxes are lower.

    This, by the way, is why the socialist totalitarian states are so keen on “harmonising” international tax rates and eliminating “tax havens”: the super-productive and well-compensated (lots of overlap) would have nowhere else to go.

    That Michael Caine, surely one of the most working-class of actors, would choose to leave is indicative of how horrible the high-tax future is.

  • Swiss resident

    Hey, Jonathan! Switzerland does not do cuckoo clocks. Blame that Orson Well’s school of History.

    Just so you know, they are from the Black Forest region of Germany.

  • Johnathan

    Swiss resident, I fear that the words “Swiss” and cuckoo” clock are linked forever. You are nit-picking, I am afraid.

  • Gareth

    Jerry said:

    There was a time when there was a word for taking HALF of what a man earns !!

    Marriage!

    The tax system in the UK is needlessly complicated and helps to disguise the true level of tax a person pays.

  • Subotai Bahadur

    Eric @ 28 April, 1834 hrs.,

    My error, read too fast. My apologies.

    Subotai Bahadur

  • Paul Marks

    The reason that Mr Caine gave up his youthful Communism is interesting.

    He was conscripted to fight in Korea – and he noticed that, for all there commpassionate talk, the Communist “human wave” tactics showed they could not care less about human beings (perhaps, as Andrew Marr and other self described “liberals”, say any “sacrifice” of other people is O.K. if it is “for history” “for the children”).

    Of course if Mr Caine had been around to serve in the First World War he might have reached different conclusions – but in the Korean war it was obvious which side could not care less about their own soldiers.

  • Jack Olson

    The discussion of tax refugees seems to consider only the income tax. But, there are other forms of taxes such as France’s wealth tax. At the death of his first wife, Sir Paul McCartney managed to have himself considered a U.S. resident for purposes of estate taxation since bequests between spouses are exempt from estate tax in the United States but (IIRC) taxable in Britain.