A lot of British people have done a “John Galt” in recent years, it seems, according to UK member of Parliament Nick de Bois:
Mr de Bois said tax does play a part in emigration, but suggested that culture is a more important factor, warning that Britain should encourage people to succeed and get rich, not criticise them. “Government must help lead a culture change in this country that competes with the new economies, one where competitiveness and success are valued and personal achievement and personal wealth are respected, not pilloried,” he said.
If you are mystified by the “Galt” reference (most Samizdata regulars will know it), it refers to the plot of Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged, in which a character called John Galt leads a “strike” of the top businessmen, scientists, artists and others to abandon their work at a time when such people are increasingly hampered by the State. In the US, the expression “Going Galt” has caught on to describe the sort of thing written about here.
Of course, emigration needn’t be a bad sign for a country and indeed, in some countries, emigration can relieve domestic pressures. In the 19th Century, large numbers of Britons left for the New World, seeking a better life. Of course, many from the around the world did so for reasons of persecution and poverty. The ability to exit a country is also one of the few things that might persuade an otherwise foolish government to pursue policies that encourage wealth creation rather than hurt it. As I have noted before, the ability of the super-rich – or indeed far less wealthy people – to get their money abroad, or move overseas, can be a healthy constraint on government. That is why I think “tax competition” between jurisdictions, far from being an evil, as leftist campaigners claim, is a good force in the world. And so it is important to bear in mind that when governments impose capital controls and exit visas, be very afraid.
In the meantime, although I don’t agree with all of its views, this book, Exceptional People: How Migrants Shaped Our World and Will Define Our Future, by Ian Goldin, Geoffrey Cameron and Meer Balarajan, is worth a read. (I am not so keen on some of its Transnational Progressivist leanings, though).