Tuesday, 9 February 2010

A disastrous approach to disaster capitalism

Colm O'Doherty: The captivation of our Fianna Fail-led government by the Milton Friedman /Chicago School policy trinity of privatization, government deregulation and reduced social spending is critically harming our well-being. Our economic crisis has allowed free marketeers to instigate orchestrated raids on the public sphere. The crisis opportunism of disaster capitalism is activated through networks of rule which underpin the governance strategies facilitating our so- called recovery. Economic ideology masquerading as technical and uncontentious adjustments has been engaged to finesse this asymmetrical relationship between power and rationality - power produces rationality and rationality produces power, but power has the upper hand in the dynamic and overlapping relationship between the two.

The hallmark of disaster capitalism - economic shock treatment - is manifested through coercive policies which decouple individual well-being from social well-being, and privilege private gain over common good. The atmosphere of crisis generated by the failed policies of successive Fianna Fail-led administrations has paved the way for an economic settlement which overrules the expressed wishes of citizens and has handed the country over to economic technocrats. As Naomi Klein puts it in the Shock Doctrine (2007,140,) “If an economic crisis hits and is severe enough – a currency meltdown , a market crash, a major recession –it blows everything else out of the water , and leaders are liberated to do whatever is necessary (or said to be necessary) in the name of responding to a national emergency”.

Thus, our recession has provided those economic zealots in thrall to the fundamentalist doctrine (Capitalism and Freedom ,1962) of Milton Friedman with an opportunity to reduce all regulatory obstacles to profitmaking , sell off all public assets , cut back funding of social programmes and keep taxes low. The dominance of this ideological vision is strongly reflected in the competiveness, securitisation and flexibility discourses filling the airwaves.

Fianna Fail and their coalition partners have articulated these political rationalities in a populist idiom - the idiom of frontier politics. Here, politics finds expression through economic sequestration of social citizenship. Abolition of social rights is viewed as a pragmatic “structural adjustment”, and the task of politicians is to follow the money from crisis to crisis. Opposition to frontier politics within the political system is finite, as Fine Gael is also in thrall to economic fundamentalism and Labour lack political muscle. Civil society is the only real opposition, and civil society in Ireland has been shaped and nurtured by the very politicians it now has to challenge and oppose. The capacity of civil society to act as a counterweight to the economic shock therapy now being administered has been undermined by the cut backs and closures imposed on community development/family support projects, and by the tightening of revenue streams for voluntary service providers.

The trade unions are the only remaining force in civil society capable of challenging the Government’s disaster capitalism doctrine, as the Catholic Church’s power has been compromised. However, the trade unions are now engaged in a form of action which is focused on some of the symptoms of our political malaise rather than its root cause. Industrial action which, in the main, impacts on fellow citizens will further weaken civil society and plays into the hands of the Government. What is needed here is a co-ordinated, strategic political campaign organized and directed by the trade union movement targeting Fianna Fail and their coalition partners. Solving our political crisis by confronting a Government who are bent on protecting the wealthy by impoverishing large sections of the population should, logically, be the first step in reforming our ailing economy.


oliver1vandt said...

Spelling error in headline.

progressive-economy@tasc said...

@Oliver Vandt: thanks for the correction. Please also note admin e-mail address for any queries.

Paul Hunt said...

@Colm O'Doherty,

The Government may deserve damning, but not, in my view, for an advocacy of "free markets". Its strategy is classic protection of "insiders" - competitive markets are the last things these guys want as these would expose their inadequacies and their rent-gouging - and exclusion and punishment of "outsiders". However, I fully support your call on the trades union movement to confront this discredited Government head-on. Though I doubt you will get many takers. Much of the higher reaches of the union movement is well ensconced on the "inside".

oliver1vandt said...

@Paul Hunt
I agree. I would say though that many would increasingly feel that reckless financial markets are the equivalent of the reckless trade unions of 1970s Britain. They are not only a danger to themselves eg., Anglo/Nationwide, and a danger to the country, AIB/BOI, they are also bringing capitalism in Ireland into disrepute. So I believe in free markets but not in the case of the financial system. It's like deregulating your liver -yes, it's much more exciting but in the long-run...

I absolutely agree that civic society - with the unions as part of the leadership, not being the sole leaders - must tell the government the following:

1. You have caused an economic and banking collapse. Go. No negotiation.

2. We must have an open accountable, transparent system of government from now on - whatever parties make it up - and make the changes vital to do this. No negotiation.

The unions and I hope the Labour party can be the catalyst for this. They must as I say involve civil society too. If FG want to join in so be it but it is too important to give them a veto.

So it's all up to Labour and the unions.

Joseph said...

Wait until the real shock therapy starts.

Anonymous said...

Interesting polemic but this style of article diminishes the socio-economic analysis of the progressive economy site. It is in the wrong place.

Anonymous said...

The forces of the state are likely be used against any attempt to remove Ireland's golden circle from power.

The swift departure of George Lee from Irish politics illustrates the closed nature of the current Dail system.

A determined and united campaign by the unions will polarize Irish society and be the first stage in a cathartic process over the next few years.

A new republic may be the eventual outcome.

We ain't seen nothing yet.

Rory O'Farrell said...

In fairness I wouldn't agree that the country is run by economic technocrats.

Patrick Honohan's call for a 9/11 style bank inquiry was not followed through, and there are only 3 economic PhDs in the civil service, and almost the entire Irish economic profession is anti-NAMA. Also McCarthy admitted that the 'Bord Snip' report was purely a political excercise.

However I agree that groups are trying to use a 'shock' approach to remove social protections like the minimum wage and the government is best toppled.

Paul Hunt said...

@Rory O'Farrell,

Many thanks for this light shaft of lucidity. Unfortunately, many of those associated with this site who exercise some influence and authority have no interest in mobilising popular support to remove this Government. The wonderful edifice of "social partnership" has been demoted to an industrial relations (IR) matter - and the focus is on cutting a deal. They are happy for this site to a little left-of-centre comfort zone where the denizens can re-inforce their convictions about the evils of capitalism.

Antoin O Lachtnain said...

What economic strategy should the trade unions be calling for? What should be done now to move that strategy forward?

Eoin O Broin said...

I agree in part with Colm when he says; 'What is needed here is a co-ordinated, strategic political campaign organized and directed by the trade union movement targeting Fianna Fail and their coalition partners.'

Although such a campaign already exists, http://www.getupstandup.ie/

But for such a campaign to be succesfull it needs a broader base than the Unions. At a political level it needs the active involvement of left political parties and their members including Labour, Sinn Fein and others. At a civic society level it needs support from community and voluntary groups, ngos, charities, academics and commentators.

While mobilising this disparate alliance of interests and aspirations contains its own problems, the fact that any general election will bring to power a centre right Fine Gael-Labour coalition, raises a more fundamental question.

We need political pressure, from unions and civil society, to be put on those political parties who claim to want a real policy alternative to the centre right consensus of Fianna Fail and Fine Gael. Without that popular mobilisation will not lead to substantive change in state power and state policy.

Paul Hunt said...


Excellent questions, but don't hold your breath waiting for a response from the "heavyweights". I expect a new post will appear soon to divert attention from this thread.

Michael Burke said...

@ Eoin O'Broin

I think this is the correct strategy; an anti-cuts united front of all those willing to oppose the government's austerity measures. It would include trade unions,a wide array of social groups and those of any political party, or none, who are willing to take action to defend pay and services in either the private or public sectors.

Anonymous said...

Oliver Vandt writes:

@Michael Burke
Unless this alliance demands transparency, accountability, and an end to corruption and collusion it will not succeed. It will be a rerun of the PAYE marches of the seventies - a total failure.

You could well be right on the need for a keynesian policy. But was Ireland's economy and banking system destroyed by inadequate demand management? Is that the big thing that went wrong? Maybe it is, but a huge number of other things went wrong too.

Paul Hunt said...

@Eoin O Broin,
I think some progress will be made when "we need" is replaced by "I/we are doing/will do". The difficult task is to convince people to elect politicians who will implement the desired policies. And it's much easier to talk about this than to do it. As I've pointed out previously, the first simple step is a mass petition calling on the President to communicate to the Taoiseach the people's demand to dissolve the Dail and call a general election. A general election campaign will give the people the opportunity to assess competing policies and politicians and to decide.

Eoin O Broin said...

Paul, I think progress is being made, and lots of us are actively trying to build the kind of social and political alliance that I mentioned in my post.

For an overview of some of this see:


Martin O'Dea said...

I think we, mostly, agree that what is needed is a new way.
This crisis has held up a mirror to our political structure and culture and what is revealed is not, at all what we wish. One could well argue that the reason FF pursue the Milton Friedman school has, in fact, nothing to do with Milton and nothing to do with the school. It is merely because we elect, in the majority of cases, local politicians with little or no aptitude for national politics and so favour the aspect of this school that contains the words 'government' and 'less'. The harsh reality is that this is not even a well thought out strategy. It is as Paul Hunt said a means of protecting 'insiders' and it has evolved into a way of thinking of the economy or, at least, parroting what seems like a strategy; but it is still more grounded in the fact that for the government to be less involved in everything (including the market) is suitable to incapable politicians who need re-elction to their council seats that happen to reside in the Dail.

http://bdoyle28.blogspot.com said...

I doubt 10 percent of the Fianna Fail parliamentary party even know who Milton Friedman is never mind want to use this crisis to shape Irish society in keeping with his vision.

No, I think they are doing what the bond markets want them to do and the bond markets are, after all, rather important to 26 bln in the hole per annum Ireland.

Martin O'Dea said...

In keeping with the active spirit thankfully coming from this and other fora - here are a few humble suggestions for a 'new way'

Formation of a new political party with a number of unique features:

1. Members will not be able to stand in their own geographic constituencies

2. Support structures will be put in place at a local level so that party members other than the elected T.D. can deal with the majority of local concerns

3. Funding for party to come from internet contributions, maximum amounts per individual enforced - no other contributions accepted

4. Internet (other information and communication technologies) to form a pillar of new and completely transparent modus operandi

5. Facility for constituents to 'pursue' issues online and follow their issues through the democratic process, both houses, ministers replies, related votes, other constituents voters with the same considerations, etc.

6. Candidates to be drawn from society’s high achievers in relevant areas.

7. Successfully elected candidates to remain as members for a maximum of ten years unless taking a leadership role of the party.

8. Drafting of a number of non-negotiable positions and expected achievements under which party will entertain any form of joint government, only

9. Policy of running at least one or two candidates per constituency with necessary distance of candidate and constituency; and otherwise arbitrary assignment of candidates to constituency.

10. Complementary concentration on national and international issues at T.D. level

11. Well being of the numerical majority of the population to be the final influencer

12. Continuous efforts to encompass in policies the protection of individual liberties alongside the well being of society

Paul Hunt said...

I have no doubts about the commitment or effort that is being put in by a large number of people, but this Government is determined to stay the course until early 2012 - and its chances of doing so are improving. Yes, the Dail arithmetic may not hold, an unexpected event or simple trip might cause a collapse, but waiting for this is tactical - and tactically poor at that (not to mind being strategically inept). Building a coalition for fundamental change is important, but any form of social democratic/socialist movement will not triumph - and it's difficult to hold together for any period of time. It's important to push - and push hard - for a short period, as most people have only a passing interest in politics.

And it's not because it's Ireland where "Labour will have to wait"; the Left is in retreat and in varying states of disarray throughout Europe. I'm glad to see that more commenters are beginning to recognise (pace Martin O'Dea) that governments in developed economies have not been in thrall to rabid "free market" ideologues; policy and regulation have been captured by the super-rich and their useful idiots using that banner. In Ireland it has been the usual crony - anti-market - capitalism with an expanded cast of gombeens.

The Left will have to make common cause with those who favour more market and less government in the mix, but who, above all, want a reformed, clean and transparent system of democratic governance. Yes, this will involve compromise, but ideological purity is a luxury.

The only reason I comment on this blog is to see if such an approach might be developed.

Oliver Vandt said...

@Paul Hunt
"The first simple step is a mass petition calling on the President to communicate to the Taoiseach the people's demand to dissolve the Dail and call a general election. A general election campaign will give the people the opportunity to assess competing policies and politicians and to decide."

I would second that. I think the petition should also demand:
1. full but swift investigations and enquiries;
2. future best international practice (continuously updated) on open, accountable, efficient, non-corrupt and socially just government.

This is so that the new government has a direct mandate and a clear obligation to transform HOW we are governed.

But we need it soon. The cover up, the collusion and the corruption have gone on long enough.

There is no Irish institution without sin - but some are really sinful. Our present government are the most sinful of all - by what they have done and what they have failed to do.

Therefore the Unions - although imperfect - and Labour should stand up and say, "NO MORE!"
Someone has to shout stop.
Those from all parties and none must join them.

If FG won't support it so be it.
If Labour equivocate other parties and citizens should back it firmly.
I am convinced Labour would come on board. After George Lee I've less hopeful of FG.

Please, start a national campaign and a national petition. Two more years of rule by those who destroyed our economy and our banking system is morally outrageous.

Paul Hunt said...


I think we might as well face it; we're only talking to each other. The intellectual capability of the Left in Ireland - insofar as it is represented here - has neither the courage nor the gumption to engage with those who take a genuine and justifiably liberal stance on the mix of government and markets - and to move its position to attract support from this quarter. And this means LIBERAL - not NEO-LIBERAL. This genuine liberalism is fully aligned with the delivery of social justice and effective democratic governance. Indeed, all three are crucial. Absent one, and the entire project fails.

But it is far more comfortable and safe for the Left to retreat to its ghetto of ideological purity and to talk about protests and demonstrations. And the union movement is compromised as it is required to defend the gains of many of those who are on the "inside" while making noise about those who are being excluded.

The historical left/liberal split has consistently allowed conservative/reactionary governments to seize and retain power - even when this did not properly reflect the will of the people in terms of votes cast.

It's time for the Left to grow up - or bow out.

Oliver Vandt said...

@Paul Hunt
Like yourself, I too, "take a genuine and justifiably liberal stance on the mix of government and markets - and [I too hope the left can] move its position to attract support from this quarter. And this means LIBERAL - not NEO-LIBERAL. This genuine liberalism is fully aligned with the delivery of social justice and effective democratic governance. Indeed, all three are crucial. Absent one, and the entire project fails."

I would substitute centrist for liberal so I am probably - using terminology as a guide! - to the left of yourself. I won't deny that I hoped your views were along these lines but I didn't want to misrepresent them. However, even if you were a fully fledged libertarian, or a committed marxist, what you say on our current government and on the recent management of this country would be equally valid.

We have suffered an economic collapse and a banking collapse. The government that is responsible for this is still in office, and will be for another two years. Can people on the Irish left join with those who share the vast majority of their goals but disagree - in good faith - on SOME of the methods?

Irish institutions dislike:
1. Reaching out to people outside their tribe.
2. Reaching out to people who are members of a different tribe but share their goals.
3. Being publicly attacked, especially being attacked as hypocrites. Yes, there was social partnership but the government was the GOVERNMENT.
4. Taking risks. By drawing up this petition the Irish left would earn the full wrath of the establishment. Irish trade unions would earn the full wrath of the government.

The last is probably key. We are in a deep recession. The overwhelming desire of every Irish institution is to protect what they have and to gain what they can. The question is can the Irish left take a stand for a better nation. It won't be an easy stand. But if it is done with sufficient force there is a real chance of:
a. Removing a failed government.
b. Transforming a failed system.

That is an enormous opportunity and it is worth taking risks for. The NTMA is sitting on a cash mountain so forget about the bond markets. The government has the committed support of at most a quarter of the electorate. Even many of them have no confidence in them.

This country can be transformed. But it needs the unions and Labour to lead. If they believe in the Irish people then they will lead.
If they believe in the fundamental sense of justice and fairness of the Irish people they will lead.
In fact, they MUST do so.

And if the Irish left DON'T believe in the Irish people, and I think I can speak for Paul in this, we need new leaders in the Irish left. That might hurt coming from a centrist and a liberal, but we mean it. The Irish people have been failed by so many of our institutions. If the Irish left's leadership don't do this you're failing the Irish people and the cause of the Irish left too.

Colm O'Doherty said...

thanks for all the comments. My general aim was to generate some discussion around the political crisis which has triggered our economic recession. In particular I wanted to suggest that it is not credible that successive governments have supported a variety of capitalism where policies and arrangements increase inequality and fashion a trickle up economy without some kind of ideological compass guiding their actions. There are many varieties of capitalism-capitalism in the US is different from capitalism in Scandanavia - capable of producing social progress.Societies can choose which variety they prefer and policymakers should try to put in place policies appropriate to that choice. Here the choice has been to embrace a variety of capitalism where the subordination of social to economic value inevitably leads to stalled well-being for the majority of citizens. In the face of overwhelming evidence that this variety is fundamentally flawed and likely to malfunction our politicians are continuing to implement measures which conform to neo-liberal economic preferences- low levels of government spending, especially on social welfare, low taxation, flexible labour markets, privatization and market deregulation. So if we want to see our policymakers shaping a new kind of capitalism -capable of securing more equitable outcomes and improving well-being for all rather than the privileged few-we require a cultural transformation as a pre-requisite for the emergence of a new politics of well-being. The critical starting point for such a process is an acknowledgement of the shortcomings of our politicians and their removal from office forthwith.

Martin O'Dea said...

There is a real hurt in your voice and a sense of helplessness that, unfortunately, many of us can relate to. In truth assuming you and Paul are as measured as you seem then it is others (with a more reactionary and not thought through) responses to this helplessness that arises fears.

Then the danger becomes people at the extremes coming in and exploiting that helplessness. ("Don't worry we will get it DONE for you")

Just because, for most of us, we read of stereotyped extremism in history books, this does not make it in any way impossibility in any society at any times. That is one of the key historical lessons; and as such, the strongest reason why your pleas for change from within the current acceptable system should be heard, and also why as they are not currently having effect, we - the majority of the people (relatively well intentioned) should feel it an obligation to act.

I laid out a few principles for a new party a couple of posts back on this thread - and I have €20 per month (for internet contribution as outlined) to go with that as well as commitment to assist anyone who wants to eke out a movement with people at its core and grounded in the 21st Century.

If any of the following people and many others ‘we’ might consider would care to dedicate 5-10 years of their lives actually constructively using the levers of power in the Irish Democracy for the novel notion of the betterment if the Irish people then this €20 and I am sure many more are available to you for your wages and expenses during that period. When you have played your part we can both feel satisfied and you can return to your profession.

Gene Kerrigan
Karl Whelan
Brian Lucey
Maybe even George Lee
Colm O’Doherty
Fintan O’Toole
Mary Robinson!!!

oliver1vandt said...

@Colm O'Doherty
"So if we want to see our policymakers shaping a new kind of capitalism -capable of securing more equitable outcomes and improving well-being for all rather than the privileged few-we require a cultural transformation as a pre-requisite for the emergence of a new politics of well-being. The critical starting point for such a process is an acknowledgement of the shortcomings of our politicians and their removal from office forthwith."

I entirely agree. Ireland is one of Western Europe's most stable continuous democracies. That is something to be proud of. It is also one that has regular catastrophes and has always been run in a secretive, collusive, unaccountable, deeply dysfunctional way. No matter whether Ireland in the future is centre left, centre, or centre right, it will continue to have these terrible failures, unless the current government is removed and the way the country is run transformed.

The remarkable thing is that civil society and the opposition have not stood up long before now and demanded the government call an election. If they win so be it. But we all know they will lose massively. It's long past time the people held them to account for destroying our economy and our banking system, for causing mass unemployment and mass emigration.

Oliver Vandt said...

@Martin O'Dea
I see what you are saying but I think a new political party is the second best option. Ireland has two main opposition parties. One of them, FG, aspire, I fear, only to better run a failed system.
That leaves Labour. In terms of civic society the leading force is the trade unions. I hoped that FG would support this petition with all their vigour but Labour and the unions must take the lead anyway. If it starts succeeding, FG will I hope join in anyway.

We have plenty of already existing institutions to do this. But do we have the Leaders?

Martin O'Dea said...

Fianna Fail and Fianna Gael, I fear suffer the same disease. They are without a political ideology 'ideologicallius'. Therefore the longer they exist and move from their revolutionary and civil war origins the more they will attract people attracted to politics for power and not civic effort or a stated affinity with a the missing ideology.

I agree with you re labour and unions but would ideally see the new political party as a means to shore up the left, imbue a sense of a break with the past, and ideally it would go into coalition wth its natural partner - Labour.

By the way to all - just watching Prime Time - anyone explain to me how come Paddy Reilly is still telling us what's what like a friendly wise uncle

Anonymous said...

On the day that Greece has gone cap in hand to the Germans and French to stave off default, there is something rather fanciful about this analysis.

The Greek experience shows that it would be essentially impossible for Ireland to run an expansionary fiscal policy at the moment.

Our deficit is already south of 10% of GDP -- any more and our bond yields would be above Greek levels. Indeed it rather surprises me that investors are not more jittery about our current levels of borrowing.

Perhaps we could liquidate the Pension Reserve Fund and use that cash to create some jobs, but I don't remember ever hearing anyone advocate that on this site. Ditching the PRF would obviously create serious problems down the road and the TUs would be dead set against it (so much for the idea that they offer any alternative strategy).

As it is, you seem to be proposing that Ireland take on the international bond market single-handed -- a fight we would be absolutely guaranteed to lose.

Frankly, the Left in this country has failed to articulate a coherent alternative to FF-style deflation. This is very depressing.

Paul Hunt said...

We're going around in circles here - as usual. There is no widespread recognition that, ultimately, it is for the people to pass judgement and to decide. And to decide they must be offered clear policy choices. Those who exercise some authority and influence are content to exploit the status quo to secure the best deal that is in their interests. There is a palpable fear of letting the people decide, as the outcome is almost certain to reduce their privilges and access.

And it is almost certain that the broad left will advance at the next election, but it is likely to be in manner that will make difficult the emergence of a coherent government. Despite the recent comic opera it is clear that FG is making progress to establish itself as a modern party of the centre. In addition to more rational economic policies there is a commitment to social justice and reform of the system of democratic governance. Let's be clear; I'm not a member. But I welcome and encourage even the slightest hint of rationality.

There is an historic opportunity for the Left to recognise the electoral realities and to engage effectively with FG to present the Irish people with a transformational programme of government. This would increase the pressure on the Government to depart the field. Much of the popular unease about the benefits of a near-term general election arises from uncertainty about the nature of the alternative government that might emerge.

However, long expereince suggests to me that the observation of a former Israeli foreign minister about the Palestinians may also be applied to the Irish Left: "They never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity."

oliver1vandt said...

@Paul Hunt
I fear the establishment left in Ireland are no more dissatisfied with the way the country operates than the establishment right.

No, I'm not FG, let alone an FG partisan:

and I am utterly opposed to all the parties in this government. But I fear that what Sean Lemass said of the Irish Labour Party in the 1960s still applies.

In response to the Brian Lenihan of Lemass's day, Sean McEntee, Lemass said (from memory):

"Far from the labour party going left, they are not going anywhere. A more harmless group of gentlemen you could not hope to meet".

For FF, and the Irish establishment, Labour are still as harmless as ever.

It's clear even on this site. The moderators here are more conservative than those on irisheconomy.ie, which is heavily linked to the, dare I say it, ESRI, a Department of Finance funded institution.

The left establishment are more conservative therefore, than the official establishment. So much for the pretensions to be reforming, let alone radical.

I will reproduce an edited version of my 2 deleted posts on Brian Lenihan's attack dog politics below. I expect them to be deleted, and this post to be deleted for the reference to the ESRI.

Paul Hunt said...


I understand where you're coming from, but ad hominem attacks are usually unhelpful - even if the person against whom they're directed also employs them. And I think attacking the ESRI is equally unhelpful. The ESRI is often in a difficult position as it is partly state-funded and partly relies on external payment for research and consulting services.

My interest is in seeing if some common ground may be established between those, broadly, on the left and those of us who favour competitive markets and effective regulation combined with the pursuit of social justice and reform of democratic governance.

I'm compleeld to conclude that this does not seem possible in Ireland

Oliver Vandt said...

@Paul Hunt
In my view, we are seeing the introduction of American-style politics of personal destruction into Ireland, combined with a spin war approach to politics. We are -without a murmur - seeing a Karl Rove/Alastair Campbell approach develop in Ireland.

I hope that someone will publicly highlight it because I can guarantee one thing. Public debate will be destroyed by this and evidence based policy making will be repaced by spin based policy selling. The country should stop now and turn around. This is one Anglo-Anerican innovation we can do without.

Comments made by myself, one anonymous blogger on this site, are in no way comparable to the comments made about George Lee and Deirdre de Burca in our media by public figures. The practices used to discredit the 46 economists after their letter in the summer are now becoming the norm in Irish public life. Refusing to talk about it is the last thing we can afford to do.

Oliver Vandt said...

@Paul Hunt
"My interest is in seeing if some common ground may be established between those, broadly, on the left and those of us who favour competitive markets and effective regulation combined with the pursuit of social justice and reform of democratic governance.

I'm compleeld to conclude that this does not seem possible in Ireland."

I think the common ground exists.
Remember, Labour went into government with FF about a year after Haughey left. 4 odd years of competent government followed. They would have gone into government with FF in 2002 if the numbers had been right, it is widely said and never denied. They have been in government with FG five times, even though some of them would never be mistaken for the centre right, let alone the left. And as indirect partners of the PDs through the social partnership process the trade unions and the left in Ireland generally have a yoga like flexibility in political matters.

This being Ireland though they can never public say this. And if they did, someone further to the left would say they were the same as the PDs/FF/FG/GP. They hear what you're saying Paul, probably agree with much of it, but for theological/political reason they can't admit it.

The real problem is that they are not vibrant enough to rid us of our awful government. Unfortunately the Irish left is just not very dynamic. The main component, Labour, had three years of dynamism in the late 60s and then ossified. Most of the dynamism on the Irish left is in the smaller left parties. Unfortunately this dynamism is usually employed undermining other bigger left-wing parties - whom you will eventually probably merge with!

Finding the common ground in an open society would be easy. It's the dysfunctional governance that is the key problem. That's why we need a new government and a new governance. But without a dynamic Labour party we will get the former in two years and the latter never.

SlĂ­ Eile said...

Running through this particular thread is a widely shared frustration abroad in civil society. People want change but are afraid of what is coming next by way of more wages cuts and more job losses. People want fairness for themselves and others but are told to be afraid of the 'Markets' and 'Rating Agencies' This is a a new form of hegemony and imperialism.
People want a political alternative to Fianne Gael but cannot see it. We missed our chance in 1918. Lets aim for 2018.
The petition idea is good. The idea of civil society mobilisation is very timely. The need for TU and LP leadership in all this is well made. What are we waiting for!

Paul Hunt said...

@Sli Eile,

You ask: "What are we waiting for?"

I think, like me, you know the answer. And it is profoundly depressing.