In her novel Atlas Shrugged Ayn Rand limns an analogy between America’s most productive citizens and the mythical Atlas. The former face an ever-increasing burden from taxation and regulation while the latter Titan must endure the weight of the entire world upon his shoulders.
The book’s title derives from a questions posed by, and ultimately answered by the character Francisco d’Antonia. What advice would he give to Atlas, given that the greater Atlas’s efforts the heavier the world bore down upon his shoulders. And that advice was “to shrug.”
So the put-upon citizens, believing that civilization cannot exist where every person is a slave to society and government, and that the destruction of the profit motive leads to the collapse of society, decide to emulate Atlas were he to refuse to bear his burden any longer. They begin to disappear and vital industries shut down.
As a result, the government exercises more and more control over these industries even as society collapses.
Certain busness people today as well as noted politicians such as Paul Ryan, are devotees of Rand and her work of…get this…FICTION. Yet they promulgate similar views as to the the virtues of greed and the “free market”, unencumbered by those nasty old government regulations.
“Yes, Yes, Free Us,” they cry, “Free us and your economy will be wonderful! Everyone will be rich rich rich!”.
I may have used this term in a prior post.
For all the whining and kvetching about how much taxes and regulations stymie them, the Rand disciples are thriving far beyond how you would think they are doing if you took their gripes to heart without even a cursory examination of the truth.
Indeed, if the tax rates and regulations these “most productive citizens” carp, grumble, whimper, squawk, lament, bleat, grouse and yammer about are so bad, how the hell do they explain these facts?
In the past 20 years corporate profits have quadrupled while the corporate tax percent has dropped by half. The payroll tax, paid by workers, has doubled.
So states Paul Buchheit in this opinion piece. http://www.salon.com/2013/05/18/were_living_in_an_ayn_rand_economy_partner/
Individual tax rates, despite the recent bump in the highest marginal rate that occurred when the Bush cut in it was allowed to expire, are the lowest since World War II.
More remarkably Atlas seems to be on an extended coffee break from bearing his burden as more and more of what should be our shared responsibiliteies are either neglected or the burden shifted to the lower income classes.
Not only do corporations and individuals benefit from lower tax rates, Buchheit emphasizes that they also benefit from contrivances in the tax code to lessen their payments.
There’s much more. Companies call their CEO bonuses “performance pay” to get a lower rate. Private equity firms call fees “capital gains” to get a lower rate. Fast food companies call their lunch menus “intellectual property” to get a lower rate.
Prisons and casinos have stooped to the level of calling themselves “real estate investment trusts” (REITs) to gain tax exemptions. Stooping lower yet, Disney and others have added cows and sheep to their greenspace to get a farmland exemption.
I could be generous and describe the Ayn Rand approach and the complaining arising from it a mere subterfuge, or public relations spin, or misdirection, or political slant. But I’m no more generous than are these Titans of industry who have the audacity to compare themselves with Atlas, the Titan of Greek mythology.
They are plain lying and they know it.
One should not begrudge these “productive citizens” their financial rewards because of the economic benefits we all derive from their diligence and perspicacity.
Like hell one shouldn’t. Over the past thirty years, remember, the growth in income disparity and the gap in wealth distribution is so acute that the only gains in terms of real dollars belong to the top percentiles of income.
Whatever the basis for the economic theories preached by Ayn Rand and her progeny, that basis resides just as much in mythology as does the tale of Atlas.
Even if these theories were operable or viable at all, the lives of the very people Rand preached to demonstrate clearly that those conditions must be almost nonexistent for her target audience to have prospered so well.
So the next time you hear Paul Ryan or another person of his ilk pontificating about the need to cut taxes and slash regulations close your eyes and visualize that he is offering swamp land in Florida for sale or is on the back of a wagon purveying his special brand of snake oil.
Then realize if you buy what he is selling you’ll either be up to your ass in alligators or retching your guts out with still no cure in sight for what ails ya.