I saw Robin Hood this long weekend. It is a truly, extraordinarily bad film: long, boring and yet, at times, preposterously silly. The low point came towards the end, when a bloodied, chainmailed Robin lept out of the English Channel, and gave a dramatic, slow motion roar. The whole audience burst out laughing. But it’s a real shame the film is so terrible, because it actually has quite a positive message about hard working people keeping the results of their work. This is the not the Robin Hood conjured up by those Dalton McGuinty tax advocates, who think confiscating bank and business profits will solve all the world’s problems. This Robin makes speeches about liberty, battles King John’s tax collectors, and even tries to force the King to sign an early version of Magna Carta. If the film hadn’t been so utterly charmless, I’d have been cheering him on. Robin could have been a private equity partner to Maid Marion, helping her seed her farm while thinking bigger about the long term view.
This version of the Robin Hood story made me think of Jean Baptiste Colbert’s famous quote: “The art of taxation consists in so plucking the goose as to obtain the largest possible amount of feathers with the smallest possible amount of hissing”. King John, plainly, failed to master that art. Yet modern governments have become very good at it, taking up to half of what people earn without triggering a revolt, or even any serious resistance. The reason is that people today often pay their taxes without realizing it. Most is simply withheld by their employers (hopefully they get a slip seeing what was taken), while much of the rest is passed on to the taxman by retailers with GST and HST. I suspect a lot more people would be advocating low taxes if they had to actually reach into their pockets and pay them directly with cash. In this spirit, perhaps it is time for tax withholding to go. Private equity is increasingly coming under pressure in the USA to have their income from investments into companies taxed as a business owner, not as a capital investment. That is a whole other blog.
"Should Lady Gaga have most of her wealth taken from her and redistributed to artists who did not sell five top chart hitters last year?" Eeer...that seems awfully unfair and why prop up those who have not created their own market? Conrad Black used this example to talk about taxes in his column in The National Post. Worth reading. Go to NP.