The working title of “Atlas Shrugged” was “The Strike.” The plot is based on an intriguing philosophical question in the imagination of novelist Ayn Rand: What if society’s true producers and entrepreneurs were to, by their own choice, just give up on America and leave – go on strike, as it were? What if they became fed-up with the jealousy and greed of an increasingly lazy electorate/government determined to punish over-achievers who, well, achieve too much? What if they got a better offer and just took off? What then?
Some consider “Atlas Shrugged” just another cautionary tale with a far-fetched premise intended to make a dramatic point about trends in society the author finds disturbing, similar to Orwell’s “1984.” But perhaps Rand’s implausible premise is not so implausible after all.
Two recent high-profile US entrepreneurs have renounced their US citizenship to avoid, it is widely believed, the estate tax, AKA the “death tax,” which confiscates a huge percentage of a person’s estate upon their death. Are these isolated incidents or a trend? Are some of the most successful throwing up their hands in frustration and going on strike by relinquishing their very American identity? Will more follow?
Ironically, when similarly confiscatory tax policies were imposed in Europe during the 18th and 19th centuries, it was America that made the better offer and benefited from the influx of bold, talented all-stars poached from the greedy, lazy, and corrupt governments of the Old World.
Now it seems Rand’s premise – that it could happen here, too – isn’t so far-fetched after all.