Sunday, 20 February 2011

Message for the undecided

Slí Eile: Its not all about economics but economics is a big part of what motivates people to vote or not vote and to vote for that party or candidate and not this. But economics is not a pure science. It is based on values and ideology. Yes, ideology. By this time next week we will know what the coming years will hold by way of Government. It is one part of a long-term process to change our priorities and values.

Election 2011 has been more about the economy than any previous election in living memory. Such strange and novel turns of phrase as burning bondholders, sovereign defaults, Government deficits, deleveraging, firesales, double-dip and 'sharing the pain' etc have become common place in the newspaper, twitter world, radio and some conversations (and people are not entirely switched off as it is claimed over 900,000 people watched some or all of the five-party leaders debate earlier this week).

Ironically, the people most affected by the outcome of this election will be the younger people who will carry the debts and scars of unemployment/emigration for a long time after some politicians have used up their pensions. Yet, the younger under 18 have no voice or say in this election and the sad fact is that in previous recent elections just less than 50% of 18-24 year olds voted and the figure was even lower again among young, male working class voters in urban areas - the very ones most hit by the great moral and economic crisis or our time.

Who would have thought, in 2007, that the nature of politics has changed at least to some extent: a wider choice of parties and candidates on the left, FG and LP arguing furiously over taxation and spending policies, talks of hard bargaining before the outcome of the ballot and the meltdown of that great institution founded in 1926 (but do not assume that death is imminent and do not rule out a recovery...). Who said in 2006 that Ireland was a shining example of the art of the possible in long-term economic policy making' (he is now chancellor of the exchequer across the water)?

What an extraordinary crisis this has been! Financial meltdown, mass unemployment, growing emigration, further and partial loss of national economic sovereignty despair, anger, uncertainty, hope, protest, fear, new expressions of alternative....Will election 2011 bring that much needed transformation of values, vision, policies and delivering of positive outcomes ? - especially for those who have suffered the most (so far) from this crisis (and certainly not those who caused the crisis and suffer much less because of where they lie in the HEAP).

Lets focus on what the 'key issues' are. Never try to answer a badly framed question until you have figured out the right questions first. These, I suggest, are the right questions to start from:
- What is the most effective way to enable people to create and find jobs and income in a way that sustains human life and dignity?
- How do we leave a legacy to the next generations of a cohesive society founded on justice, equality and sustainability?
- How do we as a society manage the distribution of opportunities, capabilities and outcomes relevant to peoples lives?
- How do we provide for a healthy, learning and flourishing society where individuals, families and communities can find their dynamic niche?

Motherhood and apple pie say some commentators, perhaps. Note the absence, so far, in the above list of questions of such terms as fiscal correction, economic growth, competitiveness, debt, borrowing, spending, taxation. Now, all of these latter issues are crucial and without taking a view and course of action on these we cannot properly achieve our individual and social goals. But, the Market, the State, the Economy are not ends in themselves. They are means towards an end - the development of a flourishing society of individuals, families and communities in where well-being comes before one narrow measure of one aspect of well-being, where the needs of the next generations count as much as those of the present, where human rights and needs come before the wants of a few in powerful economic and political positions. In other words people matter and that's the only reason politics, markets and institutions matter.


Anonymous said...

Sounds like "sustainable development". Nice article.

Paul Hunt said...

@Sli Eile,

"It is one part of a long-term process to change our priorities and values."

Your wish is much to be desired, but when a new government is elected what, really, will have changed? Yes, we'll have a new Taoiseach and Cabinet. The opposition and governing factions will have switched sides in the Dail (but not all factions) - the former with more TDs and the latter with fewer. Ireland's sovereignty in key areas of national interest has been lost - and is unlikley ever to be recovered to the same extent. The new government will propose legislation and it will be whipped through the Oireachtas in exactly the same way as it has always been - only the identity of the TDs in the lobbies will have changed.

But the 'captains of industry' will still be in place - as will their mouthpieces in IBEC. The leaders of the trades unions will still be there, as will the senior mandarins in the 'permanent government' and those who exercise power and authority in Quangoland.

So what really will have changed?

Slí Eile said...

@Paul Change takes time. Consider that the current economic crisis has shaken the political establishment deeply. One should not underestimate the shock waves from this as well as the huge potential for positive change. Yes, of course, in many ways the old order will persist and the 'insiders' as David mcWilliams rightly calls them will know how to survive and adapt. At least people have a choice this Friday. Lets use it wisely!