Has Sinn Fein lost touch with capitalist south?

Fascinating and only slightly tongue in cheek review of Sinn Fein’s economic policy from David McWilliams in the Sunday Business Post. Amongst other things, he wonders how it anti private capital bent will go down with the “86 per cent of Irish people who own their own homes”.

“The main problem with the provo riche manifesto is that (like its bank robbing genesis) it says very little about creating wealth, but lots about taking wealth.

“Here, for example, is the provo riche policy on taxation taken from Sinn Féin’s 2005 pre-budget submission: “It is essential to reform and re-weigh the taxation system in favour of the low paid and to increase the overall tax take by targeting wealth, speculative property and corporate profits.”

“Measures should include the end of tax avoidance schemes, measured increases in corporation tax and increased capital gains tax for owners of multiple properties and a 50 per cent tax band for incomes over €100,000.

“So far so extortionate. So the provo riche’s policy is about taking money from the rich, but what does the manifesto say about creating money and wealth? Not a lot, frankly. But back in 2003, at a submission to the Oireachtas Committee on the Constitution, the provo riche had the following to say about your house: “Private property has been and remains an instrument of oppression of people the world over.”

“There are those (maybe the 86 per cent of Irish people who own their own homes) who would argue the opposite: that private property and ownership is the very cornerstone of a civilised, law-abiding society, that with property rights come responsibilities – the sort of responsibilities that bind families and communities together.

“Once a manifesto deviates from private ownership, at the very least it puts huge faith in the promise of public ownership. And this is at the core of the provo riche economic doctrine. It believes in the state – the power of the state, the control of the state over people and the primacy of the will of the collective over the rights of the individual”.

  • barney

    A link to the maifesto would be useful. The article is based on one small extract from 2005 and another, with no context, from 2003. Hard to say what SF’s policies are from those carefully panned nuggets but it’s easy enough to see where David McWilliams is coming from. The quest to invent a new catchprase is obviously more important than an academic study of the manifesto. Having said that, SF wouldn’t be the first to espouse a radical policy whilst in opposition. Most parties move a bit closer to the centre when in power.

  • Concerned Loyalist

    “Measures should include…increased capital gains tax for owners of multiple properties” :-

    Does Sinn Fein feel this applies to millionaire fuel-smuggling Provisional IRA members such as Thomas ‘Slab’ Murphy, or, because they “fought the good fight”, do they get a special tax – exemption certificate, awarded to them by “Fuhrer” Adams at a special Crossmaglen show of strength in their honour?

  • George

    David McWilliams seems to be confused on the issue of home ownership.

    If you owe 200k on your house, then you don’t own it, you are in a shared buyback scheme with your bank, over a thirty year capitalist barrel so to speak.

    As for taking wealth rather than generating it, Ireland has the highest gap between rich and poor after the US so there are a huge amount of votes out there and only SF is actively targetting them.

    There are virtually no economic differences between FF and the potential other government, FG and Labour, even though extreme poverty is worse in Dublin now than 10 years ago.

    McWilliams is sitting in his south county Dublin, drink of a weekend in Dalkey, ivory tower. Easy to talk about civilised society there amongst the vieux riche.

    Naturally those who have huge equity locked up in their properties don’t like the idea of a capital gains tax and those who have invested in property or have hoarded land for decades in property speculation pushing the prices ever upwards don’t like the idea of paying for the pleasure or even worse forced to use it or lose it.

    Head out to Fettercairn David and you’ll find even the home owners vote Sinn Fein. Head to soulless new satellite towns in Meath and Kildare and you’ll experience the same.

    There is a two-tier society cementing itself in the Irish Republic, McWilliams and SF are in different tiers.

  • Ringo

    Hard to say what SF’s policies are from those carefully panned nuggets but it’s easy enough to see where David McWilliams is coming from.

    Barney –

    its hard to say what Sinn Fein’s economic policies are – full stop. One thing for sure is that if they were given the finance brief in the morning they wouldn’t start turning the place into the socialist republic they prattle on about – they’d leave things well alone.

    George –

    More socialist republican ideology.

    Extreme poverty is not worse than ten years ago. I know, Cherry Orchard..etc… the report was not independent. This is a classic case of being selective with figures.

    As for those living in the soulless estates in the pale – I’m pretty certain they aren’t voting Sinn Fein in any larger numbers than elsewhere. What are you basing on your theory on? The constituency that Sinn Fein are targetting are economic illiterates – people with low education levels. This sort of socialist utopia stuff is aimed for their consumption. Labour have long matured beyond the Joe Higgins-type sensationalism. And you are right- there is a consensus among the main political parties – driven by the reality proffered in a huge number of reports commissioned by various government departments, state bodies etc… Sinn Fein and the other sensationalists find little pickings in these reports, so resort to Daily Mail-type campaigns aimed more at their own self-promotion than any economic spin offs for those who so kindly gave them a ‘mondate’.

    McWilliams is right – it is all very well for Sinn Fein to suggest how they would carry out wealth distribution – but it is folly to suggest that it can be done in this manner without affecting wealth creation.

  • Occasional Commenter

    Socialism is not the answer. The poverty levels in the U.S. and in ROI are nothing to be proud of. In fact, poverty anywhere in the world should be tackled.

    But capitalism and free markets is always going to be the best way to generate wealth and the private sector is almost always going to be the most efficient way to spend wealth.

    Or perhaps I should paraphrase Churchill and say these methods are not as bad as any other system we’ve tried so far.

    There are better ways to bring up the standard of living of the poor than socialism. It’s not often that my opinions fit nicely with those of a political party, but the Tories’ health and education policies are the only way to improve health and education for all.

    The state should pay for everyone’s education and health, without necessarily running the show.

    The current Labour government has done even worse than the old Tory government when it comes to closing the gap between rich and poor. Nowadays only the well off can get a good education in England.

  • IJP

    George‘s first para is correct of course, but so is the whole of Ringo‘s response.

    100% public ownership leads to omnipowerful governments. That’s not a good thing.

  • James

    “But capitalism and free markets is always going to be the best way to generate wealth and the private sector is almost always going to be the most efficient way to spend wealth.

    No one ever doubted that it’s a hellofa engine to generate wealth, the crux of the argument is in the distribution of that wealth.

    The Provos have just fielded one distribution angle, crony capitalism has fielded one and socialism fielded another. Anyone else got an angle?

  • Occasional Commenter

    How about this: Use capitalism to generate wealth, then tax some of it to spend on public services, where those public services are bought from the private sector.

    The government shouldn’t provide the service themselves but simply provide the cash which can be used by the punter who can’t afford it themselves, so they can spend on the private sector school/hospital of their choice.

    Socialists think that it’s a zero sum game, i.e. that if someone is wealthy then it must have been at the expense of someone else. The logic of socialism would tell you that knocking down mansions will magically cause new houses to be built for poor people.

    Tax is bad, and destroys the very wealth creation on which it relys. But health and education et cetera are very important, so tax is a necessary evil.

    We won’t progress until we remember that tax may be a necessary evil, but that on it’s own it is evil, and that if the state is going to take our money it should at least try to spend it wisely, which will only happen if the punter actually makes the spending decision at the front line.

  • Hardy Handshake

    Hmmm…is it just me or is there not an irony in McWilliams condoning the seething greed and anti-collectivist crap as epitomised by the verminous Kevin Myers and his ilk, Shane Ross et al, who believe solidly in the concept of the deserving poor concept and take no real position other than a superficial one on the corruption which is widespread in Irish commerce and has charcterised politics since the inception of the state and his poseur take on the ‘proveau riche’ ?

    Make no mistake, SF is a solidly capitalist party but McWilliams illustrates only the extent to which an alternative to the mainstream criminal opportunism of the fat cats needs serious sustained organized opposition and a workable alternative.

    Mistaking the poplularity of home owership with massive approval for the politics of greed and economic oppression just won’t do; the poverty and social crises which will follow the onset on widespread negative quity, heightened interest rates and inflation will have berks like McWilliams laughing out the other side of his arsehole in early course. Unless he’s got a corrupt accountant of course that is.

  • Hardy Handshake

    Hmmm…is it just me or is there not an irony in McWilliams condoning the seething greed and anti-collectivist crap as epitomised by the verminous Kevin Myers and his ilk, Shane Ross et al, who believe solidly in the concept of the deserving poor concept and take no real position other than a superficial one on the corruption which is widespread in Irish commerce and has charcterised politics since the inception of the state and his poseur take on the ‘proveau riche’ ?

    Make no mistake, SF is a solidly capitalist party but McWilliams illustrates only the extent to which an alternative to the mainstream criminal opportunism of the fat cats needs serious sustained organized opposition and a workable alternative.

    Mistaking the poplularity of home owership with massive approval for the politics of greed and economic oppression just won’t do; the poverty and social crises which will follow the onset of widespread negative equity, heightened interest rates and galloping inflation will have berks like McWilliams laughing out the other side of his arsehole in early course. Unless he’s got a corrupt accountant of course that is. What genuine sustainable social wealth is being created by property developers and their sleazy ilk could he tell us ?