Alex Massie

Robin Hood and the Laffer Curve

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I've been assuming that Ridley Scott's interpretation of the Robin Hood saga must be terrible. After all, it's nearly a decade since Black Hawk Down, Scott's last properly good movie. But now AO Scott pops up in the New York Times to suggest, though he may not mean to, that the movie has something going for it after all:

You may have heard that Robin Hood stole from the rich and gave to the poor, but that was just liberal media propaganda. This Robin is no socialist bandit practicing freelance wealth redistribution, but rather a manly libertarian rebel striking out against high taxes and a big government scheme to trample the ancient liberties of property owners and provincial nobles. Don’t tread on him!

Ezra Klein, alas, buys the notion that Robin was, as he puts it, an "armed redistributionist" and I think Jon Chait would agree with that interpretation too. But unless my memory is completely shot to pieces, Robin really is an anti-tax warrior inspired by oppressive levels of taxation that have enslaved and impoverished the people, leaving them with barely enough for themselves.

He doesn't "steal" from the rich, he confiscates money from the state (and its officers) to return it to the taxpayers. In other words, philosophically and instinctively, he's a Reaganite and, frankly, one would not be surprised to see Robin explain, over a haunch of venison, that if only the state listened to reason it might appreciate that the levels of taxation it imposes upon the peasantry are at Laffer Curve* levels and that productivity, revenues and happiness might all increase if taxes were lowered to a more reasonable, justifiable level.

Then again, can anyone sensibly doubt that Robin Hood would favour raising the personal allowance to £10,000? I think not. So perhaps he is, titter ye not, a Liberal Democrat. Maybe he would Agree With Nick too.

Even allowing for all this, mind you, it's impossible for Scott's movie to surpass the majesty and fun of Michael Curtiz's 1938 interpretation which benefits from all sorts of good things, not the least of them being the presence of Errol Flynn and Basil Rathbone. Russell Crowe is many things, including an antipodean, but he ain't no Flynn.

UPDATE: Spoiling the fun ED Kain has an eminently sensible take. What's the point of that?

*The Laffer Curve is not always applicable and many tax cuts plainly do not pay for themselves. But in the case of Robin Hood it seems reasonable to suppose that they might even before you consider the iniquity of the punitive levels of taxation levied upon the poor yeomen of England and the consequent increase in liberty produced by reducing this oppressive burden.

Written byAlex Massie

Alex Massie is Scotland Editor of The Spectator. He also writes a column for The Times and is a regular contributor to the Scottish Daily Mail, The Scotsman and other publications.

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