From Michael Caine's Elephant to Hollywood
From Michael Caine’s Elephant to Hollywood

People are dynamic agents. That’s a brisk way of saying that everyone changes their behavior based upon the results they get, the stimuli they encounter.

America was once a land derided by some as a meritocracy, as though merit is some how an insulting concept. Would you ever consider hiring a plumber without regard to his merit? What about a doctor? What about a President?

Ah, but that is for some other time.

Michael Caine really cuts right to the point, that people who have options will select those providing the greatest return. That’s essentially the definition of freedom. (Full disclosure, Caine asserts that he is a moderate in the very book this quote came from.)

If we believe that each person owns himself and cannot morally be the property of anyone else, then each person will have the right to make their own choices and reap whatever consequences and rewards those choices and behaviors produce.

This is actually a very good thing, since it encourages people to be industrious. If every bit of your circumstance is up to you, then you’ll be very motivated to make the most of your life. Michael Caine not only takes in money, but he produces for people in a free market to do so, and he also spends in markets as well, which also produces.

On the other hand, if each person owns himself, there are some other points that become rapidly clear. If it is immoral for any one of us to confiscate a portion of our neighbor’s paycheck against his will, then what gives government the right to do so? After all, government is but a creation of man, and as such, is bound by the same moral codes.

And you can say that Her Majesty’s Government did very good, charitable things with the money. I’ll dispute that some other time, but for now I’ll grant it. Then, at what rate is confiscatory taxation immoral? Because if it’s not immoral at 82%, then isn’t Michael Caine just a greedy bastard for moving to lower his tax burden? Isn’t he immoral for it?

If you accept the notion that a portion of each person’s earnings can be rightly taken away from him against his will, you’re suddenly thrust into this muddled area of relativity. ‘Well, 82% is awfully high, but then again a rich actor like Michael Caine should be able to afford it, which is why most income taxes are progressive.’

My eyes end up rolling, because that misses the point. Those sorts of concerns are not dealing with morality any longer, but mere practicality. I pointed out that people will adjust their behavior based upon the rate of return. 82% was enough of a property violation for Michael Caine to move thousands of miles away. Does this not expose the moral concession in the progressive income tax?

If 82% is a morally acceptable confiscation, then why not go the next 18% and ban Caine from moving to escape it? You’re really talking about a small jump from that point. Every communist nation in the world either did precisely that, or close to it with the implicit understanding that it had the right to go all the way, by the sole justification of having the power to that end. Nietzsche on the rise, anyone?

But doing this under a western government would of course expose such taxes for what they are, encroachments on the right of each person to own himself. The notion of self-ownership is put in jeopardy by many things that government does, but it can be exposed as a fiction if government has the right to confiscate any amount from us it wants to.

If the government has a right to withhold money from your paycheck, then they essentially own you, and your right to the money you make is reduced to what government will allow you to keep. I seem to recall there was a scuffle involving U.S. Internal Revenue Service terminology in some paper. No matter as it was years ago. Consider the recent case of Alfonzo Rachel and the commissariat of California.

Zo preaches the immorality of confiscatory taxation and California proceeds to empty his accounts without a court order.
Kinda transparent in the age of the IRS harassing right-wing organizations while giving the leftist archipelago a pass. Democrats believe in equal rights? Things like due process? Sure! Oh, unless you’re a conservative who pretends to be black…
But hey, it’s not like conservatives are people, or anything!

Why do you think that every tax cut is protested as an assault on the government’s revenue stream? Four Presidents since 1900 have cut taxes, and all four produced greater tax receipts by the federal government. Those were Coolidge, Kennedy, Reagan, and George W. Bush.

Despite the facts, tax cuts are considered abhorrent by leftists, and I think it is probably not unrelated to the notion that government wants to grow forever, which means to expand the percentage of your life that they own, just as much as it means grow programs to ‘benefit’ you.

So kudos to Michael Caine for putting in explicit terms what many of us try to argue all the time. He eventually moved back, though he doesn’t say why. It probably didn’t help things that California was beginning to crank its tax rate up, while Britain was settling down from its socialist experimentation.

Who knows? The quote rocks though.