Posted by Jason O on Oct 17, 2011 in Events
, Irish Politics
Money, the cause and solution of all problems.
The “Occupation” protests in Wall Street and elsewhere are understandable. However, there is a certain tone to them which is disturbing, primarily because of its vagueness. In short, they’re heavy on emotion but light on rational think through, focussing not on what economic model we should be utilising, but instead the idea that there is an evil 1% who have ruined everything for everybody else, and if those people vanished everything would be ok.
As a means of venting frustration, this makes perfect sense. But it doesn’t point to an idea as to how we choose to run this planet. Many of the protestors are quick to dismiss capitalism as a failed model, but the reality is that post-1945 spike in living standards in the west was funded by capitalism. The welfare state, although initially funded by social insurance and taxation, eventually expanded to require the much hated capitalist bond markets to make up the deficit. We created a welfare system where people believe in a right to healthcare regardless of actual cost and a fixed retirement date even though advances in healthcare (brought about mostly by capitalism) have led to huge increases in healthcare costs and also increased the cost of funding pensions for people living far longer than when their retirement date expected them to. Follow that with the low taxes movement of the 1980s, led by President Reagan and Margaret Thatcher, which moved to slash tax revenues whilst doing relatively little to match those tax cuts with spending reductions, which then put an even greater demand on the bond markets to fund the welfare system. Today, we’re reaping the reward of that.
Could we create a model that doesn’t need capitalism and the bond markets? Probably, provided we are willing to live in a society free of the baubles of the capitalist system. We could build societies based on the revenue generated within that society, but you’re talking a bare bones society free from iPads and designer labels and Sky Sports, or foreign holidays, credit cards or multiple cars and it’s there that the anti-capitalist occupiers start to lose commitment. You are asking people to work hard for far less disposable income, in effect, a form of permanent austerity programme.
What we are talking about is a more equal society closer to the 1920s in terms of consumer choice and standard of living, and let us not forget that the much hated 1% included Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg and the musicians and filmmakers and many of the people that innovated the products we have grown to love. If we are to have a society where accumulating substantial wealth through innovation is not to be permitted, fair enough. But don’t expect those people to just sit quietly. Somewhere in the world will welcome them, and there they shall go, and prosper, because there is a reason why hardly any of us have products in our homes from actual communist economies. Unless, of course, you decide that they are not permitted to exit the state, and must stay and work. Problem is, the whole of Russia and Eastern Europe tried that from 1945-1989, and it didn’t work either, at least, not without shooting a lot of people.
Posted by Jason O on Jan 20, 2009 in Events
He’s going to disappoint us, you know? Chances are, it won’t even be his fault. How can anyone live up to the intangible touchy feely expectations that are attached to the man.
Having said that, the fact that he got elected……don’t tell me you didn’t tear up a bit watching his victory speech. And don’t forget hope. Hope matters. President Kennedy was quite ineffectual in many areas, but he created a sense of optimism in people, and that matters. In the early 1970s, pollsters in the US were stunned to discover large numbers of George Wallace (The segregationist governor of Alabama.) voters were former Bobby Kennedy voters. They couldn’t understand how people could swing from two such different men. But when they questioned the people in focus groups, they discovered that the people weren’t necessarily attracted by their policy platforms as to their ability to make people feel that they mattered, and that a better future was possible. Same way Reagan got a load of blue collar Democrats to vote for him. Despite the policy differences, he made them feel good about themselves.
Ed Koch, the mayor of New York, said once during an election: ” If you agree with me on nine out of twelve things, vote for me. If you agree with me on twelve out of twelve, see a psychiatrist.” Same with President Obama. He will disappoint us. But if he can make us believe that there are better times ahead, and he knows the way, we’ll forgive him.
After all, even President Bartlet executed a guy. But we forgave him, because we thought he was, on balance, a good guy.
And finally, a little bit of fun from the good folks at Youtube.
Posted by Jason O on Jan 14, 2009 in Events
, Lisbon Treaty
One of the bits of political dog poo being waved at the end of the No vote stick is the European Defence Agency, which is in the Lisbon treaty.
The way the No crowd describe it, I had visions of huge ranks of elite EU stormtroopers ready to deploy from their underground lair and crush Europe’s opponents with a stunning array of lethal but environmentally sensitive weaponry.
So I looked up the EDA’s website, hoping to catch a glimpse of our mighty aircraft carrier Charlemagne, or the mighty battlecruiser Giscard.
Boy, was I disappointed. Have a look. Aircraft carrier? No such luck. They do have, however, a “Code of Best Practice in the Supply Chain.” The EDA is basically about stopping EU countries getting screwed when buying helmets. Yes, of course it is about weapons procurement too, but so what? Don’t we want our soldiers to have the best available equipment at the most cost effective price? Don’t the husbands, wives and kids of our soldiers want them to have the best available body armour or means to defend themselves when they are protecting refugees in Chad?
Sure, Sinn Fein object to us spending money on the security forces, but don’t tell me that that certain balaclava wearing gentlemen didn’t haggle when they were buying armalites. (Ah go on! Throw in a kilo of Semtex with every 50 rifles. Now, what about our frequent bomber points?)
Let’s be honest, they’ve never been too hot about ensuring the safety of our soldiers and Gardai. Fact is, Sinn Fein have a grudge about the PDF. Hell, I’ve met Sinn Fein people who even refuse to call them the army.
By the way, I did a search of the word “Conscription” on the site. Maybe there was a secret plan. Got 34 hits. Of the word “draft”. For draft accounts, draft consultancy papers, draft discussion documents.
I’ll tell you one thing: We may not have much in the line of weapons, but if the EU ever gets into a Paperwork War with someone, they’re screwed.
Posted by Jason O on Jan 14, 2009 in Events
Interesting piece in The New York Times yesterday about acid been thrown in the face of schoolgirls in Afghanistan. Funny how the Usual Crowd (You know who you are.) don’t say much about this sort of thing. If NATO troops were sytematically engaged in trying to stop Afghan girls from being educated you’d have them on the streets.
Still, there are no Jews, Americans or Brits involved, so why would they complain? It’s the man they’re interested in, not the ball.
Posted by Jason O on Jan 7, 2009 in Events
, Lisbon Treaty
Russia is using natural gas as a strategic weapon to enforce its will on the Ukraine, and indeed on Europe. It’s true, the Russians may have a legitimate gripe with the Ukraine over gas prices, but the fact is, the EU failure to have a coherent energy policy is now hurting individual EU member states.
Surely we should have an EU gas reserve, jointly funded and owned by the whole union, to assist in situations like this? Secondly, should we not fund a pipeline that avoids Russia altogether and instead goes to Iraq through the Balkans? I believe the Commission is working on such an idea, but it needs to be highlighted as a priority.
This isn’t an airy-fairy issue. Elderly Europeans will die if we cannot guarantee gas supplies for home heating. This is about continental security, and about whether we are masters of our own destiny or should just get fitted for a Moscow saddle.
Posted by Jason O on Dec 17, 2008 in Events
Was at the last meeting of Dublin South East Progressive Democrats last night, and a curiously upbeat affair it was too. Both Michael McDowell and Mary Harney spoke very graciously not just about the party but about the people who had campaigned for it over the years.
I am forever meeting people who supported the PDs’ policies, but never voted PD, assuming someone else would do it for them.
As with a lot of things, if you don’t use it regularly, it withers and falls off.
Speaking to FF people about it, they can’t comprehend the fact that although the party is dead, many PDs are quite proud of the party’s record.
To FF people, I suppose, the doing is not as important as the being.