Movie stars aren’t usually known for their courageous political stands. Although there are many politically active actors and filmmakers, e.g., George Clooney, Alec Baldwin, Michael Moore, etc., most simply walk down the safe, left-wing path alongside their peers. Yet one big-time movie star isn’t afraid to take a controversial political stand on an issue, a stand that actually forced him to relinquish his native country’s citizenship.
I am here referring to my new favorite actor, Frenchman Gerard Depardieu.
The Oscar-nominated actor, and star of numerous films, is one of the most recognizable figures in all of France. But what did Depardieu do that was so politically courageous, and in my view, so heroic?
Simple, he defied despotism.
Last week, Depardieu chose to give up his French citizenship and move to Belgium to become a permanent resident of the nearby country. Depardieu made the move chiefly to avoid the onerous 75% income tax on the wealthy, a policy recently introduced by the socialist President of France, Francois Hollande.
Depardieu’s decision to give up his French passport and social security card in exchange for paying much lower taxes as a Belgian citizen would certainly have been big news, and that decision would still, in my opinion, have been a heroic act by someone who felt persecuted by a socialist state. However, the verbal sparring between the actor and the French politicians angry with his decision is the real reason why Depardieu should be admired.
After announcing his decision, Depardieu took fire from French Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault, who called his leaving an “unpatriotic” act. That criticism set Depardieu off, and he responded with an Atlas Shrugged-like verbiage challenging the Ayrault comments.
In an open letter to Mr. Ayrault in Sunday’s edition of French weekly Le Journal du Dimanche, Mr. Depardieu wrote: “I’m leaving because you think success, creation, talent and anything different should be punished.”
That sounds like John Galt to me, the main character of the great Ayn Rand novel that tells the tale of what happens when the most productive members of society refuse to be treated like slaves. In the novel, the men of the mind, the great industrialists, scientists, composers, etc., choose to stop living for the sake of the state, and instead go “on strike” in protest.
Depardieu didn’t exactly go on strike, but he did make it clear that he was tired of what he considered persecution by an unjust French tax system. According to the actor, he paid 85% taxes on his revenues in 2012. He also estimated that he has paid €145 million in taxes to the French governmental leviathan, or $189 million, since he started working at the age of 14.
Given that kind of mass-scale socialist asset grab, can you blame Depardieu for seeking out a reprieve?
It’s not often that celebrities actually make a courageous political stand, but Depardieu certainly has done so here, and he needs to be recognized, respected, and applauded for it by all of us who are tired of relinquishing the fruits of their labor to state-sanctioned looters.
Follow Jim on Twitter: @Woodsish.