Flaws in Bertie's vision of social capital?

Harvard Professor Robert Putnam (Bertie’s favourite academic) has spent the last few days in Ulster. At Fianna Fail’s think-in in Cavan as it happens. His big idea is the concept of ‘Social Capital‘: from his seminal work on the disintegration of working class communities. However Robin Wilson thinks there’s a gap between Ahern’s advocacy of Putnam’s ideas and his government’s policies. Not least in the country’s enthusiastic espousal of capitalism:

Translated on to the international arena, Putnam’s social-capital scale places egalitarian Sweden at the top and hugely-unequal Brazil at the bottom. And this, Wilkinson argues, is common sense: we are most likely to show solidarity with our fellow citizen if we do not feel socially distant from them.

But this is where Ahern faces his first difficulty. Also at the weekend, in an interview he reiterated his preference for the Progressive Democrats as a coalition partner. One of that party’s Ministers, Michael McDowell, has argued recently that inequality is necessary in a capitalist society. It provides an essential incentive, he claims.

McDowell is wrong, as Putnam’s and other data show. A society with deep inequalities undervalues the human capital of huge numbers of its population, and its lack of an accepted moral compass encourages free-riding and anti-social behaviour.

  • Ling

    Typical McDowell up is down thinking. I’m equal as I like, so sod the rest of them. Isn’t it wonderful how the parties that came after the tweedledum and tweedledee of FF and FG are even more loopy and useless than that pair?

  • Keith M

    I’d like to see where McDowell said inequality is necessary. If I recall correctly, he aid it was inevitable, which is very different. The role of a government is not to eliminate inequality. That can and was achieved in the socalist regimes of eastern Europe and still goes on today in places like North Korea. It’s simply a matter of removing opportunity and any reward for hard work.

    The role of a government in a free market is to make sure that every individual has the opportunity to better themselves through their own effort. The current government has done a good job in this respect, eliminating all discrimination in the workplace and allowing people who work harder to take home more of the money they earn.

    I would like to see more movement in this respect, starting with a flat tax rate on all earnings like that which exists in Estonia. Also more effort should be made on educating people over 40 years of age in new technology and areas where different oppotunities now exist in the Irish market.

    Government should be an enabler not a nanny.

  • David Larmour

    Excellent post Keith.

  • D’Oracle

    Is Bundoran the social capital of Ireland?
    Theres a lot of stuff that goes on there in the dark.

  • martin

    Actually Mc dowell said that inequality is an incentive.

    I think Berties caring sharing socialism was well summed up by the picture of the hospital patient in a delapidated room on a trolly in a hospital a few miles down the road from where he was making his big talk–there wont be any action as usual–the picture was on the front of Mondays evening Herald.