To Friend or Defriend America?

Yesterday, Chinese dissident Chen Guangcheng officially defriended China and friended America. His decision to relocate to Greenwich Village is a reaffirmation that America remains one of the most desired destinations in the world for those yearning for freedom.

And for the blind lawyer from China – New York is clearly the best place to live and remain the inspiring human-rights campaigner he has emerged as in China. It’s traditionally difficult for Chinese dissidents, once they leave the country, to remain effective in reaching followers and sympathizers in such a closed society as China. But as we have seen with the Arab Spring the emergence of social media has changed the game, breaking down many traditional barriers and giving Chen a chance.

Yet, it also makes sense for to Chen to come to New York from an economic point of view.  New York remains the media and intellectual capital of the free world and will provide the most opportunities to monetize his celebrity, values, ideas and cause.

This is not to in any way denigrate Chen’s motives – in fact the opposite.  The amplification of Chen’s message, his experience and his story will further the cause of freedom for the Chinese. And in America, aside from our President, we typically applaud the economic advancements that come with intellectual accomplishment.

Ironically, Chen’s decision to friend New York, comes at the same time as a scuffle has ensued over Facebook’s Eduardo Saverin essentially defriending America and renouncing his citizenship, purportedly in an effort to escape our increasingly onerous tax system.

Senator Chuck Schumer’s response to Saverin’s defriending was predictable: run to a microphone, put out a press release and introduce legislation that will never go any where – the catchy Ex-Patriot Act.  Schumer said, “This is a great American success story gone horribly wrong.”  First, only a cheerleader for the trial lawyers would define a great American success story as a lawsuit settlement no matter how big and second what’s “horribly wrong” is a tax system so perverted that it chases people out of America and keeps our corporations from coming back.

Our country’s tax system is broken.  From ridiculous loopholes to confiscatory rates the tax code is a drag on our economy – that’s what has gone “horribly wrong.”

The reality is our nation is on the brink of, if not already experiencing a version of New York’s Snowbird effect.

In New York, people of means and minds escape our onerous tax burden by actually managing the number of days (183 – a part of a day is a whole day)  they spend in state. Technically, Snowbirds is a term that refers primarily to retirees but many of the people I know now moving to Florida and other lower tax states aren’t retiring they are simply escaping – much like Eduardo Saverin.

To friend or defriend America — only in a country as free as ours can you live that question.

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