Not many people know that Marie Antoinette's infamous "let them eat cake" solution was not as unfeeling as it appeared to be.
Instead her position was actually informed by the curious scenario where, within the separate world of the French royal court, the price of bread was rising but the cost of cake was falling. The source of the trouble with Marie Antoinette, alas, was that peasants, however, eat bread, not cake.
There was certainly more than a touch of the Marie Antoinette surrounding the lectures by Nama boss Frank Daly and Patrick Coveney, chief executive of Greencore, and president at last week's Dublin Chamber of Commerce gala dinner. The event, covered in fawning terms by RTE, was also infused by more than a hint of the bleak denouement of Animal Farm, for right down to the attendees and the 'you never had it so good' sermonising, all that had changed from the time when Mr Cowen used such 'black tie' events to communicate with ordinary citizens, was the identity of the talkers.
Like Marie Antoinette, we are sure the career bureaucrat and the dynastic Merchant Prince meant well when they attacked the sins of public negativity and the concept that we might be a 'poor' country. Messrs Daly and Coveney are undoubtedly successful in their natural spheres of bureaucracy and agribusiness for they certainly are dining on cake, and rather a lot of it too. But citizens living in ghostly deserted villages and those lost generations experiencing the 'lifestyle choice' of unemployment or emigration are unlikely to be enthused by the homilies of what they perceive to be patrician idiots, who have never felt the nip of the wolf near their tails.
It is unfortunate our elites feel their talents are not properly appreciated. This, however, can happen when the lives of a country's citizens are systematically and, worse still, selectively degraded, in the service of those who applaud at 'black tie' gala dinners. And if the Government wants to know why the peasants no longer cheer its every move it should remember that this administration promised the great spirit of reform would infuse every action it took. Instead, after some initial vigour, it apparently has been decided by the shivering old men of the Cabinet that, for fear of something worse, Ireland will collude with the erosion of the spirit that dumb austerity inevitably brings.
Nothing typifies this new attitude more than Nama where there is a distinct absence of political knights queuing up to behead a hydra that combines sclerotic Soviet Bloc economics with the bureaucratic inertia of the Irish public sector. Brendan Howlin, meanwhile, appears to be evolving into a case of sound, fury and little else, for only a state run by a shadow government of mandarins and social partners could devise a scheme of public sector reform where workers are paid off at vast expense and then rehired as consultants.
It is past time this lethargic Government stopped behaving like the unwilling managers of a poorly performing franchise. Mr Kenny, who we believe to be a well-meaning soul, played the patriotic game to the hilt, when he sweet-talked his way into the Taoiseach's office but colluding in the evolution of this State into the equivalent of some defunct Welsh coal mine, where the only industry will consist of German tours of the mausoleums of the Celtic Tiger, is a poor school of economics let alone patriotism. Mr Kenny would do well to remember that, despite her natural benevolence, just like the rest, poor Marie Antoinette got the guillotine.