Fireworks and Saverin’s Folly: Reflections on “The Land of Opportunity”
Lately, I’ve noticed various news reports about the number of Americans fleeing the country for more favorable tax havens such as Singapore, Norway, Australia, among others. One such report noted that the number of Americans renouncing their citizenship has more than doubled over the past year, from 3,805 in 2011 to about 8,000 in 2012.
The poster child for the ex-pat movement appears to be Eduardo Saverin, one of the co-founders of Facebook, who renounced his American citizenship in what many believed was a calculated move to escape the paws of the IRS and a sizeable tax bill. Naturally, Mr. Saverin was vilified. For his part, Mr. Saverin cited business reasons behind his decision and that his new home – Singapore – will allow him more freedom to make investments. Some believe that Mr. Saverin’s act was heroic in that the flight of capital from this country might serve as a wakeup call for our government to overhaul our tax codes as well as our business regulations.
Like most Americans, I’m not exactly a fan of the IRS, particularly when I see our government wasting money on perfectly ridiculous things (Solyndra, anybody?); however, I am proud to be an American and of what this country stands for. I think we all do well to remember the importance of Independence Day, even after it has passed this week.
Lest we forget: We celebrate July 4th as Independence Day because it was on that date in 1776, that members of the Second Continental Congress, meeting in Philadelphia, accepted the final draft of the Declaration of Independence.
As most school kids know, the Declaration of Independence itself has become one of the most admired and copied political documents of all time. Penned by Thomas Jefferson and revised by John Adams, Ben Franklin and Jefferson, the Declaration of Independence was a justification of the American Revolution, citing grievances against England’s King George III. It is also a landmark philosophical statement, inspired by the writings of philosophers John Locke and Jean Jacques Rousseau. It affirms that since all people are creatures of God, or nature, they have certain natural rights or liberties that cannot be violated. The Declaration and the American Revolution have since inspired freedom-seekers the around the world.
Following its adoption, the Declaration was read to the public in various American cities and was greeted with cheers and celebrations. In 1777, Philadelphians remembered July 4th and bells were rung, guns fired, candles lighted and firecrackers set off. In 1941, Congress declared July 4 a federal holiday.
In a letter to his wife, Abigail, John Adams, our second president, wrote: “I believe that it will be celebrated by succeeding generations as the great anniversary festival. It ought to be celebrated by pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires, and illuminations from one end of this continent to the other…”
America has been called the “Land of Opportunity,” given the freedoms we enjoy to pursue life, liberty, happiness, and, of course, opportunity. Some pundits have questioned whether we remain the land of opportunity… You might want to ask that question of Mr. Saverin, who was born in Brazil and became a US citizen in 1992.
With 4th of July celebrations behind us and the din of fireworks still ringing in our ears, I suggest we now spend a bit of time in quiet reflection about this truly great nation of ours and how we are lucky to be Americans. Sure, we have our problems and bicker amongst ourselves, but we are a resilient and generous people and I believe we will resolve our issues.
I hope you enjoyed your Independence Day. May you long enjoy the freedoms it honors.
Published: July 3, 2012 By: