Is Atlas Shrugging?

“…whining rotters who never rouse themselves to any effort…who demand that you serve them, who demand that it be the aim of your life to serve them, who demand that your strength be the voiceless, rightless, unpaid, unrewarded slave of their impotence, who proclaim that you are born to serfdom by reason of your genius, while they are born to rule by the grace of impotence, that yours is only to give, but theirs only to take, that yours is to produce, but theirs to consume, that you are not to be paid, neither in matter nor in spirit, neither by wealth nor by recognition nor by respect nor by gratitude – so that they would ride on your rail and sneer at you and curse you, since they owe you nothing, not even the effort of taking off their hats which you paid for?…” Atlas Shrugged (Ayn Rand; 1957)

Atlas Shrugged is an epic monstrosity that was penned by a Russian philosopher called Ayn Rand. In her most prominent book Rand projects her philosophy which is known as objectivism. Atlas Shrugged suggests that there are solid boundaries constituting reality and that the boundaries of reality are absolute and therefore irrefutable. Rand’s philosophy suggests that breaching boundaries comes with consequences; her philosophy suggests that people have a breaking point and that society has a breaking point and that when a society reaches breaking point the people might protest, they might riot and they might initiate a revolution. So, let’s take a look at modern Ireland and ask ourselves – is Ireland breaching any boundaries (or limits); is it near breaking point and if so is it in any way similar to the prophecy which was forecast by Ayn Rand in Atlas Shrugged?

Atlas Shrugged tells a story of a society which is on a downward spiral. The story showcases a struggle between hard-working visionaries and a system which is designed to incapacitate them. It presents a developed economy that becomes blighted by poor political leadership, bad management and a short-sighted society. A socialist society of equality for all is deployed through Atlas Shrugged; a society is presented whereby those who are least productive are rewarded equally as much as those who are most productive. It presents a society whereby everybody is entitled to similar pay regardless of the efforts they make. The methods of enforcing socialism become unscrupulous; properties and funds are forcefully expropriated from their owners, diligent employees are replaced by slackers. Everybody soon becomes poor, and, inefficient workmanship causes catastrophes such as trains crashing in head-on collisions. An air of disenchantment and outrage permeates the inhabitants of a decimated society. Decision-makers don’t accept responsibility for their mishaps. The powers that be fail to resolve the conundrums that they themselves created, the whole system crashes into a recession and eventually all of the hard-working and honest people quit their jobs and they flea from ruin to find a better life somewhere else. As they flea from ruin they leave behind a hopeless world of hopeless people.

So, let’s reiterate and ask ourselves – does this brief synopsis of Atlas Shrugged bear any semblance to modern Ireland, and if so, could it be an accurate forecast for what might happen here in the near or distant future?

Budget 2019 appears to be striving towards taking us one step closer to the “socialist equality for all” state that featured in Atlas Shrugged. This is evident through certain policies such as the policy that sees unemployed people avail of (yet again) a pay rise far greater than many working taxpayers. According to the statistics, unemployed people will receive a take-home pay rise of €400+ per annum whereas a full-time worker earning €25,000 per year will receive a take-home pay rise of just €27 per annum ( ). In the eyes of many taxpayers this is a shining example of equality becoming so equal that it actually becomes inequality. It becomes inequality not for the man that can’t find a job but rather for the man who must work until the cows come home. For how long can a system shrink the rewards for its most productive people while it grows the rewards for its most unproductive people?

Is it fair for a society to make he who works pay for all and receive nothing in return while he who does not work pays for nought yet receives all in return? According to Atlas Shrugged such a philosophy can contribute to the collapse and decimation of a society, and unfortunately for Ireland, examples of this destructive philosophy are bearing fruit. The following examples highlight some of the stark disparities that are currently being exercised by the Irish state:

Magda is on Jobseeker’s Allowance (€203 per week). Her partner Marius is on disability benefits (€203 per week). They will receive double-pay in December courtesy of the Christmas bonus. Marius has a “bad back” which renders him immune from working and therefore deters the department of social protection from encouraging him to engage in any form of employment. Magda has 14 children for which she claims €1,960 per month (€140 per child per month). Magda and Marius receive €1,200 per month in rent allowance. This family holds a medical card which entitles them to heavily reduced childcare costs, free transport, exemption from school exam fees and a range of other generous benefits. The medical card is worth several thousand euro per annum. This family is also in receipt of other “hidden” benefits including gifts from charities such as St Vincent DePaul and Fr Peter McVerry. These “hidden” benefits are also worth a substantial sum of money. This family may also be yielding an undetected income from untaxed cash-in-hand nixers. This family is contributing nothing to the state coffers and could be in receipt of €60,000 – €70,000 in benefits per year. Due to the number of children they have, they are high on the priority list for a free house which will also be paid for by the taxpayer who cannot afford a house for himself.

Paul works full-time (40 hours per week). His salary is a formidable €42,000 per annum. He pays approximately €9,552 per year in tax. Due to the fact that he is in full-time employment he receives none of the benefits that Magda and Marius receive and he must pay through the nose for everything that he does. He rents a room for €600 per month (€7,200 per year). He is not entitled to a medical card and so he pays €1,500 per year for health insurance. He spends €1,200 per year to travel to and from work via public transport. He is not able to sign up for a free house and so must struggle to save what he can for a mortgage. At the end of the year Paul is less well off than some of his counterparts who refuse to work.

Poor foresight and bad management by powerful people are common features in Atlas Shrugged, but, are they also common features in modern Ireland? Logic can conjecture that quality healthcare should feature on a small little island that spends more money on healthcare than almost every other country in Europe, however, logic does not apply here on the Emerald Isle which is why Ireland often ranks as one of the worst countries in Europe for healthcare ( ). Over the last several years nothing has improved in the Irish healthcare system despite the fact that the government is spending 20 billion per year on this sector. Questionable too is the scandalous caper surrounding the development of a new children’s hospital in Dublin. The government somehow managed to grossly underestimate the budget for the new hospital although they refuse to accept much of the embarrassment deserved for such an error ( ). Excessive spending on the children’s hospital will put further strain on funding required for other much needed renovations such as a National Maternity Hospital.

In the end of Atlas Shrugged a heavily strained society finally collapses. No longer can the hard-working people allow themselves to be drained for the sake of everybody else’s carelessness. The people who keep the system afloat eventually get fed up with being drained of their talent and resources for the sake of the ungrateful recipients. They get fed up with hearing lies from the inept policymakers that let them down at every juncture. They get fed up with their unfair conditions and so they pack their bags and go elsewhere leaving their homeland to fall apart at the seams.

Could there be any similarity between the ending of Atlas Shrugged and the itinerary of modern Ireland? Have the nurses who went on strike today gotten fed up of being ripped off? Are the builders who won’t come home from Australia better off abroad? Could the emigrating teachers be living a nicer life somewhere else? People sometimes say that the grass isn’t always greener on the other side but sadly for many young Irish people it seems as if the grass actually is greener ( ). Bearing all of this in mind is there any possibility that Ireland will mimic the closing chapter of Atlas Shrugged via sending all of its most essential professionals overseas, and, if this does happen will the country go to ruin?

Perhaps the emigrants could be superseded by the influx of economic migrants that are due to arrive courtesy of the Ireland 2040 plan. At least the extra million people that are flocking over will get a nice cosy house for free thanks to our outstanding housing crises.