Fintan O’Toole sounds great but he’s got it wrong

The Republic supports two latter day raging Jonathan Swifts, Vincent Browne who  had the plug pulled on him by RTE and Fintan O’Toole. To be sure, there’s a horrible banality as well as tragedy about being in hock to bankers just as it was to 19th landlords or ironclad industrial capitalists. Fintan  comes close to recommending revolt, surely a risky approach at this time of high anxiety and volatility. And where is the real strategy in this howl of protest?

The primary goal of the IMF-EU package to which any new government will be committed is not to stop Ireland spiralling downwards into economic depression. It is to ensure that Irish citizens cough up yet more money for the banks…. We need a non-party technical administration to hold the fort while the people have their say on the four-year plan and on radical reform of our political system.

Who are these ” non-political people of integrity and competence” (or does he mean technicians such as civil servants)? How would  they emerge? After mass sit-downs in Merrion Square?  And what else would that ” non-technical administration” do except beg the Dail to pass the budget to stem more capital flight? The panacea of the disinterested statesman is as old as Plato and as disastrous as the Blueshirts.

It’s also easy to forget the foundations of previously undreamt of Irish prosperity was delivered by those self same banks and that Ireland will be rebuilt by FDI and more sustainable credit. Ireland could do with a good deal less self-flagellation and more calm consideration of an alternative strategy. A Euro-crisis cannot have a purely national solution. Try Martin Wolff’s in the FT. “Ireland should convert unsecured debt into equity rather than force its citizens to bail out its s improvident lenders.” So roll up to buy the Irish debt and her banks. Bank nationalisation can only be short lived.
Regarding the politics and the national mood, Burke got it right. “When ancient opinions and rules of life are taken away, the loss cannot possibly be estimated. From that moment, we have no compass to govern us, nor can we know distinctly to what port to steer.”

In other words, there is no single rational alternative plan divorced from people’s good sense and the habit of democracy. Fintan is right that a new departure is needed to steer Ireland away from the deceptive comfort of cronyism and localism that was as much agin the government as for it. The answers lie somewhere closer to Burke’s ideal of the TD as representative of the national interest rather than the blind mouth of local interests.

“Parliament is not a congress of ambassadors from different and hostile interests; which interests … you have chosen him, he is not a member of Bristol, but he is a member of parliament.”

Irish politicians are not uniquely awful. In common with their peers elsewhere they can learn the new lessons of economic and fiscal literacy. Fintan’s voters’ boycott of the Donegal by-election has troubling echoes of ancient revolt while his next move contains overtones of 1968.

Hundreds of thousands of people have to get out on the streets for the Irish Congress of Trade Unions demonstration on Saturday. Before an election, a civic movement has to create a critical mass around the idea of radical political reform.

When in history was a stable reform ever created in the moment of crisis? Political change will take time. The lessons of a decade of tribunals and this financial crisis will take another decade at least to absorb.

The only beneficiaries of mass action will be the jackals of protest like Sinn Fein who haven’t got a constructive idea in their heads about what to do next.

Without  risk of contagion, it is entirely democratic for mass protest to put pressure on the Dail to reject the budget although in my view that would be disastrous. Adjustment can be made in later years. The famous four year plan is not holy writ under any government. In the convulsions of its birth, the old free State chose wisely to adopt parliamentary government with a written constitution. This is no time to give it up  for the incoherence and dangerous unpredictability of what Aneurin Bevan called ” an emotional spasm.”

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  • Alias

    What is actually needed is revolution. This should have occured on the day that the government rejected the democratic will of the people and announced that they would have to vote again on the Lisbon Treaty until they produced a result that their de facto colonial rulers in the EU demanded. It was clear then that the government had rejected democracy and self-determination and so had forfeited its authority to govern.

    No one voted to give several hundred billion of Irish taxpayers money away to the eurosystem, and again a revolution should have occured on the day that the ECB directed the Lenihan to underwrite all debts of euosysten banks.

    Whatever form it takes it is now overdue.

  • wee buns

    Situation is untenable and Fintan had no ’emotional spasm’ by recognising this earlier than most of his ilk. We have the power of default & therefore in a place of strength in negociations at this moment in time.

  • dible

    total sense. O’toole has to take a share of the blame himself though he is honest and has no personal agenda. But as ILP chief guru he has never let political power get in the way of a right-on liberal cause. He has condemned generations of the conservative poor to FF representation.

  • IJP

    Excellent article, Brian.

    It’s not easy to carry out calm consideration at a time like this – but it is what is required.

    It is also worth noting that the doom-mongers were not heralding doom three years ago. If so much was wrong with Ireland, why did they not predict what was coming before it came?

  • fitzjameshorse1745

    Fintan O’Toole is the High Priest of the Irish Overclass, who believe they are more intelligent than any elected politician or the voters who elect them [Play the ball! – mods]
    Typically O’Tooles solution is for an unelected administration …….appointed by Fintan O’Toole.

  • Cahir O’Doherty

    I’m very much in two minds about what course would be best for Ireland. The rebellious side says ‘screw it: revolt, default, re-elect’ while the other part knows that that is ridiculous and would lead to a lot more bad than good when Ireland eventually needed to return to the bond market. O’Toole’s idea of an administration of technocrats is appealing..but who would appoint them, what would their social goals be? There are just too many questions around that suggestion.

    Also, perhaps if you spent a bit of time on the forums over on Politics.ie (I know, I know, it’s a not a representative sample or anything like approaching it) you’d realise that Sinn Fein are increasingly becoming attractive to the voters of Ireland as (to paraphrase a poster over there) ‘the only ones who seem to have the people’s interest at heart.’

  • Michael Hughes

    “Careful, now!” is all I’ll say about a revolution. Plato was a bit more expansive on the subject some years back:

    “In my youth I went through the same experience as many other men. I fancied that if, early in life, I became my own master, I should at once embark on a political career. And I found myself confronted with the following occurrences in the public affairs of my own city. The existing constitution being generally condemned, a revolution took place, and fifty-one men came to the front as rulers of the revolutionary government (…) Some of these were relatives and acquaintances of mine, and they at once invited me to share in their doings, as something to which I had a claim. The effect on me was not surprising in the case of a young man. I considered that they would, of course, so manage the State as to bring men out of a bad way of life into a good one. So I watched them very closely to see what they would do. And seeing, as I did, that in quite a short time they made the former government seem by comparison something precious as gold.”
    (Seventh Letter).

  • Alias

    Your obedient faith in the political class is touching and steadfast even for the statist mentality. It’s just a shame that you haven’t managed to become a member of it despite your best efforts.

    It’s more worthwhile noting the moronic judgement of that political class is responsible for the current mess, and that they were far from condemning the ECB’s expansionist monetary policies when they were enjoying the boom-side of them.

    But then, of course, it is illegal under the Maastricht Treaty for a government of a member state in the EuroZone to be other than publically supportive of those policies so perhaps we shouldn’t blame the muppets for cheerleading the EU’s governance when they had, again, moronically deprived themselves of the ability to do otherwise.

  • Alias

    “O’Toole’s idea of an administration of technocrats is appealing..”

    You already have one: it’s called the EU.

    Also, you are conflating sovereign debts with the debts of private business. The Irish state’s credit rating would not have been altered one iota by a private business within its state defaulting.

  • Alias

    Fintan finally sees the light:

    “The primary goal of the IMF-EU package to which any new government will be committed is not to stop Ireland spiralling downwards into economic depression. It is to ensure that Irish citizens cough up yet more money for the banks.

    The process of converting bank debt into national debt is to be completed. Instead of the banks borrowing money from the European Central Bank at one per cent interest to fund their operations, the State (you and me) will borrow it for them at perhaps five per cent.

    To pay for this, the poor and the vulnerable will be further hammered.”

    The odd thing is that he and the Irish Times will still sing the praises of the EU even when he is accusing it of conspiring to do untold harm to a nation that it governs to serve its own selfish, economic and strategic interests while having deprived that nation of the ability to defend itself from the abuse by depriving it own its sovereign powers and leaving it at the mercy of a regime that cares not a dot for its people.

  • Alias

    “A Euro-crisis cannot have a purely national solution.” – Brian Walker

    If the ECB want to call the tune then let them pay the piper. The cost of rescuing the eurosystem from its mountain of debts that its monetary policies created should be paid for by those who promote it, i.e. the EU.

    It is absurd to allow a third party to dictate terms when that third party will not be sharing any of the cost of those terms and, indeed, is demanding money that isn’t owed. The Irish state did not borrow this money, so it should not be repaid by those who didn’t borrow it.

    These gangsters in the EU are just degenerate scum.

  • pippakin

    We must default. It is not a choice if we look at the debt owed there is no way we can pay it.

  • aquifer

    ‘What is actually needed is revolution’

    What started the problem was a nationalist revolutionary gang, pretending that enriching their cronies recklessly was teaching their their former colonial masters a lesson.

    Ireland cannot be a rich country under some Kim O’Sung.

    Dealing with matters rationally one at a time is a tedious and demeaning business, as logical solutions are no respecters of egos, requiring submission to evidence gathered and assimilated with more brains and patience than politicians generally possess..

    Lets start with the mongrel colonial legacy of PRSTV.

    Guaranteeing local sectarian factions a slice of the electoral and money pie is no way to run a coutnry.

    Vote for parties and policies, not the local gangster.

  • Wilde Rover

    Brian Walker,

    “The answers lie somewhere closer to Burke’s ideal of the TD as representative of the national interest rather than the blind mouth of local interests.”

    Which is why a root and branch reform is required. The game is rigged towards parish pump. In truth it is in the parish mentality and the idea of having geographically spread ministers rather than those purely on merit.

    “The only beneficiaries of mass action will be the jackals of protest like Sinn Fein who haven’t got a constructive idea in their heads about what to do next.”

    You may be right, although in fairness there does seem to be some shift away from Lalaeconomics on their part. And to be honest, even if they haven’t strayed that far away from Never Never Land it wouldn’t be too far away from the current batch of losers.

    “Adjustment can be made in later years.”

    In later years? So in the meantime the peons can just suck it up? Just bend over and take it gracefully? Or does that mean the current generation can hopefully make it to death by running on fumes while the children and grandchildren are sold into debt slavery?

    “In the convulsions of its birth, the old free State chose wisely to adopt parliamentary government with a written constitution. This is no time to give it up for the incoherence and dangerous unpredictability of what Aneuran Bevan called ” an emotional spasm.””

    The written constitution has already been given up. The unwritten European constitution now holds sway so there really is nothing to lose.

  • DC

    If this existing government gets out under basic state pension then that will be the closest thing to a revolution for me.

    Luxurious government pensions should not be paid after delivering a close to poverty-line budget.

    This is vital for the current opposition to oversee as I reckon it will be pushed through – the poverty budget that is. If it does, legislation to curtail this government’s pension pay outs should go through in lock step.

    They are to blame for the bust, the Irish populace will pay for the bust as well in taxes, reduced pay and services – some will be unemployed for years and years and years.

    Moral hazard must be addressed, I think it is only right, it’s the only thing I know that will have real impact in future. This is not about punishing the elite but ensuring that should any future government create so much debt again they too should leave on similar basic pension – this is Ireland’s low water mark – a benchmark has been set. Politicians must also act in the national interest.

    To me that equates to this government leaving on privilege-free basic pensions (previous ones are culpable – but there’s next to no hope doing retrospective legislation on them – the Aherns of this world).

  • DC

    IJP – it’s called laissez faire regulation or inadequate regulation – and so if there wasn’t proper disclosure of details in the financial markets and the monitoring to go with it was not taking place, who was ever going to blow the whistle?

    Like giving limitless amounts of fizzy pop to kids but in doing so never recording how much of it you gave them nor to how many: cue the diabetes and obesity.

    The crash was a result of two people – the somebody and the nobody – somebody did it, but nobody knows who.

    However, the government has some blame in this in terms of failure to prevent this through policy – and so if the Irish taxpayer must pay for the bust so too can the politicians by leaving on basic state pensions.

  • Colm McGinn

    That’s an interesting piece of political analysis.

    Now, how did Fintan O’Toole ‘condemn generations of the conservative poor to FF representation’?

  • Cynic

    Sure you can have a revolution but at the end of the day you still owe the money.

  • A.N.Other

    They said the same before 1916; ah, now, don’t want to be upsetting the status quo.

    There is no doubt that what is needed is revolution.

    It is because of inertia and inbred conservatism that we are in the mess that we are in. These are the conditions under which crony capitalism and clientelism thrived; alongside the lie that the twenty six county state was some sort of achievement.

    The robber barons plundered the twenty six county state, in much the same way they plundered the likes of Kenya.

  • A.N.Other

    “Sure you can have a revolution but at the end of the day you still owe the money.”

    Ah, like what? That would not be a revolution.

    The revolution would be a fresh start; the country would be allowed to go bankrupt and a fresh start would be made.

  • IJP

    Alias

    If you’re going to play the man, at least reveal yourself to us all.

    Once you’ve done that, try to stick to what I write. For example, within the past week I wrote a blog advocating fundamental change to the electoral system in both jurisdictions, because STV inevitably leads to glorified Cllrs rather than proper legislators.

    Of course, then you’d probably have accused me of trying to change the system I couldn’t get into!

    By the way, if you think the system is working with the people who are currently within it, you’re in a minority of precisely 1.

    DC

    I fully understand that.

    All I am saying is I don’t remember a bit rush of doom-mongering articles in, say, 2006. They are all coming out of the woodwork now.

    It’s very easy to criticise in retrospect. If more people had been doing it in 2006, or 2002, it wouldn’t have come to this. The time for root-and-branch reform was before the crisis, but I guess we are where we are.

  • Mick Fealty

    Agree with that last, and DSW will give them a boost in that direction. Whether

    But on the Daily Show yester, Andrew Neil didn’t know where to look after Mitchel McLaughlin suggested nationalising the banks (after they’d already been substantially nationalised).

    We may need more technocrats (who know how to do their jobs), but we also need politicians who understand their own job. For the rest, as Eamonn O’Cuiv has suggested, perhaps its best to pray?

  • Archie Noble

    Fintan wants ” a non-party technical administration ” I see why Brian mentioned Blueshirts. No doubt in an ideal world they would be chosen in Fintan’s image rather than elected. I think there may be a contempt for democracy coming through here. Plainly Ireland needs an election asap. I don’t think it needs a coup. It all has echoes of the self appointed ‘good men’.

    “The only beneficiaries of mass action will be the jackals of protest like Sinn Fein who haven’t got a constructive idea in their heads about what to do next.” Not fair, Brian, SF do know what to do and here is a link that you should read.

    http://www.sinnfein.ie/files/Pre-Budget2010_web.pdf

  • DC

    Not so, this is Bertie Ahern responding to concerns put to him about the State of Irelands economy in 2007:

    ‘Sitting on the sidelines, cribbing and moaning is a lost opportunity. I don’t know how people who engage in that don’t commit suicide because frankly the only thing that motivates me is being able to actively change something,’

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hfjGSfuSQpA

    Or Peader Kirby wrote a book about the inadequacy of the policy model behind the Celtic Tiger:

    http://www.amazon.co.uk/Celtic-Tiger-Distress-Peadar-Kirby/dp/0333964357/ref=sr_1_9?ie=UTF8&qid=1290596393&sr=8-9

    The politicians should pay in lock with the public who they represent. Basic pension-off this government.

  • DC

    Just to add, the above book was written 2001.

  • JR

    Both charley haughy and charley mc kreevey were chartered accountants.

  • Neil

    What a reasoned and elegantly written article

  • SimpsonInBangor

    I’m not entirely sure that Fintan O’Toole knows exactly what he wants, other than that he wants something different and radical.

    Unfortunately, he will have to accept that he isn’t in a position to affect that.

  • Neil

    There is nothing particularly wrong with the Parish pump at the end of the day, it just needs to be banished from national politics. I suggest reforming the political system by removing the vestiges of the colonial political system and abolish County Councils. Replace them with three regional assemblies and a legislative assembly for Dublin, and maybe for Cork. Devolve powers of local taxation and representation to these assemblies and allow tham make real decisions at local level so that people will not only assemble at their Parish Pump, but take pride in it – maybe even plant a few shrubs and flowers around it. We are a local people who take pride in our Provinces, and we should harness what is positive from this in our reformed political institutions. This is what happens in Germany in the excellent Lander and federal system, and it would attract local representatives of much better quality.

    TDs could be radically reduced at national level, the Upper House replaced by a system of electing two Senators for every county to ensure that there is adaquate representation for constituencies in the lower house and counties in the upper house, and provinces in the provincial assemblies. Senators could be re-elected in some form of mid-term elections to keep the system in check. A strong parliamentary democracy would emerge, with sound checks and balances and comprehensive representation. The Senate could also be reformed to assume much of the work of Tribunals and investigate allegations of corruption. The Committee system has singularly failed and the Courts have jealously taken back powers of review from our elected representatives, which is not acceptable. Our Courts were never designed to be a check to the sovereignty of Parliament.

    Ironically one of the problems in our system is that is vests too much power in the people and diminishes parliamentary sovereignty. Nowhere is this more starkly demonstrated than the devolving of the question of the right to life to the people in the 1980s. Popular sovereign will over abortion has removed the right of parliament to legislate over a key ethical question and has left our politicians off the hook and put the question to the Courts to decide. Let’s remember that the Supreme Court in the late 1990s banned British telephone books in case all the women of Ireland would let their fingers do the walking.

    We elect politicians to take difficult decisions on our behalf. What Fintan O’Toole proposes is something like the Petrograd Soviets in revolutionary Russia which led only to violence and one of the great tyrannies of the 20th Century. I also have severe misgivings in taking part in a Union led protest, particularly given the shocking and disgusting feeding at the trough in FAS and Iarnrod Eirean, to name but two institutions. As a Union member I think I found this news to be the most shocking, particularly as FAS was designed to be a vehicle of hope for the unemployed.

    Political change can take place by evolution or revolution. Unfortunately the room for evolution in our institutions appears to have become stale, most likely due to the stultifying whip system which results in real political debate happening behind closed doors at meetings of the Fianna Fail Parliamentary Party. This is not acceptable and the whip system allows poorly performing TDs to hide behind the coat tails of disastrously performing ministers. It’s a self perpetuating cycle of dispair.

    Therefore without a process of evolution what is there in exchange? There is actually a precedent for this: the 1922 Constituent Assembly was elected for purpose to promulgate a Constitution for the Irish Free State. Whilst some of the articles of this Constitution were undemocractically and hurriedly created in secret by the Provisional Government and the Colonial Office in order to bring it into accord with the Dominion model of Government, these provisions were largely irrelevent to the majority of people. The beauty of the process was that the articles of the constitution as presented were scrutinised and amended first by the assembly and finally adjudicated by the people, and this was done at a time of great political uncertainty. In many respects it is to the credit of the Irish people that in times of crisis the majority has always kept a cool head and rejected demagoguery while the mad men shout in the keyhole. We have seen this in the 1920s, 1930s, 1970s, 1980s, and now our latest nervous breakdown.

    If change is to come it has to come through our existing system which can be radically reformed with a bit of imagination and not in one sudden revolutionary shock. The 1922 Constitution is a document worth looking at again because it was designed with the kind of checks and balances that I have outlined above. Its most novel features were never seriously employed, such as external Ministers – which is something kind of like what Fintan is suggesting. Frankly I think a list system might be better than external Ministers as the Executive should always be accountable to the Parliament and having externally appointed Ministers could weaken reponsible Government. Other novelties included the right of initiative for the people to petition Constitutional change. This is an admirable idea, but it could be sabotaged by a Tea Party style movement – but it is worth looking at.

    Our choices are immense, there are several Parliamentary democracies which function throughout the World, and in the EU. I think the best solution to Parish Pump politics is not to banish it altogether – in some ways it serves us well against venal and idle officialdom. Many people have to fight very hard to get their rights in this country, but it is not the job of National Deputies to look after this. The matter can be taken out by offering a credible and financially prudent alternative in local Government. To these institutions could be devolved education, roads, water, local legislation and accountable planning. It would remove the tyranny of the County manager and the rather silly activities of Alderman in Robes on St Patricks Day, and as the late John Kelly observed, Lord Mayors in Carriages. Preserve the traditions of our institutions by all means but they need to be reformed so that they are fit for purpose and serve the needs of the people.

  • Colm McGinn

    What a load of balls, rather than a ‘reasoned and elegantly written article’!

    A great deal of self satisfied commentary on here. Do you guys actually believe it, or are you just ‘running interference’?

    Re:
    ‘Burke got it right. “When ancient opinions and rules of life are taken away, the loss cannot possibly be estimated. From that moment, we have no compass to govern us, nor can we know distinctly to what port to steer.”’

    Burke was a polemicist, writing for a political effect (in favour of a conservative world view) 220 years ago. A while ago.

    In the intervening years, many aspects of change are apparent, but one unchanging is that those who have accreted power and money, will not give any part up without struggle. They will always find willing acolytes in support of their position, who will self- vindicate by referencing the received wisdom of the status quo.

    A small example of what is happenning in this world; Sunday Times ‘Rich List’: the wealthiest 1,000 persons in UK now own £342 Billion. Personal wealth. They made £77 Billion of that (nearly 1/4) in the previous 12 months. (May 2010) How did you all do in the past 12 months?

  • Neil

    Burke began as a radical but was tempered by the worst excesses of the French revolution. I agree, the vesting and concentration of inordinate wealth in the hands of the few is highly undesirable, but it can be corrected by taxation and redistribution if the people desire it. Can’t say that the ‘tax the rich’ brigade have done very well at the polls. If the people have let down their own ideals then it is the people’s fault – but that is the people’s business not pseudo socialist intellectuals.

    There are many obnoxious things in the country. For instance subsidised private education at secondary level. It inculculates elitism and a curious form of sectarianism at an early age. The very papers that Fintan writes for applauds this system and year after year one reads in the Times and Indo how disastrous the public and voluntary school sector is. The publishing of League Tables does not take into account a wholistic view of the educational process. I am myself a product of Jesuit education and at the funerals I very occasionally attend I am aghast at the sight of grown grey haired men wearing blazers and school ties. All of this nonsense needs to cease – we should look to the Swedish model where there is no elitism in Irish secondary education. Get them young!

  • Mick Fealty

    Ah, that explains a lot.

  • John East Belfast

    A.N. Other

    plundered it off what – potatos ?

    Come off it !

    This is a home grown problem caused by the dangerous mixture of greed and stupidity which is now moving into fear.

    That is a very scary combination I agree and a 100 years ago would have caused a revelution.
    However dont forget a 100 years ago if the ROI gave the two fingers to its creditors then that would have started a war as the Kaiser would have come for compensation.

  • Colm McGinn

    Re:

    “If the people have let down their own ideals then it is the people’s fault – but that is the people’s business not pseudo socialist intellectuals.”

    Indeed. Democracy is an absolutely awful system of government; – until one looks at the alternatives.

    The way you phrase that (which means also the way you think on it), “but that is the people’s business not pseudo socialist intellectuals” implies that to criticise government (the people don’t ‘have ideals’, on these matters. They just want an acceptable level of performance), is naive & ‘pseudo’.

    I wish to claim membership of this group you identify; I’m quite intellectual, believe in social justice & a large degree of economic equality.

    Am I to be dismissed? As ‘pseudo’?

  • Neil

    No Colm, your entitled to your opinions. Frankly in a democratic form of Government you are never going to achieve a granularity or purity that achieves political satisfaction for everyone and ensures their full consent with the political system. Frankly the elections from 1997 to present filled me with despair, but what can you do? The people voted and made their decision. You could improve it by compelling people to vote by law and ensure 100% participation in the electoral process. This might very well improve the situation but you have to balance this against the apathy of the public at large. People in Ireland just aren’t interested in ideals and know precious little about history, let alone political ideology and philosophy. We are, let’s face it, not a country with a very solid and thriving intellectual tradition. My point in regard to ‘psuedos’ is not meant to be personally derogatory to you or dismissive of your ideals. I welcome debate and reasoned analysis but putting reasoned and rational ideas out to the people does not necessarily always generate the response you might like. That’s the system and it might be awful, but show me an alternative to democracy that works, beside Fascism, Communism or totalitarianism. There’s no such thing as a benevolent despot. Fintan might fancy himself as some kind of Übermensch to liberate us from our slumber, but basically everyone will just continue slumbering. As animals we are conditioned wit a Darwinian survival instinct and participation in the democratic process will first and foremost always be me fein and based on individual reasoned choices. If you think you can usher in a socialist republic by spouting theory at people you are solely mistaken. Sometimes the mass moves by itself and power can be taken, but if you, Fintan or anyone else wants to take power than stand for office don’t over intellectualise the situation and interpret that this situation can result in a pre-determined theorectical outcome. Life is far more wonderful and complex

  • Neil

    I might add that Russia is a prime example of how the democratic process was subverted by electoral promises with ‘lland, peace and bread’. It was a nice catch all phrase but the Bolsheviks had no intention of allowing mob rule to continue and crushed the Soviets and began a process of enforced Marxist Leninism from which emerged the most catastrophic famine of the twentieth century until Mao’s China and Pol Pot’s Cambodia.

    In theory year zero sounds like a great idea. Sweep away the institutions of State and class privileges; great! But the next step is that of reconditioning the masses, eliminating the educated classs and you end up with killing fields or crazy economics.

    Does democracy and market capitalism work? Broadly speaking the answer to this is yes. It accommodates all our needs and desires. Of course by capitalism I don’t mean the dictatorship of the eponymous shareholder like the form of capitalism we now have, but rather the sale of goods for profit and the mutliplier effect that this creates in society, with the over concentration of wealth corrected by a fair system of redistributive taxation.

    Adam Smith’s great work is over 200 years old, just like Burke’s speeches and writings. But both Burke and Smith’s works should be constantly reread because they contain not truths from the 18th Century, but keen observations into the immutable nature of the human character and society. Plato’s Republic is an ideal but it is as unattainable and undefinable as planet Pluto.

    So yes, I am strongly arguing for representative democracy and socially equitable market capitalism. Eminently preferable to Marxism Leninism, Maoism, Fascism and all other ‘isms’. But society should also be socially fluid and promote the greasy pole. I would be relatively happy that we do live in a socially fluid society, but a fundamentally unequal one – it’s easy to travel up that pole but hard to keep up there without someone giving you a leg up – that’s is where our problems started in the late 1990s.

    I am not arguing that the Government has carte blance to rule over us with impugnity, as you appear to suggest. Government should always be held to account by the opposing representatives of the people and ultimately judged by the electorate at election time. Otherwise you would have people out on the streets and prevailing anarchy. Our system does fail, but it fails because our Parliamentary democracy is sick and stale. Because it is broken does not mean that it is irreparable or that we should have a year zero. That is pseudo intellectualism of the worst kind and I fear that what is now being advocated is a call to anarchy. Our reason and our experience of history tells us of the logical consequences of sudden breaks with our traditions. Evolution rather than revolution is also preferable.

  • Colm McGinn

    Neil, thank you for that claification, but towards the end, you continue what is, in it’s effect, a part of a campaign in favour of a status quo.

    ON: “There’s no such thing as a benevolent despot. Fintan might fancy himself as some kind of Übermensch to liberate us from our slumber,” I don’t see that at all, in anything Fintan O’Toole has written, & not in this piece.

    & ON: “but basically everyone will just continue slumbering” A peculiarly bleak assessment of the Irish people. I suppose that would fit with Burke.

    ON: “As animals we are conditioned with a Darwinian survival instinct and participation in the democratic process will first and foremost always be me fein and based on individual reasoned choices.” Me Too.
    I just don’t like it when I see the greater number of citizens/ subjects, ‘conned’ by the commentariat of ‘received wisdom’.

    ON: “If you think you can usher in a socialist republic by spouting theory at people you are solely mistaken. ”

    I’m not really a theory person, I’m more interested in practical things. Theory is good, as a tool for thought, but it’s not politics. I don’t want to usher in anything other than my survival, and the survival & prosperity of our wider community. That becomes a political project.

  • Colm McGinn

    ON: “In theory year zero sounds like a great idea. Sweep away the institutions of State and class privileges; great! ”

    No it doesn’t and never did, sound like a great idea.

    You can say ‘socially equitable market capitalism’, but such a thing does not really exist. Or rather, it exists at a micro level, (I trade in that sector of small business) but is not how the world is run at present.

    That world is one where the mega corporations are now, & very dangerously, approaching a parity of power with elected governments. Those corporations, the Trans National, are completely unaccountable, except when law is applied to attempt to correct their abuses. We wealthy people in ‘the West’ don’t notice these abuses, because we benefit (in a short term way) from them. Costs are ‘externalised’ such that poor, dark skinned people pay them. Costs of environmental degradation, of ill health, and of reduced or zero democracy for them.

  • Neil

    I agree with your analysis on the state of modern capitalism, and indeed draw close attention to it in my comments on what I call the dictatorship of the eponymous shareholder. This is certainly not the form of capitalism that Adam Smith would have recognised and as an evolution it has been, in my view, a step too far subverting the interests of the State and commonwealth to the overriding power of the market. However the current financial storm throughout the world is correcting this situation to an extent, and the correction is yet in its infancy. Firstly the State has re-emerged as a great power player and ultimately this is going to have to continue. Also the paradigm of Western economic dominance is shifting and it is not the west that is leading global recovery but the emerging economics in what we used to call the Third World.

    Capitalism is about producing pins and selling them to a market, it’s not about high finance and that is why we in the west are finished. We no longer make goods and our balance of payments with China is totally imbalanced and ultimately is sowing the seeds of our ruin. HOWEVER the truth of the matter is that it is we the people who have dictated this course. Cheap food, high wages and baby clothes that cost pence are the consequence of the unequal world. Who is going to stand up and say bread prices have to drop, industrial wages need to be competitive with China – how are we going to re-establish a textile and steel industry and compete with India?

    The fact is that we can’t and our society is unsustainable, and let’s not even talk about peak oil, and the environment consquences of industrialisation in the Third World. You are, my friend, witnessing the last years of a golden period in human society which was enjoyed only by the people of the west. The social solidarity and prosperity that emerged in the 1950s and 60s is going to be a thing of the past and with it will go expendable things human rights and all the luxuries of equality. Unfortunately the future is bleak. It could be arrested by a Stalinist centralised industrialism and collectivisation, but the force required to divest Irish Kulaks of their chattels would require a powerful Politburo of government elites.

    I have set out for you very clear parametres for change, but I haven’t heard anything from you for change other than a rather nebulous let’s put on our jack boots and protest. Protest is a good idea, it might shame out the devils who rule over us, but in reality it’s only going to generate acres of newsprint and hours of Sky News coverage. Come on folks, save the rain forests from journalists – petition your Parliament and representatives for change. The economic choices of the country are currently suppressed but we now have a unique opportunity to reform our institutions and that requires a literature and vocal group, not a call to arms

  • JJ Malloy

    What’s all this about the Kaiser?

  • JJ Malloy

    ‘In “Follow the Money” David McWilliams covers the same ground, and more besides. A former investment-bank economist in the City of London, he returned to Ireland at the height of the boom to write and broadcast. Mr McWilliams quickly spotted an inflating bubble and warned repeatedly that it would end in tears.

    Having called the crash, he now advocates radical solutions. Any bank that is unable to stand on its own feet should be allowed to fail, he says. And the Irish government should suspend its participation in the euro, devalue its new currency and rejoin the euro at a later date. ‘

    This solution, suggested almost 2 years ago, seems far more agreeable to me. Why should taxpayers bail out all the debt of the banks

  • pippakin

    JJ Malloy

    Completely agree.

  • John East Belfast

    JJ

    It is just we are talking about Revolutions which is just so Pre 21st Century – I think.

    Meanwhile people are also saying that the ROI should default on its Debts and effectively just give the two fingers to their international cerditors and the only sanction will be a few years on the Bond Market “naughty step”.

    Such talk would have prompted a War a 100 years ago.

    Therefore if we want to muse about popular revolutions then in that vein we should consider that other countries might not be so keen to just write off a few hundred billion either ?

  • Colm McGinn

    Your analysis is more about optimism on the nature of Capital, and pessimism on the human condition, than ‘very clear parameters for change’.

    ON: “what I call the dictatorship of the eponymous shareholder.” Not so. The dictatorship is of the very large shareholders, usually through the vehicle of corporate investment. This usefully conceals ownership, and puts things ‘at a remove’ from the other life of the shareholder, private or corporate. The little owner, implied in eponymous, is purely a makeweight.

    ON: “This is certainly not the form of capitalism that Adam Smith would have recognised and as an evolution it has been, in my view, a step too far subverting the interests of the State and commonwealth to the overriding power of the market. However the current financial storm throughout the world is correcting this situation to an extent, and the correction is yet in its infancy.” AND “Capitalism is about producing pins and selling them to a market, it’s not about high finance and that is why we in the west are finished.”

    Capitalism is about using capital, to organise and to supply any goods or service that is/are profitable. Where we are now is an entirely predictable outcome. If Adam Smith wrote in any given late 18th century presentation of ideas, there was (post Marx) a clearer picture of possible longer range outcomes. That’s where we are now. (‘We are where we are’….. Donncha just love it!) A world of externalised costs, where resource use and pollution are threatening our species, & many other species, very existence. So we obviously agree on that point, anyway.

    ON: “Firstly the State has re-emerged as a great power player and ultimately this is going to have to continue”. That’s almost a platitude, in the context of this discussion. No it has not.

    ON: “Also the paradigm of Western economic dominance is shifting and it is not the west that is leading global recovery but the emerging economics in what we used to call the Third World.”

    Which is fine. China now no longer needs the West; their home market is of 1,200 million persons, of whom only 25% are so far, ‘effective consumers’. We (the West) will start re-engaging in manufacturing, though not necessarily of textiles & such, until a clearer resolution of globalisation becomes apparent.

    AND ” The social solidarity and prosperity that emerged in the 1950s and 60s is going to be a thing of the past and with it will go expendable things human rights and all the luxuries of equality. Unfortunately the future is bleak. It could be arrested by a Stalinist centralised industrialism and collectivisation, but the force required to divest Irish Kulaks of their chattels would require a powerful Politburo of government elites.”

    I’m torn between saying ‘Bollocks!’ to the pessimism implied, and gleefully recognising that if that’s where the more conservative commentators are, then the job of those of us who want change & prosperity & survival, is somewhat easier.

    ON: “but I haven’t heard anything from you for change other than a rather nebulous let’s put on our jack boots and protest.” It’s an unusual juxtaposition, to imply that the jackbooted minions of oppression are the protesters.

    On my prescriptions, it seems to me that we are now on the edge of a 1930s type depression. It’s hard to say yet what the inflation implied in rising costs from China, allied to opportunity for European manufacturers will mean. Interesting times.

    I think, that leaving the environmental & economics issues to one side, (momentarily) the other big issue is of personal freedom, which is threatened by the power of TNCs and of various government bureaucracies. I think the solution to that, bearing in mind the need for police & intelligence agencies to supervise various terrorist groups, is to say, ‘Yes, I know you are examining my bank account, my e-mails, my political opinions, and all; that is fine, so long as I know.’

    That is to say, set a legal framework for supervision of ‘the spooks’, because they are doing this now without supervision, and that’s the way they like it. There was a debate in Strasbourg, about 2 years ago, which illustrated this.

    And see “http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/sci/tech/1363841.stm

    BBC News Online technology correspondent Mark Ward (Friday, 1 June, 2001,)

    Echelon exposed- This week saw the publication of a long-awaited European Commission report on the Echelon electronic eavesdropping network.

    The report confirmed the existence of the network, which is operated by intelligence services in US, UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand, and revealed that it had the ability to routinely tap phone calls and faxes as well as almost any type of net-based communication. ”

    If you had that set of laws, then you (you, I, J Citizen) could see where the money went; it would rapidly become very difficult, or impossible, to defraud tax authorities, to trade illegally, to punt stolen goods (E.g. tropical hardwoods, ‘blood’ diamonds), to buy the sinews of war for one’s little terrorist event.

    You can see how the spooks don’t like the thought of democratic supervision. They are on a very big boondoggle of money & power.

    With that dysfunction of the financial system ‘fixed’, then real world economics can come properly into play. Note that the 30s only ended with the huge investment & activity of WW2; I think a similar investment effort is needed to bring nearly all of our energy to renewables (*~ 50% Solar, 35% wind/ wave, 5- 10 % odds & ends of hydroelectricity, ~ 5- 10% of petroleum)

  • Alias

    “If you’re going to play the man, at least reveal yourself to us all.” – IJP

    Explain to me how the following sentences could be construed as “playing the man”?

    “Your obedient faith in the political class is touching and steadfast even for the statist mentality. It’s just a shame that you haven’t managed to become a member of it despite your best efforts.”

    The first sentence refers to your comment, and the second to your failed political career. Both are political comments about matters in the public domain.

    The fact that Alias is rather obviously an alias doesn’t alter that.

    “Once you’ve done that, try to stick to what I write. For example, within the past week I wrote a blog advocating fundamental change to the electoral system in both jurisdictions, because STV inevitably leads to glorified Cllrs rather than proper legislators.” – IJP

    Well, forgive me for not keeping up-to-date with your latest blogs. But it is rather bizarre that you think I should be aware of what you write elsewhere, isn’t it?

    However, I’m replying to what you wrote here and not what you wrote in your diary. Specifically:

    “Excellent article, Brian.

    It’s not easy to carry out calm consideration at a time like this – but it is what is required.

    It is also worth noting that the doom-mongers were not heralding doom three years ago. If so much was wrong with Ireland, why did they not predict what was coming before it came?”

    Brian Walker, as is his custom, wrote an article agreeing with an erroneous position of the state simply because it is the position of the state and a statist will default to agreeing with it.

    Not being a statist, I pointed out that the muppets that Mr Walker chearleads and that you have cheered his endorsement of were the same muppets who got us into this mess:

    “It’s more worthwhile noting the moronic judgement of that political class is responsible for the current mess, and that they were far from condemning the ECB’s expansionist monetary policies when they were enjoying the boom-side of them.

    But then, of course, it is illegal under the Maastricht Treaty for a government of a member state in the EuroZone to be other than publically supportive of those policies so perhaps we shouldn’t blame the muppets for cheerleading the EU’s governance when they had, again, moronically deprived themselves of the ability to do otherwise.”

    By the way, are you unaware that the Maastricht Treaty is part of the Irish constitution and that it forbids eurozone members from criticising the policies of the ECB? If you were not aware, how did you think the government could have warned the public against the dangers of expansionist monetary policies when they were constitutionally obligated to support those policies and to implement them?

  • Alias

    In regard to why the competence of national governance should be called into question by the failure of monetary system while the supranational governance that actually controls the monetary system should be totally ignored: it is simply because the supranational governance is post-democratic and therefore beyond scrutiny.

    To draw the public’s attention to the role of the unelected regime is to draw attention to the inability of the public to hold them to account for their destruction of Ireland’s economy, along with the economies of Portugal, Spain, Greece, etc. Therefore, they must simply be ignored.

    The failure of supranational governance and its monetary system is therefore portrayed as a failure of national governance. The other advantage of this europhile propaganda is that it encourages the public to believe that more sovereignty should be transferred from national government to supranational government, thereby hoodwinking the public into transferring more power over their affairs to those who have duly destroyed those affairs.

    In Ireland’s case, it is now expected to bail-out eurosystem banks in its member state in order to protect eurosystem banks in other member states. In assuming responsibility for debts that belong to eurosystem banks in other member states, Ireland will be bailing-out a monetary system that has destroyed its economy.

    Worse still is that the consequence of this treason is that Ireland’s debt-laden economy (with 500+ billion plus of eurosystem debt) will diverge even more dramatically from the economies for whom the monetary policies are devised (Germany and France), causing even more problems for its economy through inappropriate monetary policies than have been caused thus far.

    So not only have the Irish failed to learn the lessons from this crisis due to the europhile media ignoring the role of the actual governmental authority that caused it, they are about to repeat the same mistake and lock themselves deeper into EU misrule.

  • Alias

    One last point: it is stated in the Maastricht Treaty that all debts are sovereign, i.e. that one state should not assume responsibility for the debts of another state.

    Yet Ireland is being forced to assume responsibility for the debts that belong to companies in other member states. If Ireland did not do this then does debts would default to those states, and the government of those states could then decide to convert them into sovereign debts or not.
    Since it is the policy of the EU that they should bail-out the banks, it is then the policy that these debts are de facto sovereign.

    Ergo, Ireland is in violation of the Maastricht Treaty and acting unconstitutionally.

    The only way it is able to abuse the Irish constitution like this and get away with it is because the EU will claim that its bail-out policy is discretionary and that the debts that Ireland has made sovereign in its state would not automatically be made sovereign in another state and therefore should not be considered to be sovereign debt.

    But that is exactly what is going on here: one state is being made to assume responsibility for the debts of other member states.

  • Colm McGinn

    ‘Debt, there is no Jubilee’

  • DM

    The author of this is either jealous of Fintan O’Toole or just doesn’t get it, alternatively perhaps just earns a lot of money and what Fintan’s proposing isn’t going in his favour.Read a few more books first, the man is right, he knows what he’s talking about. Let’s not let history repeat itself again – we can do something about it NOW.A revolution is what we need INDEED.No fire or weapons, just pure human will. After all it’s us that buy the products and support the banks by having bank accounts with them – once we step back, they will have nothing and no-one else to rely on, so we CAN do it.