Friday, 8 April 2011

Should there be a referendum on the IMF-EU deal?

Slí Eile: Readers may be interested in a recent Dáil debate which took place on the question of referendum on the IMF-EU deal. The Dáil Technical Group moved a motion to hold a referendum. The first part of the debate from Tuesday 5th April can be located here. Arguments for and against adopting such an approach can also be found in the continuation of the debate on Wednesday here. The final speeches and vote are reported here.


Slí Eile said...

Iceland goes to the polls for second referendum in the last year or more. see news item here
The outcome may be close and the stakes are high.

Rory O'Farrell said...

A referendum would boost our bargaining position. Look at the extra things we got in the Lisbon Treaty purely due to our holding a referendum.

Paul Hunt said...

What is it with the left that, when given the choice, it picks the wrong fight - and then sets itself up to lose it anyway.

Do folks here honestly believe that the rest of the EU, the ECB and the IMF are intent on doing Ireland down just because they can? The EU is only as srong as the power its sovereign members devolve to it, the ECB is only as strong as the legal powers the EU grants it, the IMF is only as strong as the powers its shareholders grant it. All three are seeking to manage the forces of financial capitalism, but the national governments behind them have been subborned and subverted by these very forces. Chancellor Merkel is seeking to kick back, but doesn't need these pesky peripheral hanging on to her skirts and restraining her.

It's up to the peripherals to get themselves in to shape. If there ever was a chance to burn bondholders in Ireland - which I doubt - it's long gone. Get over it and get on with it.

Tom McDonnell said...

hi Paul

you said
"It's up to the peripherals to get themselves in to shape. If there ever was a chance to burn bondholders in Ireland - which I doubt - it's long gone. Get over it and get on with it."

By peripherals getting into shape I assume you mean achieve fiscal surplus, and by "get on with it" I assume you mean as quickly as possible.

But the Greek debt/GDP ratio may hit 160% in the medium term and it may already be too late to stabilize the debt dynamics.

Do you really think some form of debt restructuring for Greece is unlikely, perhaps in late 2012 or early 2013 as a precursor to ESM entry?

I would rate the probability of an eventual Greek restructuring at over 50%.

If Greece restructures does it then not become likely that an Irish restructuring would quickly follow?

As it happens I certainly do not think the EU, the ECB and the IMF are intent on doing Ireland down. I'm not sure there is a masterplan, although I suspect the IMF are privately making the case for restructuring because they have seen this movie many times and know how it ends.

Martin O'Dea said...

@ Paul,
Paul I would like an engagement on what it means to be 'left' or 'right'.
My individual perception is that these are merely perceptions and not intellectual engagements based on certainty. We should recall how much of what we now believe that we used to disagree with in the past, and question why what we seem so sure of now is, a fact.
If we find that we have not changed our minds much over the years then are we operating with an open and curious mind?
In this light, I must say I see no reason at all that can justify a 'right'.
This is not arrived at lightly, and I would not consider myself to be of the left in the manner of a young, naive idealist, but rather as a second-time round individual who left the idealism of the ideals behind, struggled to understand the world and appreciate the inherited complexity that history bequeaths each society; but then eventually acknowledged the vast numbers of people who populate graveyards all over the globe who 'got it' over the years - are ironically those who created and reinforced ‘it’.
With all of that in mind then I would look to the 'right' and its origins and meanings. From the second republic and royalists through to what we see manifest in the Republicans and Tories and strong leadership from Europe I think we can take some general elements such as 'conserving' things as they are or status quo promotion. Core also, perhaps, big business and small government and mild to extreme forms of nationalism and societies of conviction on social and religious norms and practices.

Martin O'Dea said...

Living in a world that has seen a fundamental shift over the centuries from massively powerful emperors, kings, lords, merchants, industrialists and millenia of disenfranchised and powerless masses excluded by the battle for the limited wealth and technologies available to the gradually increasing populations – we can see clearly that much of this has all been somewhat eroded by the industrial and informational revolutions and exponential growth in technologically enabled material wealth and the ongoing monetary and political move towards egalitarianism. In the final analysis I think that these arguements can not just be intellectual forays. The perceptions must be informed by motives.
For too long I feel that the motives for societal constructs were seen as being justified by Darwinian notions of competition. Of course, if we just competed we would never have survived long enough to cooperate and create medicines and technologies that benefit you and me - the link here shows an excellent review of the empathic principle and co-operational nature that is the origin of our species success and the logic of mirror neurons -
I believe that in many cases (see Bertie Ahern’s reflection of politics as being about 'winning' and Brian Cowen's concept of 'Loyalty') it is not pure malice that has caused so much harm to this particular society but rather a lack of principle. The right is in a certain light merely an excuse for trumpeting one's own causes. The idea that the world is as we find it - and we should make the best that we can for ourselves is lazy and I would like to see politicians move with society. (left and right) are, of course, relative terms (what is right now would have been left centuries ago) notice that in the broad sweep of history the move is left and towards the people (thankfully). My hope is that politicians stop 'getting it' and accept that what they must do is imagine a room full of 18 month-olds, playing, crying, oblivious to corporate earnings and awaiting entrance to a world of massive potential for them to live long, healthy and enjoyable life with rapidly advancing benefits in health, transport, entertainment, education etc from new techs while not realising that for many of them the game has been heavily rigged; they are immensely unlikely to achieve their potential and their nursery play floor is shared with those who are already miles ahead. These kids do not see why this should be so and politicians need to mature their views to appreciate that all they can do of substance is to eradicate this and allow them all to blossom for everyone's benefit. With this in mind would my ideal politician begin everyday and frame every decision.
I would love counter-arguements and a defence of the 'right'. Perhaps you don't purport to be of the 'right' Paul - and this was just in reaction to a number of posts discussing the 'problem of the left' etc if so perhaps others out there could engage. I may well be wrong in many ways - but I think it is a great time of politicisation in Ireland and that it would be worthwhile to have conversations about the underlying motivations of varying political stances?

Paul Hunt said...

@Tom McDonnell,

I agree that some 'restructuring' will be required. The core EZ countries are holding it off for as long as possible because of the electoral cycle and sheer dread of their voters - and because they want their banks to have as long as possible to recover some strength to cope with any write-downs. Ireland and Spain differ from Portugal and Greece in that the former present a mix of fiscal and banking problems while the latter are 'bog standard' fiscal messes. Every effort is being made to keep Spain (and Italy and Belgium) out of the treatment room.

On the banking front, Ireland is in hock to the ECB, but the consensus seems to be that Ireland should be able to handle the fiscal challenge. I just don't know how the ECB support will be unwound - and I've seen little written about how it might be achieved. I think we'll simply have to park it as how it will be addressed is effectively out of our hands. Purely for political pragmatism I think the will be found at the EU-level to provide ireland with some relief in this area, but the more we go on about it, the more difficult it will be to secure this political will.

On the fiscal deficit front, I keep going back to the fact that the price level of private household consumption in Ireland is 20% above the EZ average. Most of that gap is in our control and is driven by profit-gouging, anti-competitive practices, structural and financial inefficiencies and deadweight costs. I have always argued that, rather than immediately cutting pay, employment and benefit rates, the initial focus should be on closing this gap. This would actually increase real disposable incomes across the board, boost economic activity in the domestic economy and provide the basis for re-balancing and increasing the burden of taxation on 'bads' - pollution and monopoly profits - and on sources of economic rent.

We have to close the deficit; the sequencing of the policy actions is crucial.

Paul Hunt said...


I appreciate your willingness to engage and look forward to your next instalment. In the meantime, I would merely insert that to capture the essence of the 'right' one needs to view it as the continuing coalition of those who enjoyed power, profits, prestige and privilge under the 'ancien regime' - prior to universal suffrage - and who seek to manipulate the democratic process to protect and advance their narrow sectional interests.

I know it breaks 'Godwin's Law' to mention Hitler, but the right in Germany thought they could use Hitler's manipulation of the aggrieved, angry and dispossessed to serve their own ends. The rise of fascist corporatism in Spain, Italy and Portugal may be viewed in the same way. The ascendancy of the Neocons in the US extending to the UK and then infecting much of the EU is a manifestation of the same in our era.

And all the time the false promises of freedom, liberal democracy, the rule of law, free markets and increasing prosperity have been used to seduce a growing, but increasingly squeezed, middle class.

It is the biggest con job in history.

Paul Hunt said...


Your second instalment crossed my last comment - the spam-checker being too enthusiastic again!

I have always been, am and always will be on the 'left'. My criticisms of the 'left' - sometimes provocative, but always intended to be constructive - are those of an estranged family member. We must recognise that the enemy isn't the market, but those who secure, exercise and retain political and economic power to manipulate both markets and the political process to protect and advance their own narrow sectional interests. And we must be wary of those on the left who engender a learned dependency on the state and who seek to extend the role of the state into areas whether it is neither equipped nor resourced to function effectively. A we need to be critical of those on the left who exercise power and influence to the exclusion of others and against the broader public interest.

The left must counter and reverse the seduction of those voters in the 'middle' by the Neocons; and, more importantly, avoid repelling them by defending the indefensible, by attacking the aspirations they cherish and the liberties they hold dear and by advancing tired and failed dogma about the efficacy of the state to solve all problems.

Martin O'Dea said...

Fair enough Paul, I agree with well articulated sentiments above. In as much as we can over vilify the markets - perhaps we can over vilify the unions etc. In as much as I want a choice of all the very best and innovative international products I also want an ambulance service on standby in the unlikely event that I will ever need it. Until someone comes up with an improvement I think that much of what we all want is contained within the social democrat model (perhaps exemplified by Nordic counteis).
Yourself aside though I would love to engage with someone who sees themselves on the right (maybe this isn't the best hunting ground) I am intrigued to an arguement that begins with I am on the right...
Come to think of it maybe someone in the media better equiped than I to present social democrat arguements could have a newspaper exchange with someone of the right - a real intense exchange over a number of editions to help frame this arguement in the most thorough way for the public. A history of FF and FG have largely shielded us from these debates

Slí Eile said...

According to Eurointelligence (I cannot locate precise sourc): '45% of Irish executives said to be in favour to burn bank bondholders according to a survey of Ireland’s 200 top companies'
Mon dieu what next?

disgruntled observer said...

@ Paul Hunt,

You say:

"The left must counter and reverse the seduction of those voters in the 'middle' by the Neocons; and, more importantly, avoid repelling them by defending the indefensible, by attacking the aspirations they cherish and the liberties they hold dear and by advancing tired and failed dogma about the efficacy of the state to solve all problems."

Paul, what do you consider indefensible that is being defended?

What aspirations do you think 1. that they cherish? 2. that the left may be attacking? And 3. who might I ask thinks the state is the solution to everything?

I ask these, as you repeatedly bring up the leftist dogma that is apparently abhorrent to the masses.

In parallel: I read the naked capitalism blog as often as I can. A wonderful resource I'm sure you'll agree.

Today, I came across a piece by William Black. It can be found at this link:

I'll just quote two pieces:


"People like Moore not only spur neutralization, they actively campaign to minimize the destructiveness of elite white-collar crime and to deny the regulators and the prosecutors the resources to prosecute the criminals.

My favorite in this genre was authored by Professor John S. Baker, Jr. and published by Heritage on October 4, 2004.

Baker concludes his article with this passage:

“The origin of the “white-collar crime” concept derives from a socialist, anti-business viewpoint that defines the term by the class of those it stigmatizes. In coining the phrase, Sutherland initiated a political movement within the legal system. This meddling in the law perverts the justice system into a mere tool for achieving narrow political ends. As the movement expands today, those who champion it would be wise to recall its origins. For those origins reflect contemporary misuses made of criminal law–the criminalization of productive social and economic conduct, not because of its wrongful nature but, ultimately, because of fidelity to a long-discredited class-based view of society.”

2. William White's critique (the money quote, there are others):

"Baker claims that “class” has long been discredited as an important variable. Baker is not a social scientist and he is flat out wrong about class. There are literally thousands of empirical studies demonstrating the explanatory power of class in a host of settings. Baker is also flat out wrong empirically in claiming that white-collar prosecutions target “productive social and economic conduct.” White-collar prosecutions of elites are overwhelmingly based on fraud. Fraud is one of the most destructive of all social and economic conduct."

Me again:

Now, I'm not for a moment suggesting that you condone criminal activity, (in fact, you're quite vociferous in regard to that, albeit with a tendency to rebrand them with the term neo-con). However, the similarity in the nature of the arguments struck me. The tendency to employ broad attacks on potentially useful analytical parameters, to employ arguments such as: "fidelity to a long-discredited class-based view of society” or as you put it: "advancing tired and failed dogma"

Also, considering your claim to "have always been, am, and always will be on the left," I find it curious that you would make such comments as those here:

Paul Hunt said...


I had a go at closing out our exchange since you appear to be unpersuadable:

I should perhaps have used 'learn-nothing' rather than 'know-nothing'.