Thursday, 24 June 2010

Thinking outside the box on stage

Slí Eile: Who said that the Dismal Science is not sometimes dismal? David McWilliams is providing a highly enjoyable, informative, provocative and controversial performance, currently, at the Peacock. If you have a chance to see it, go ! See here.
The thrust of this fast-moving and incisive stand-up comedy is that the crisis we face is more that of (Irish) cronyism than (world) capitalism. He draws on TASC work extensively on (and acknowledges) Mapping the Golden Circle.

The key message is that the ‘Insiders’ have it sown up and NAMA is one massive ‘Class Rescue Plan’ for bankers, corporate borrowers, lawyers, brokers and the professional classes. McWilliams posits that there are two groups:
The Insiders – found in every village, town and city – are those with a stake in our country who believe that today’s status quo must be preserved at all costs.
The Outsiders – who might live next door – are those who realise that the status quo is part of the problem.
In populist mode, he suggests that Government cannot take on the ‘Insiders’ ‘on the left’ in the public service trade unions standing in the way with restrictive work practices without at the same time taking on the Insiders ‘on the right’ (in banks and corporations and firms benefiting from the NAMA bail-out). The Outsiders include the negative equity people who are stuck here or the vulnerable young or the unemployed some of whom are/will be force to emigrate.
In a gripping performance that lasts an amazing non-stop 100 minutes one’s mood changes from hilarious laughter against an unfolding comic tragedy to shock and anger to, finally, reflection on how we might get out of this mess. His rallying cry is:
A Stop bailing out Anglo-Irish and let them go to the wall
B Pursue competitive devaluation through break up in the Eurozone (he seems to see this as inevitable anyway)
C Invest in new innovative product and service lines internationally (the Jack Charlton Plan to rally the diaspora).
I would not quibble with A and C above. Few would have advocated B or seen it as a realistic option up to 6 months. Who is to know now? Contrarians should not be dismissed lightly especially when they got it largely right before. I don’t think that advocating a break up in the Eurozone is a wise strategy right now for Ireland. The point is to invest in new skills and jobs by targeted expansion in Ireland’s low-tax and low-spend public sphere. The problem about debt – as McWilliams shows – is mainly about corporate and banking debt which has been ‘nationalised’ in the past months so that we the taxpayers and welfare recipients pay the bill and cover the risk.
In the final moments of the show, McWilliams calls for a return to capitalism and an end to cryonyism (or what others have referred to as socialism for bankers). Others might prefer to call for a better regulated capitalism and a more humane one founded on welfare and re-distributional policies. Still others like Michael Moore in his stand-up comedy Capitalism a Love Story says that 'Capitalism is an evil, and you cannot regulate evil….You have to eliminate it and replace it with something that is good for all people and that something is democracy.'
I am with Moore on that crucial point.


Kevin Denny said...

Your concluding comment I find strange because where there is democracy there is inevitably capitalism of one form or another. And where is no capitalism, it is -or has been- due to repressive totalitarian regimes of which there seems to be only a couple left. So basically people choose capitalism, for all its faults. But I guess you think they are all wrong and you are right?

Slí Eile said...

@Kevin The problem with any ism - Socialism or Capitalism - is that if they are not based on democratic ends and means they enslave and inevitably some elite takes over. The problem with both models and many more besides is that up to now there has been very limited real social, political and economic democracy - national or international where the 'markets' or the 'State' dictate to people what public services, rights and dignity they may have. In many ways mainstream economics has prostituted itself to this dictatorship just as it did in the Soviet and Chinese empires of old and in the few remaining isolates.

Mack said...

"Capitalism a love story" is a documentary / movie not a stand-up comedy show.

A pretty good one at that.

He (Michael Moore) builds up to that quote with the subversion of US democracy that occured during the bank bailouts. Where powerful, wealthy, vested interests bounced US legislature into handing them a blank cheque (which as we've seen had no restrictions at all on how the money was spent, much of it winding up in bonuses one way or the other) against the interests of their constituents who were at the time bombarding their representatives with calls not to cave in (indeed they lost the first vote for that reason).

It's an extreme form of capitalism, that allows Wall Street to impose it's will on the American people, at the expense of the American people that he is complaining about.