“Fairness” is the Scaletrix of Irish politics, in that the debate goes round in circles and circles and is incapable of a new direction. It starts from a simple proposition. We all believe in fairness, don’t we? You’d want to be Jabba the Hutt to be against fairness. Everyone nods sagely at the desire for Irish society to be built on fairness. But don’t dare ask for details, because if you do, you’re a hateful Thatcherite, a Victorian despatcher of children down the mines, their little tummies aching for a crust, a stale crust at that. Or worse still, you’re Michael McDowell.
But what is fairness? Is it fair that some people are going to bed hungry? Of course not. Is it fair that some families are scraping together euros and cents to pay for their kids schoolbooks? How could it be? What about if one of those families spent their money on a kickass 42″ Plasma screen TV, whilst their neighbours didn’t? Who is more deserving of fairness now? What about the mother who works overtime in a launderette to pay for her daughter’s maths grind? Is it fair for her to pay more tax than the mother who’s on the scratcher, after all, she brings home more money, therefore she’s richer, therefore it’s only fair that she should pay more tax, isn’t it? It’s only fair.
But taxing the rich, we can all agree that that is fair, right? Of course it is. Higher taxes are the price of membership of our society, but is it fair to want to punish someone for being successful? Is it fair to want to take half of someone’s take home pay, one in two euro they make, for the crime of creating a business and (the bastards) giving people jobs? Is that fair? Is it fair to have rich people at all? Would it be fairer to have no rich people at all, even if it meant we were all poorer?
Maybe it is, maybe it isn’t. But want to debate the idea? No, because we don’t do debates here, it wouldn’t be fair.