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On Tax Day, What if Atlas Shrugged?

On Tax Day, What if Atlas Shrugged?

4 Mins
April 15, 2016

On Tax Day in the United States, productive individuals are punished for being productive, even as their tormentors demand that they produce even more for those tormentors to take.

Tax Double Standards Theft Taxation

And during this election year, Democrat candidates especially trip over each other with their class warfare rhetoric. They promise their supporters they will “redistribute” to them more out of the pockets of the productive, even as they try to guilt-trip producers into acquiescing in their own despoilment.

You’d think this description of the facts alone would cause any morally decent person to feel shame for buying into such rhetoric and to shun politicians who stoop to it. It says something about those who applaud Sanders and his ilk. Perhaps another way to shake at least some in the Bernie brigade out of their ignorant slumbers is to offer them another perspective.


In her novel Atlas Shrugged, Ayn Rand spun out a story of a world in which the most productive individuals began to disappear. So ask, what would happen if those who create wealth in our world today and are the targets of the purveyors of class hatred simply shrug?

The top 1% who are demonized by Sanders pay in 40% of all income tax revenue. The top 10% pay in 70% of income tax revenue. What would happen if they simply stopped producing, simply retired, went off to live in the Cayman Islands, whatever? Whose pockets would the politicians pick? Where would they find the $900 billion that they could no longer redistribute? All that nasty Bernie rhetoric would not produce one loaf of bread, and all his supporters would be left with nothing but bile in their empty bellies.


You don’t have to wonder what would happen because Atlas is shrugging. For example, a recent investigation by journalists found that the top 50 U.S. corporations had $1.4 trillion in offshore accounts. Let me put that in English. They shrugged. They were sick of being subject to the highest corporate tax rate in the developed world, so they quite legally put the money out of reach of the looters. That’s $1.4 trillion that is not invested in the U.S. to produce wealth for its owners and, in the process, jobs and incomes for Americans.

We should celebrate these companies as moral paragons because they refuse to play the role of sacrificial victim.

In his book The Hidden Wealth of Nations, Gabriel Zucman complains that an estimated 8 percent of the world’s financial assets were held offshore, that is, outside the country in which the wealth is produced, costing governments nearly $200 billion a year in lost tax revenue. Let’s grant that some of that money is stolen by politicians and stashed away offshore. But the problem is not offshore tax havens. It’s thieving politicians.


The old meme “The beatings won’t stop until the morale improves” is meant to be amusing but it is not funny when it is official policy of taxaholic politicians. President Obama recently pledged to take action against so-called “inversions.” This is when an American-based company moves its official headquarters to a foreign subsidiary in a lower-tax jurisdiction in order to avoid being beaten by high American tax rates. Obama’s answer: beat them even more!

America is in a civil war between producers and expropriators, between makers and takers. Tax Day should remind us not only of the economic damage done by a system that punishes the productive. It should also remind the productive that if they shrugged, their expropriators would have nothing. It should remind them to seize the moral high ground, to take pride in their productive achievement, and refuse to offer to those who would seize their wealth the sanction of the victim.


David Kelley, “Will Atlas Shrug in France?” March 3, 2014.

Bradley Doucet, ““When Atlas Shrugged .” July 28, 2011.

Edward Hudgins, “Tax Code Reflect Moral Codes.” August 26, 2010.

Edward Hudgins, “Producers vs. Expropriators: America's Coming Civil War?” April 13, 2010.

Edward Hudgins


Edward Hudgins

Edward Hudgins is research director at the Heartland Institute and former director of advocacy and senior scholar at The Atlas Society.

Edward Hudgins
About the author:
Edward Hudgins

Edward Hudgins, former Director of Advocacy and Senior Scholar at The Atlas Society, is now President of the Human Achievement Alliance and can be reached at ehudgins@humanachievementalliance.org.

Regulation and Taxation
Atlas Shrugged