David Cameron’s Foolish (or Cynical) Naivete about the Laffer Curve

Even though he’s allowing the budget to grow twice as fast as inflation, some people seem to think the new U.K. Prime Minster is a fiscal conservative. I’m skeptical. Not only is spending rising much too fast (there are promises of more restraint in the future, but I’ll believe it when it happens), but Cameron and the Tory/Liberal coalition government are increasing the value-added tax and increasing the capital gains tax. Perhaps worst of all, they are leaving in place the new 50 percent tax rate that former Labor Prime Minister Gordon Brown imposed in hopes that class-warfare policy would help him get elected. But as this Daily Telegraph story suggests, it is quite likely that the higher tax rate will lose revenue as productive people escape to Switzerland and other jurisdictions not influenced by the politics of hate and envy.

One-in-four hedge fund employees has already left London to move to Switzerland, which is said to have a more stable tax regime, according to consultancy Kinetic partners. Calculations by the company claim the UK could have already forgone about £500m in tax revenues, based on the 1,000 or so hedge fund managers it says have already left the country. …High-profile departures this year include Alan Howard, founder of Brevan Howard, and Mike Platt, founder of BlueCrest Capital.

This story shows both the power of the Laffer Curve and the importance of tax competition. The greedy politicians in England doubtlessly resent the “brain drain” to Switzerland. Like their U.S. counterparts, politicians view taxpayers as serfs who are supposed to blindly produce more income for the ruling class to expropriate and redistribute.

While I’m obviously not a big fan of British fiscal policy, America is worse in one important way. At least British taxpayers have the liberty to leave without being raped by the U.K. tax authority. Once they leave the United Kingdom and make their home in Switzerland, they are no longer British taxpayers. Americans who want to move, by contrast, are unable to escape the punitive internal revenue code. Indeed, the United States is one of the few nations in the world to have exit taxes, an odious approach generally associated with loathsome regimes such as the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany.

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