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I am a British citizen with ambition: get me out of here

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).




31 comments to I am a British citizen with ambition: get me out of here

  • Paul Marks

    Agreed J.P.

    Would government (or “world governance” – agreements by the “international community” on regulations, monetary policy, tax…..) is the greatest threat to liberty (indeed to the survival of civil society) that there is.

    There must be a right of “exit” – and the places one can go to must be allowed to be FUNDEMENTALLY DIFFERENT from where one is.

  • I finally left the UK in 2009, but had been working abroad on-and-off since 1994.

    Now I just sit in the sun at home in the far east (quite cool here today, 29.8 Celsius) or do contract work in Switzerland, Germany, Holland, Italy, etc.

    Provided you avoid the clear and obvious laws (murder, rape, drunkenness, public nudity, etc.) you get left to your own devices, never heard of anyone anywhere else getting arrested for saying “Did you know your horse is gay?” to a policeman.

    In short, I’m not surprised that Brits are leaving the UK. I suspect a lot more would if they realised that they could survive outside the boundaries of the sceptic isle.

    You can only nag, bully and thieve off people for so long before they up sticks and bugger off. 3.6 million people isn’t much, but I’ll bet it makes a big dint in George’s tax revenues. You can bet your bottom dollar that these will mostly be net tax contributors (after tax credits) that are leaving, not the benefit dossers.

  • Would government..is the greatest threat to liberty..that there is.

    In theory, yes. In practice, no.

    There will always be some states that will not even acknowledge the existence of other states (e.g. hard-line Muslim states and Israel).

    Equally, there will always be some countries that get their politicians in the big tent, but everyone else just ignores the law (Italy, Nigeria, most of India, etc.)

    Vast swathes of the world are so sparsely populated that you have to drive several hours over dirt roads before you come to another settlement, let alone police or bureaucracy.

    So “World Government” might be possible as some form of supra-national ideal, but the reality is that it would be only as powerful as the local law enforcement or bureaucrat.

    The poorer / weaker the state the more likely that the local law enforcer or bureaucrat will be corrupt and open to bribery to look the other way.

    There are advantages over the British way of bureaucracy (where no means no), over here a no can be converted to a yes with a relatively small amount of kopi money in a small brown envelope.

    It isn’t ideal, but it beats the bullshit hectoring from nanny back home.

  • Paul Marks

    Basel and Basel II already help mess up banking, and there is constant work for more international “human rights” (read – goods and services to be provided by government), and anti this and anti that….

    World Federalism (World Government) is dead – but world “functionalism” (world “governance”) is sadly very much alive.

  • Russ in Texas

    Hell, I’m Texan, and I think of picking up stakes regularly; my needs are simple (ability to earn a mild salary, salt air, ability to purchase internet somewhere).

    I can’t *imagine* doing Britain right now. That’d be almost as bad as moving to Philly.

  • RRS

    Hey! one step up:

    I am a British Citizen

    That is the first move from:

    “I am a British Subject

  • Paul Marks

    Well Russ if you are tired of Texas you could move to South Dakota. The darkness of winters in Alaska would be a bit too much.

  • Runcie Balspune

    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.

    In previous centuries, people moved to the New World in order to _continue_ their persecution of others considered not so pure. Britain and Europe today is a “New World” for others seeking to bring their intolerance and barbarity, under the guise of multiculturalism and funded by welfare. If this was not the case there wouldn’t be a discussion on doing a Galt.

  • Lee Moore

    Well I’m a tax exile, and hanging onto more of my own money was originally the object of the exercise. Having left the UK however, since I don’t spend anything like half my income, saving tax is not quite as important – financially – as one might think. But psychologically it’s the entirety of the banana. The thought that Gordon Brown (or Cameron – the two are essentially interchangeable) is getting no more of my money to spend is constantly delightful. I find myself giggling spontaneously when it occurs to me, which is at least daily.

    It’s not that I’m indifferent to the personal financial benefit. That’s very jolly. It’s just that I feel like I’m burning my fields ahead of the advancing Mongols….but still getting to keep the crops.

  • In previous centuries, people moved to the New World in order to _continue_ their persecution of others considered not so pure.

    No, they did not do so _in order_ to continue the persecution – although many undoubtedly did continue it, after having moved for entirely different reasons.

  • Rich Rostrom

    Yet Britain is a tax refuge for wealthy Frenchmen.

    John Galt: The poorer / weaker the state the more likely that the local law enforcer or bureaucrat will be corrupt and open to bribery to look the other way.

    The poorer / weaker the state the more likely that the local law enforcer or bureaucrat will be corrupt…

    And regard anything you have as potential loot. And extort money from you for allowing you to do ordinary things. And take bribes from criminals to look the other way while you are robbed.

    Corruption is not liberty.

  • That is the first move from:

    “I am a British Subject“

    No, I always use British Subject as it is far more honest. Americans (in particular) should do the same as it is a far better description of the true nature of the relationship of individual and state (particular the US state for reasons I elaborate here).

  • Nick (nice-guy) Gray

    I have even heard that Sarkozy might be setting up shop in Britain! You never hear about famous people flocking to France, do you?

  • Nick (nice-guy) Gray

    I’ll bet David’s just jealous of his brother Richard’s success in movies (I.e., Jurassic Park). Just make him a villain in a James Bond movie (some of them thought humans were bad) and I bet he starts smiling again!

  • Nick (nice-guy) Gray

    Sorry, my comment above this one should have gone to the comment on Sir David Attenburough!

  • Regional

    Yous might be British subjects but governments consider you objects to tax the crap out of, just like in Australia where income tax is steep but local council rates are negligible compared to Britain and America.

  • Paul Marks

    Regional – as you know the key fact about Australia is that, even under Comrade Julia, GOVERNMENT SPENDING is lower than it is in Britain or the United States (especially in Califoria or New York).

    This means you can have lower taxes (overall) and not have the vast budget deficit that both the United Kingdom and the United States have.

  • Regional

    Paul Marks,
    True, but America is not the Congress like Westminster is not the U.K. If Westminster crashed the entrepreneurs in the U.K. would flourish like they did before politicians got their snouts in the trough. Parliaments the world over are full of grifters.

  • Paul Marks

    Regional I believe the problem is structural.

    The percentage of government spending under direct political control is now very small – most spending is built in increases in long established schemes.

    So the only way to reduce government spending is to go after those schemes.

    And it takes heros to that.

    And politicians (even the honest sort – and there are some honest ones) do not tend to be heros.

    One way to try (just try) to convince political folk (full disclosure – I am one) is to remind them that the media will go after them just as savagely even if they are weak (sorry “moderate”).

    Take the media treatment of Paul Ryan and Rand Paul – their respective plans on government spending.

    Rand Paul’s plan to cut government spending was savagely attacked by the media.

    But Paul Ryan’s plan to SLOW THE GROWTH of government spending was attacked – just as savagely (if not more so).

    So all Congressman’s Ryan’s painstaking efforts to produce ultra moderate proposals were an utter waste of time – he was still shown shoving old ladies in wheelchairs off cliffs (and on and on).

    So he might as well have pushed for actually cutting spending.

    “Listen lads – we might as well be hanged for a sheep as for a lamb”.

  • Current

    I moved to Ireland in 2006. It was a lower tax place than Britain then, but it isn’t now. From the point-of-view of tax and wealth I should probably move back, or move elsewhere. But, I have lots of friends here, so I probably won’t.

    In some ways I think low tax is a bit like the old problem with Mutual Funds/ Unit trusts. Often a trust would outperform the pack for a year or two and lots more people would invest in it, but afterwards it would perform the same as everyone else, or underperform. Similarly, if you move somewhere with low taxes it’s often a transitional thing, and it time the taxes move back to being more in-line with the average for the region. Of course, in Ireland it happened because of the huge bank guarantee mistake, but I think it would have happened sooner or later anyway. If the bank bailout hadn’t have happened probably something like a free-spending left-wing government would have. There’s reversion to the mean everywhere.

  • Steven

    Taking one’s capital when the taxes get too steep is a fine idea until the lawmakers simply write a law that does not allow that exit. That’s the situation in the US now. If I want to take over a certain amount with me, it’s assumed that I’m trying to avoid income tax on it and so it is automatically taxed before it even gets wired from the bank. IF I try to take actual cash, it’s assumed that I’m involved with drugs or laundering and the money is siezed until such time as I can prove where it came from and where it is going. Even if I can somehow get the money elsewhere, the feds can and will go after foreign banks, as was recently seen when the feds managed to put a Swiss bank out of business.

    We haven’t even gotten into state, county, local, and property taxes yet and the headache that comes with being in one state, working in another, and owning property somewhere else.

  • Paul Marks

    Current – why not the Isle of Man?

    A lot less difficult to get into than Guernsey and Jersey (and the houses are a lot cheaper) and only an hour or so by air to London or Dublin from Castletown.

  • Regional

    Paul Marks,
    ‘So the only way to reduce government spending is to go after those schemes.
    And it takes heros to that’
    So very true.

  • Paul Marks

    Steven – that is really scary.

    I was ignorant of this.

  • If you want to see really scary re: the US, look up FATCA…

    As the only country in the world besides Eritrea that taxes its citizens abroad, it is now demanding foreign financial institutions report on the doings inside the accounts of US Persons (this can be US citizens living abroad, people with green cards, family members, etc., whether they are citizens of other countries or not)

    Of course this means breaking data protection laws, so UK.gov got the banks off the hook by agreeing to let the banks collect the data and let HMRC give it to the IRS.

    A pernicious, evil piece of legislation, and one which was the final straw for the maintenance of my US Citizenship (having to pay a tax lawyer a few thousand bucks every year so he can tell the IRS I owe no money.) So, ironically, I am now only a British subject.

  • If you want to see really scary re: the US, look up FATCA…

    Yes indeed. This is why I often argue that it is US nationals who best fit the description ‘subjects’ rather than ‘citizens’, something I have long pointed out here.

  • Current

    “Current – why not the Isle of Man?”

    That’s a good idea. I’ll look into it.

  • Steven

    If you want to see really scary re: the US, look up FATCA…

    Yes indeed. This is why I often argue that it is US nationals who best fit the description ‘subjects’ rather than ‘citizens’, something I have long pointed out here.

    In theory at least, We The People are doing it to ourselves. Subjects have their chains slapped on them from on high with no say in the matter. We choose to put on the chains.

  • Julie near Chicago

    1. The problem is, that very few of the Right Sort (as opposed to the Left Sort) have the first idea of what strategy might break our chains. And forgive me, but most of Right Pundits over here don’t know either.

    The Tea Party is a great start, but it takes real backbreaking effort to keep it moving. This is one reason why I revere Michele Bachmann: She has sheer guts, and she can do book-larnin’.

    2. Most on the “Right” buy into many of the propositions that have enabled this whole mess. As far as I can see, the States’ adopting Winner-Take-All is one of those. It means, for instance, that downstate Illinoisans (means those not denizens of Cook County and some of the so-called Collar Counties) have effectively no say in the Presidential vote. Of course, the blade would cut the other way in the case of a “Red” state.

    3. More and more people even on the “Intellectual Right” seem to be in favor of Direct Democracy, even as they finish their latest rant against the Evil of Democracy. Perhaps I misunderstand the posish, but that’s what I make of all the sniping at Representative Democracy.

    Political, like military and Foreign Affairs strategy, is extremely difficult. It seems to me it’s a Chaotic System, like the fluid dynamics and thermodynamics of the atmosphere.

    More and more I come to think that Jefferson was right about “nourishing the Tree of Liberty with the Blood of Tyrants.”

    More and more it seems to me that the Last Hope is the UK, and the folks Down Under.

    If they can solve the foregoing problems somehow.

  • Perry et al,
    Great historical posts. And I suppose a bit OT:

    Let me point out, due to my life’s circumstances I live outside of the US, and probably won’t be returning to live there although I grew up as an American and only took advantage of my British citizenship in my late 20s (have been here in Blighty since 1998.)

    I was ignorant, really, of the tribute the USG demands in terms of forms (especially as I own a small business here).

    I must say, though, despite all the messed up things about political life in the UK, I feel much freer as a single nationality Brit than I did as dual nationality British-American.

    Our relationship, for the most part, with people like the police and other representatives of HMG is much more benign than that imposed upon Americans by the representatives of their government. And I speak from deep experience of both.

    I have seen interactions here between the public and the police end in light-hearted banter, whereas similar instances in the States would end up with the “perp” on the ground getting beaten for resisting arrest. (What that does for general law and order, however, one may make one’s own conclusions.)

    And dealing with HMRC is sooooo much easier than dealing with the IRS.

    It seems more and more, in the US, since I left in ’95 , the relationship between citizen and state has reversed polarities so that the citizen exists at the sufferance of the state rather than the other way around. (hell, maybe it was always thus!)

    So if people are looking to the US for Galt’s Gulch, I don’t think they will find it there.

    As I recently discovered Doug Casey’s musings, I am coming to think that maybe places where corruption runs rampant are the only places where true freedom lies.

    But for now, the rule of law still applies – for most things – in the UK, but no longer seems to do in the US.

  • Lee Moore

    Well to name but two, the rule of law certainly doesn’t apply in the UK to (a) tax and (b) children and social services.