The recent announcement that Burger King will merge with a Canadian food chain (Tim Hortons) and shift its corporate headquarters from the US to Canada has predictably tripped the frothing at the mouth reflex of tax-hungry statists. Why? Because such a merger and move (known in tax lingo as “inversion”) means that Burger King no longer need pay the 35% US corporate tax rate (one of the highest in the world and despite popular media propaganda that focuses on a sliver of corporations avoiding it, it is in fact paid by 99.5% of US corporations) on income earned outside the US (they will still pay 35% on their US income). They instead will pay the much lower Canadian rate of 15%.
“Unpatriotic” is the word President Obama has used in the past to describe such tax inversions (which are completely legal) and his retinue are now all too eager to join that chorus – uncritically parroting the approved talking points put out by the administration. This sentiment of “economic patriotism” demands that one’s love of country directly correlate with one’s willingness to hand over whatever the state demands.
Obama has also said tax minimization may be legal but it’s “wrong.” Really? This is a rather warped interpretation of right and wrong. Traditionally “wrong” is reserved for those actions that violate one’s natural rights (theft, murder, rape). If Mr. Obama’s use of this term is technically correct then it betrays a scary proposition: individual ownership can not exist because all is owned by the collective, otherwise how else could it be wrong to keep one’s property, unless it was never yours to begin with.
This sentiment is shared by both the left and the right insofar as both are statist at their core. While they may differ in degree, they stand in solidarity on substance: the role of the individual in society is to serve the interests of the state. A vehement disagreement over whether 35% or 25% is a “fair” tax rate is much sound and fury signifying no disagreement. Shall the master allow his slaves one hour or four hours of rest? Clearly those in favor of one hour are godly and moral men while those supporting four are raving lunatics. But truly insane is the man who says slavery itself is immoral. Pay no heed to him, what he proposes would never “work” in the real world. So you see dear citizen, the profits earned by Burger King (or any company or person) are not really theirs. It belongs to us all, to the state, to the Homeland. How dare you attempt, even legally, to reduce by one red cent your contributive fair share to the communal pot?
The usual sort of justifications for unbounded taxation is that because a company receives benefits from the state (courts, policing, military, roads, research, education, etc.) this therefore establishes an obligate contractual relationship necessitating payment (of a unilaterally determined magnitude) for such benefits. If that is indeed true, then mobster-extorted protection money is equally legitimate.
Ignored in this false choice analysis is the possibility that these supposed benefits of the state would exist in the absence of the state. Naturally they would exist except in the minds of those bereft of an entrepreneurial spirit. The only difference is that privately produced “public” goods would be of higher quality and lower cost. If you’re unconvinced of this fact, just insert the word “public” in front of any good and consider which you would prefer in relation to the privately provided alternative (e.g. toilet, school, transit, food, clothing, car, healthcare, etc.) The difference in costs and quality between tax supported goods and market provided goods is the true dead weight tax cost and represents a net loss to society no different than if the government paid a million men to dig holes and fill them in.
It seems the tax-hungry-economic-patriot can’t decide what they want. If you protest the system they claim you’re unpatriotic and hate America and should leave. But when you take their advice and do leave you are then targeted with the vilest of epithets. But that sort of inconsistency should be expected; the ethics of the statist is consistently inconsistent insofar as they owe their allegiance to the mantra “the ends justify the means.”