One definition of madness is doing the same thing over and over but expecting a different result each time. So take the words of Robin McAlpine in the Scotsman newspaper on the SNP’s policies for an independent Scotland and more importantly the example of Ireland’s calamitous slide into cowboy capitalism during the 1990s and 2000s.
“Currently, the SNP exists in a third-way fudge between two political philosophies. Critics have named this delusion “the myth of Scandimerica”, the belief that you can have Scandinavian social services with US-level taxes. Actually, there was no need since the delusion already had a name – the Arc of Prosperity.
The Arc of Prosperity was a knowing fantasy predicated on the belief that corrupt, housing-and-speculation-gone-mad Ireland was actually the other side of the coin of socially democratic Norway.
The opposite is the truth; economically and socially the politics of Ireland were diametrically opposed to Norway. The former followed unstable get-rich-quick doctrines with an unsustainable faith in short-term trickle-down. The latter emphasised productive growth, a balanced economy and long-term investment strategies where the equality and high standard of living these generate make higher taxes painless.
Let’s call these the neoliberal model and the European social model. There isn’t space here to detail their characteristics but very loosely one promotes progress-through-conflict (markets, competition, wealth-creators) and one promotes progress-through-mutuality (productivity, balanced economy, public services).
…they are more-or-less mutually exclusive. The things you do to increase real productivity work against short-term speculative gain. The things you do to encourage competition create unbalanced economies. The ideology of “wealth creators” is at odds with the ideal of a strong welfare state.”
Which begs the question, why are the three establishment parties of Fine Gael, Fianna Fáil and Labour working so hard to revive a socio-economic model that has proven to be such an economic, social, cultural and environmental disaster for our island nation? What is driving the political, business and media elites in this country to recreate the Celtic Tiger economy and society of a decade ago when they – and we – are well aware of its superficial and ultimately corrosive nature? Are the political classes in Ireland so lacking in wit that like a dog returning to its vomit they must nose at the mess they have created in the hope of lapping it up again?
Or do they wish to replace a failed Celtic Tiger economy with another certain-to-fail Neo-Celtic Tiger economy that is little more than a self-perpetuating Ponzi Scheme for the top 1%? And where does that leave the other 99% of the population who have nothing for their labour but bitterness and resentment? What then of any concept of social or communal responsibility by the majority when a minority can simply act as if they exist above such things?
We have a choice in Ireland. We can become the Celtic Norway or Finland of western Europe with our social and cultural mores reflected in our economic structures. Or once again we can become the Wild West of Europe, where society and culture are dirty words, where concepts like responsibility are deemed to be an unnecessary restraint on our freedom to do our worse.
- Comment: Why SNP must tap into their inner Borgen (scotsman.com)
- One of Ireland’s ugly economic realities: snakes on the loose (seattletimes.com)
- Socialism for the rich, capitalism for the poor – “Tempered with Reality: Economic Theory and the Real World” (irishcentral.com)