Monday, 31 August 2009

Ostriches, Democracy and Dr. Fitzgerald

Michael Taft: Dr. Garret Fitzgerald is not impressed with the notion that if the majority of legislators believe that Government proposals are wrong or misguided, they should vote against them. No, according to the good Dr.Fitzgerald, whatever legislators think of Government policy, whether on NAMA or public expenditure cuts, they should just bite their lip and support it. Because if the Government is defeated a destabilising effect will set in, leading to the takeover of the country by the IMF, the withdrawal of lending by international markets and our inevitable enslavement in the economic salt-mines. Our only salvation is to shut up and support Fianna Fail. Dr. Fitzgerald has spoken.

This is the extreme edge of the TINA argument (‘There Is No Alternative’,) and Dr. Fitzgerald has been hanging around at the extreme edges of late. In a previous column, he attacked anyone who dared question the desirability of the McCarthy Committee proposals:

‘. . . there is an air of total unreality about most of what has been said and written by many of those who have attacked these proposals and who are still in absolute denial about the scale of the crisis we currently face . . . We are at present a country of ostriches. It is time for everyone to wake up to reality.’

Unreality. Absolute denial. Ostriches. Wake Up. Well, I guess that puts some of us in our place. Dr. Fitzgerald was at it again in his most recent column – this time raising all manner of woe and betide if anyone dared to exercise their democratic responsibility.

‘Responsible opposition is vital if the State is to be kept out of the IMF’s hands . . . No worse fate could befall an opposition than to precipitate themselves into government by defeating measures, the rejection of which could throw our State into the hands of the IMF.’

Dr. Fitzgerald has moved from a legitimate position of supporting the McCarthy Committee proposals and NAMA, to a more extreme position that anyone opposed to such is risking opening the door to the IMF. Okay, a bit robust but it’s a tough debate. However, it turns near-hysterical when such a position denounces the democratic process itself – the very idea of the politics of choice.

For instance, if opposition parties can mobilise public opinion to such an extent that the Government is prevented from implementing the McCarthy Report or setting up NAMA; this would no doubt precipitate an early election. In such a scenario, people may wish to support an alternative approach and elect a government that reflects that desire. It is this process that is deeply disturbing to Dr. Fitzgerald. In any other country, it would be called democracy.


Proposition Joe said...

Even more bizarre was his self-aggrandizing credit-grab for Alan Dukes' Tallaght Strategy. The way Garret tells it, on Morning Ireland earlier on today, it should have been called the Montrose Strategy, as he himself declared it in an RTE studio before resigning the leadership of Fine Gael on election night in 1987. So you see, it woz Garret who saved the country once before, so we must listen to him now.

SlĂ­ Eile said...

The only sensible thing to take from this is that a Tallaght Strategy II might yet emerge where a Grand Coalition of the Civil War tribes join together 'in the national interest' and get on with the Dublin Consensus Agenda. That would free other forces to articulate a clear, sensible and progressive alternative to the awfulness of what is on offer - IMF or no IMF. The alternative is a FG-LP coalition by 2012 - followed by guess what in 2017. Remember 1957, 1977, 1987 and 1997. That's what they call a constant arithmetic progression. Ireland deserves better. Labour has been long enough waiting since 1918 to make a break through. Lets go for it now. Thanks Garret.

Anonymous said...

Careful. From the IT: "DR GARRET FitzGerald has defended in principle the use of internment without trial and broadcasting bans against what he called “extremists”.

Tomaltach said...

As you said over on 'notes' "Of course Dr. G. doesn't explain how he knows it would become hard to borrow. We just have to take his word for it."

And this has been one striking aspect of the debate, that those who tell that alternatives will ruin our attractiveness for foreign lenders rarely explain how they know this or on what evidence it is based.

"we better not have an election now or we'll annoy the international investment community". I would have thought that this community know perfectly well they are investing in a democractic country and that one of the risks is that an alternative government can take power at any stage. That risk didn't put them off before -- or elsehwere -- so it will hardly make them run wild now. The only thing that would turn them off is if a new government changed the rules that would materially affect their investments. It is not the election itself per se. So Dr. G's argument seems like nonsense to me.

Michael Taft said...

It's worth noting, Tomaltach, that Dr. Fitzgerald didn't seem to have too many problems with the series of three elections in 1981 and 1982 - at a time when the economy was in rapid decline, all indicators were worsening rapidly, and government's had trouble bringing in budgets. But then Dr. Fitzgerald was trying to get into office, and back into office. So elections were okay, then. And has Proposition Joe points out, when the good Doctor, having been in power for over four years, lost the 1987 election, he had to content himself with saving the nation.

And now that you have provided the link, Anonymous, don't be surprised when you get a midnight knock on the door. After all, in Latvia, the Speical Branch arrest anyone who disparages the national currency, the Lat.

Anonymous said...

Dr Fitzgerald was only stating the obvious: that the instability generated by a defeat of the Government on these issues could spook markets, drive up the cost (or indeed dry up the sources) of our borrowing, and deliver the country into the malevolent maw of the IMF.

Anti-democratic he may be - but it is not entirely clear to me that he is wrong.

Pavement Trauma said...

I don't agree with GDF's position at all on NAMA but (and Vincent Browne makes a similar point in today's IT) the man has earned the right to respect through decades of public service and deserves not to have his motives so carelessly impugned.

Re: the performance of the FitzGerald government of the 80s, there is an excellent comment over on Irish Economy that might give some thought to those of you lucky enough not to have lived through that awful, awful decade in Ireland.