Is the UK turning into Starnesville (from Ayn Rand’s ‘Atlas Shrugged’)?

Ayn Rand’s novel ‘Atlas Shrugged‘ posited a world of socialistic irrationalism where the most astute entrepreneurs disappeared mysteriously. In the novel, the microcosm of the entrepreneur-less world was a place called ‘Starnesville’. It was in Starnesville that the ‘Robin Hood’ principles were taken to their logical conclusions. Is the UK headed toward the decay and depravity of Starnesville?


The recent news that HSBC might move from London to Hong Kong got me thinking about Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged and – in particular – Starnesville. There is a peculiar thing that goes on in this country; not only do the majority of people support socialistic fantasies, but they do not regard these fantasies as socialistic. Such are the consequences of the crowd’s tendency to pervert the meanings of words. Today (in the UK), one can argue vehemently for progressive taxation and still be regarded a capitalist!


As entrepreneurs (and even political entrepreneurs like HSBC) head for more favorable shores, the question is: Will the UK reject the ideas that are causing this drain of entrepreneurs? My personal fear is that it could be a long time before said ideas are abandoned. I fear that the ‘entrepreneur-drain’ will further sour social mood and increase the prevalence of socialist thought.


Let me quote some of the musings by the characters in Atlas Shrugged:


We were supposed to think it was good. The plan was that everybody in the factory would work according to his ability, but would be paid according to his need… They told us that this plan would achieve a noble ideal. Well, how were we to know otherwise? Hadn’t we heard it all our lives – from our parents and our schoolteachers and our ministers, and in every newspaper we ever read and every movie and every public speech?… Do you know how it worked, that plan and what it did to people? Try pouring water into a tank where there’s a pipe at the bottom draining it out faster than you pour it, and each bucket you bring breaks the bucket an inch wider, and the harder you work the more is demanded of you… We began to hide whatever ability we had, to slow down and watch like hawks that we never worked any faster or better than the next fellow… What was it they’d always told us about the vicious competition of the profit system, where men had to compette for who’d do a better job than his fellows? Vicious, wasn’t it? Well, they should have seen what it was like when we all had to compete with one another for who’d do the worst job possible… It didn’t take us long to see how it all worked out. Any man who tried to play striaght, had to refuse himself everything. He lost his taste for any pleasure, he hated to smoke a nickel’s worth of tobacco or chew a stick of gum, worrying whether somebody had more need for that nickel… We saw that we’d been given a law to live by, a moral law, they called it, which punished those who observed it – for observing it. The more you tried to live up to it, the more you suffered; the more you cheated it, the bigger reward you got… Love of our brothers? That’s when we learned to hate our brothers for the first time in our lives. We began to hate them for every meal they swallowed, for every small pleasure they enjoyed,…We didn’t do it just because we believed that the drippy old gudd they spewed was good. We had another reason, but the guff helped us hide it from our neighbors and from ourselves. The guff gave us a chance to pass of as virtue something that we’d be ashamed to admit otherwise. There wasn’t a man voting for it who didn’t think that under a setup of this kind he’d muscle in on the profits of the men abler than himself. There wasn’t a man rich and smart enough but that he didn’t think that somebody was richer and smarter, and this plan would give him a share of his better’s wealth and brain.


Perhaps – in quoting the above – I’m being rather melodramatic. However, the very same principles are prevalent and growing in the UK today. When will they be given up? Perhaps when the middle class realize that there are no more richer and smarter people to mooch off?

Atlas Shrugged (Penguin Modern Classics)

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Posted Mar 8, 2011
by | Categories: Other
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  • theTellurian

    Parts of the UK are already Starnesville but are being maintained by welfare. I think 2012 will see an acceleration of more towns heading down that road as more companies exit either through leaving the country or going bankrupt. This will invariably lead to welfare money drying up as not enough taxes are generated.

    When I first heard the term “Welfare State” being used to describe the UK, I thought it was a derogatory term. It was later that people explained that it was a positive thing. It was then I realised the issues the UK has are far too deeply ingrained into the general psyche of the population. Even when everything collapses, people will blame those selfish capitalists for all the problems and not the socialist philosophy that has brought them to the brink.