October 27, 2013

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I would be dishonest if I did not admit that I find the amounts of money paid to sportsmen grotesque; but their incomes, I am afraid, are a reflection of the importance millions of my fellow citizens accord to sports. To object to their high incomes is therefore to object to the taste of the masses, of which their high incomes are merely a reflection. Personally I would much rather the masses had a taste for my books and articles. 

To judge by the commentary on French websites (which seems to be in concert with opinion polls), the French public is very much in favor of high taxes on footballers, whose incomes they very much resent even while it is their own interest in, even obsession with, football that drives up those incomes. (We think of the French as a nation of Left Bank intellectuals, but the daily sporting paper, L”€™Ã‰quipe [The Team], has a circulation larger than nearly any national daily newspaper, and one that is holding steady, unlike that of the other newspapers.) 

Why do the French”€”80% of them, according to some polls”€”want the footballers to be more highly taxed? Here is a fairly typical, though slightly more articulate than average, comment: Si, si il faut tenir sur les 75% et aider les nécessiteux avec l’argent des vaniteux et des footeux. (Yes, yes we must hold to the 75% [tax] and help the needy with the money of the puffed-up and of the football players.) 

The effect of resentment on the ratiocination of a perfectly intelligent man is here evident. First he assumes that an economy is a cake whose proceeds can be redistributed without any effect whatever upon the size of the cake to be redistributed; and second he supposes that a euro taken by the state from the pocket of a footballer goes straight into the pocket, without any deduction by a greedy or inefficient state, of the needy (that is to say, in a country such as France, those who would like a larger flat-screened TV than they already have, or the latest iPhone). 

The 75% tax appeals to similar low emotions as racism: I am poor because they are taking from me something that I deserve to have. It used to be said that anti-Semitism was the socialism of fools, but socialism is the anti-Semitism of intellectuals. 



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