This story has been all over the web, readers have been sending me links, and by now it is old news. French millionaires are leaving France. Some are coming to Mississippi, a move welcomed by former Governor Haley Barbour, who penned this article from Foreign Policy:
The first European settlement in Mississippi, Fort Maurepas, was established by French explorateur Pierre Le Moyne d'Iberville in 1699. With the recent announcement by France's Socialist president, François Hollande, of a tax plan to soak the rich, should Americans and others get ready for another French emigration, not of explorers but of entrepreneurs and other employers?
Because that's what may be about to happen -- and it could happen to the United States if Barack Obama and the Democrats follow in Hollande's footsteps.
You might think that the purpose of the new and higher French taxes was to significantly affect the deficit. But it wasn't. Rather, writes Michael Birnbaum of the Washington Post, who notes that the higher income tax "raises too little money to make a dent in France's funding needs," the Socialist tax plan "is more of a political symbol than an economic measure. It will help give Hollande political cover."
Perhaps Monsieur Hollande's leftist political base may be placated by skyrocketing tax rates on job creators, but businesses and investors say the actual, as opposed to the symbolic, economic effect will be to reduce growth -- a tall order when one considers that economic growth this year in France is predicted to be a paltry 0.2 percent as it is!
The French tax increases are, of course, far larger than those proposed in the United States; not only would those making more than $1.23 million a year be taxed on all gains over this amount at a 75 percent rate, but taxpayers who make less than $100,000 per year would be taxed at 48 percent. And that's after already paying a 19.6 percent sales tax or VAT!
Indeed, Hollande's new tax policy levies a 3 percent "one-time" wealth tax on assets held by individuals (foreign or French) in France, when the value of the assets equals more than 1.3 million euros, or about $1.75 million. Corporate taxes will be increased in a variety of ways, such as a 3 percent tax corporations must pay on the dividends they pay out to their shareholders. And new taxes will be levied on financial transactions, on lending institutions, and on oil and gas companies.
Switzerland is already preparing. "It's open hunting season on the wealthy in France," Francois Micheloud, a partner in a company that helps foreigners relocate to Switzerland, told Bloomberg news. "The number of Frenchmen asking for assistance has tripled."
My name, Barbour, is an old French Huguenot name, and my great-great-great-great grandfather Louis LeFleur, a Frenchman, founded a trading post around 1800 that developed into Mississippi's capitol, Jackson, a quarter century later.
I wonder if we Barbour boys ought to set up a business to attract wealthy Frenchmen and successful businesses from France to Mississippi. As a low tax, pro-business state with a regime of rational regulation, we could roll out the red carpet and run up the tri-color over Fort Maurepas. Bienvenue, mes amis!
Note: While the brain drain out of France is not new, it may be too soon to tell if this story is real or virtual. For a man to uproot himself he needs to be free of family obligations, unless the whole family goes with him. For a rich man to prosper in America, we have to provide the incentives and the support he needs for his efforts, which will be harder to do if Obama is reelected, as is most likely. If the rich man, besides seeking a more favorable financial climate, is also trying to escape from the cultural changes that have plagued France, he may find similar problems here, and he may have trouble finding good schools here for his children, although the South is probably the best place to settle in terms of the "American way of life", a standard of living rapidly disappearing in our times. The "American way of life" applies not only to money, but to optimism and common sense in the solving of problems, a carnal feeling of love for America and her accomplishments and a Christian ethic.
Since we are rapidly losing our identity I would also welcome these Frenchmen who, like the pioneers of old, are seeking a better life. They would be a great asset to Mississippi. But I can't help feeling they are more needed in France.
At any rate I believe that Frenchmen who leave their country with their families are seeking more than a free enterprise system: they are escaping from a civilisational crisis that may be reaching a boiling-over point.
Fort Maurepas has had a long history of restoration attempts that were started but not completed. In the 1990's, while a replica of the Fort was in the process of being built, reenactments of the founding of the site and of everyday life were held. Below, from February 1995, we see the Fort Toulouse danseurs. This photo along with many others can be found at Ocean Spring Archives, a very long webpage detailing the history of the Fort.
Fort Maurepas was destroyed by Hurricane Katrina, but thanks to local initiatives from the mayor and Governor Barbour, it has once again been restored, and is now part of an historical park. Below, a shot of the restored fort.
Would our wealthy Frenchmen find prosperity and contentment in Mississippi? I like to think so, and I hope they come, but if they decide to stay in France, we will understand.
Labels: Culture, Economics, French-American Relations, History, United States