A proposal and a footnote.

The almost singular driving purpose of our American economic policy should be* to encourage productive capital to move here. (Not high finance engineering, but actual means of production, to use the old terminology.) In fine, the driving purpose of our policy should be Hamiltonian through and through — the difference being that while he had to build a base of productive capital all we have to do is restore one.

What is the dearest thing on earth right now? Capital.

So we offer a two year tax holiday — on everything: income, payroll, cap gains, business, corporate, you name it; and to this tax holiday append a mechanism to grandfather in any company that moves operations into the United States. In other words, I propose to institute a radical Federal tax holiday until 2012, say: at which point the previous regime kicks back in — except for those operations that moved into America during that window of tax abeyance.

To mitigate some of the budgetary nightmares implied by this, we could go with a flat 50% tax on income above some level of wealth. (My thanks to Francis for suggesting this modification.)

Sure, we create the outlines of a mischievous regime of economic aristocracy, which our descendants will likely abuse, but at least we give ourselves a shot at recovering to real economic health, sooner rather than much later.


* Notice the element of idealism: we are so far removed from the levers of power right now that we can actually talk with the wild liberty of the Greek philosophers. One advantage of the current misfortune of Conservatism is that our isolation from active administration of policy means that we can focus better, and speak freer, on alternatives. We can make education a bigger part of our political program. Socratic education by dialogue. Or consider Michaeal Oakeshott, one of the subtlest of recent political philosophers, on political education: “In politics, then, every enterprise is a consequential enterprise, the pursuit, not of a dream, or of a general principle, but of an intimation. What we have to do with is something less imposing than logical implications or necessary consequences: but if the intimations of a tradition of behavior are less dignified or more elusive than these, they are not on that account less important.” Or again: “The arrangements which constitute a society capable of political activity, whether they are customs or institutions or laws or diplomatic decisions, are at once coherent and incoherent; they compose a pattern and at the same time they intimate a sympathy for what does not fully appear. Political activity is the exploration of that sympathy; and consequently, relevant political reasoning will be the convincing exposure of a sympathy, present but not yet followed up, and the convincing demonstration that now is the appropriate moment for recognizing it.”

Let’s get on with the business of exploring the intimations of Free Enterprise in our American tradition.