Let us be honest: In the Irish political lexicon, the phrase “the rich” is a swearword. When one looks at the posters of the hard left, “the rich” are given the same hate filled centre-of-place that the Jews would have been given on a Nazi poster in 1930s Germany. We are left in no doubt that to be rich is to be morally inferior and probably evil. Yet, curiously, as a people we have never elected an openly hostile anti-rich government. Even in the coming election, where surely the left will have their best result ever, it is very unlikely that a hard left government will be elected. We are, it seems, happy to hate the rich but not that committed to actually depriving them of their status. Why is that?
I suspect it is because we assume that the rich behave in exactly the same way the rest of us would behave if we were rich. We too would take umbrage at paying high taxes, indeed generally, as a people, we do. Our social conscience is only as deep as to demand that other people pay for social solidarity. We could easily elect a government that would confiscate wealth, but we don’t, because deep down we’re afraid that they’ll come after the rest of us. The Irish don’t ideologically hate the concept of being rich: We just hate the idea of other people being rich.