Sean Parr
Burger King, economic patriot
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By Sean Parr
August 28, 2014

Recently, Burger King embarked on a deal to buy a Canadian doughnut chain. This deal, which would create the world's third-largest fast-food restaurant group, seems politically insignificant on its face (and, really, it is), but because it"also includes a plan to change the new firm's nominal headquarters from Miami to Oakville, Ontario" it has enraged throngs of economic ignoramuses, passionate in their contempt of Burger King for attempting to dodge the U.S.'s higher corporate tax rate. Among those irate and calling for a boycott are intellectual powerhouses Joe Scarborough and Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH), MoveOn.org, and a host of deep-thinkers on the internet. This ire is seemingly directed at Burger King's lack of (wait for it...) economic patriotism.

The problem, I think, is that far too many people (including Burger King's critics) equate paying taxes with purchasing services. And because the so-called "purchased-services" are, in this case, decidedly American, taxation developsan unfortunatelypatriotic patina. Perhaps the trouble is in the wording. "Paying" taxes makes the whole ordeal seem something akin to compensating a phone company for the use of its services. The difference (and it's a big one) is that folks voluntarily enter into service agreements with phone companies whereas they do no such thing with governments. Without broaching the fiction of "The Social Contract" (I don't remember consenting to any such contract, and my consent is certainly not implied by the mere reality of my being born amongst others), it is correct to say that the government (e.g., a particular group of persons) in the form of taxes (income, corporate, etc.) takes what belongs to laborers, managers, entrepreneurs, investors, and businesses (e.g., other particular groups of persons), and they do so "by the use and the threat of the jailhouse and the bayonet."Acquiescing to such an imposition does not concern "paying" for the privilege, but being "victimized" by it.

I will go slightly further and let threads of my "radical" Rothbardian nature see some of the light of day. With regard to taxation, it is not proper to view the government as a friend to the people, asking them each, kindly, for a portion of their earnings and then wisely spending this amount for their benefit. This is a poor view to adopt; one that mistakes, absolutely, the nature of the beast. Those who populate the government are rather more like a band of land-faring pirates who, having forsaken their uneasy days of plunder on the open seas,favorthe comfort of assimilating into and exercising control over landlubbing society – allowing the conquered to thrive and to produce, and to assiduously cede to them a periodic tribute.

"But I partake in government-provided services," some might say, "I have no problem paying my fair share." Without broaching the fiction of "Public Goods," it will suffice to say that such arguments (for lack of a better term) kind of miss the point. The fellow who does have a problem with folks in the government coercively assigning his property to the fulfillment of their priorities (before he has even a chance to put a stich of clothing on his children's backs) can, flatly, do nothing about it. Tax enthusiasts and dissenters alike must endure taxation, and the fact that the former appreciate the fruits of their labor or investment going to ends over which they have no direct say, does nothing to soften the impact of the loss of liberty that they have incurred in the fleecing. Perhaps Mises put it best when he said, "As far as individuals have the opportunity to choose, they are free; if they are forced by violence or threat of violence to surrender to the terms of an exchange, no matter how they feel about it[emphasis added], they lack freedom."

And freedom certainly is the point. Because America was conceived in liberty, and because what's in question is the patriotism of the Burger King Corporation (e.g., a particular group of persons), it seems reasonable to correlate "reverence for country" with Burger King's exercising of its freedom to do business where it likes, rather than with its willingness to forcefully incur costs it could otherwise avoid. If Burger King is causing the U.S. to second guess the steepness of its corporate tax rate by bringing attention to the competition of the global marketplace, then this is a good thing – and the fast-food giant should be hailed for its economic patriotism, even and especially if it profits by it.

© Sean Parr

 

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