Serf State, USA
Huntington Beach was awarded the official title of “Surf City” by the U.S. Patent and Trade Office in 2006 based on its historical beach culture, music and active outdoor lifestyle. A great case could also be made to have the entirety of California designated as the “Serf State” based on its excessive taxation, burdensome regulations and poor government services.
Serfdom generally refers to the economic and legal systems in which a tenant farmer was bound to a hereditary plot of land and to the will of his feudal lord. For example, serfs in medieval Europe obtained their subsistence by working land that was owned by a “noble.”
“The Road to Serfdom,” written in the early 1940s by Austrian-British economist and philosopher Friedrich Hayek, remains one of the most influential works on free market capitalism. Indeed, many of today’s economic libertarians are known as adherents to the Austrian School of economic theory. This is distinguished from Keynesians who advocate for centralized control of the economy by “experts,” usually employed by government.
Hayek contended that Marxism or its slightly less poisonous variant, socialism, leads to poverty, oppression and loss of basic human liberties.
So, cutting to the chase, is excessive taxation a form of “involuntary servitude” (a phrase that actually appears in the U.S. Constitution) or at least serfdom? Of course, “excessive” taxation should not be construed to mean all taxation.
A level of taxation that is confiscatory can no longer be called civilized.
There is little doubt that California’s tax burden is rapidly closing in on a confiscatory level, if it isn’t there already.
Our state has the highest income tax rate in America, the highest state sales tax and the highest gas tax.
Even with Proposition 13 we remain in the top half of all states in property tax collections per capita.
Regrettably, California’s elected leaders care little about the tax burden that citizens and businesses are forced to pay and continue to pursue destructive tax policies.
Nothing makes this more clear than a proposal from Assemblyman Rob Bonta, D-Oakland, to impose a first-in-the-nation state wealth tax. His Assembly Bill 2088 died in the last session but he has promised to resurrect it in January.
Supported by public-sector labor organizations, the wealth tax would target California’s wealthiest citizens. It would impose a tax on a resident’s net worth, rather than on income or consumption.
Finally, the bill would attempt to extract the tax from residents who move out of the state for a decade. In short, this provision of the proposal would impose a tax on leaving California.
Here is where the analogy to serfdom is most fitting. Serfs had little opportunity to improve their lives or to leave the land to which they were bound. Bonta’s bill is an attempt to prevent Californians from escaping to lands more free — as millions have already.
The good news here is that Bonta’s “exit tax” is patently unconstitutional and everyone knows it.
The bad news is that, even if the proposal never gains serious traction, it still serves as a harsh reminder to the rest of the nation of how unhinged the previously Golden State has become.
Last week, Hewlett-Packard, one of the earliest tech companies founded in Silicon Valley, announced it was moving its headquarters to Houston, Texas.
Capital flight out of California is accelerating, as is the outmigration of productive citizens who have wisely decided that they will no longer be serfs to the political class who eat the bread made by others.
Jon Coupal is president of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association.