Jason OMahony - Irish political blogger, Irish politics, EU politics

If there was one value…

Posted by Jason O on Jan 11, 2010 in Irish Politics |

irish-flagIf there was one value that would define your politics, what would it be? Sure, it’s easy to say something like “Look after the weak” but that’s a vague cop-out, and most people who say that don’t believe it really. If they did, they’d let homeless people sleep in their houses. No, I’m talking about a value which you do actually believe and follow, and informs how you live your life and how you vote. I’ve been thinking a lot about this recently, and I think I have it, for me, anyway. It is, quite simply:

” Leave me alone, and I’ll leave you alone.”

It sums up my attitude to taxes, social issues, and foriegn affairs. It’s the ultimate human right. It says that if you wish to wear a burka, that’s your business, but if you try to force it on someone against their will, you are wrong. It says that equal respect should be given to the person who pays tax as much as the person who receives it, and that I will decide where my money goes, including to help those less well off than me, not you. It also says that your pollution is my business if it effects me, whereas if you want to sit at home and smoke 100 cigerettes a day, that’s not my concern. It says that if you want to marry a gay, that’s your thing, and if you are opposed to gay marriage, then don’t get married to one.

Is that value really so unique, so unusual? Is it too much to expect a party, a party of freedom, to espouse that? Is it too much to think that 5-10% of Irish voters might even vote for it? 


Longman Oz
Jan 11, 2010 at 9:58 am

Hi Jason. Saw this piece on irishblogs.ie and wanted to know the following please:

If someone wants to be part of an Internet file-sharing ring of illicit photos of minors, do you leave them be?

If someone wants to inject heroin outside of your kid’s school, discarding the needle on the ground afterwards, is that just him doing his thing?

If a shopowner refuses to hire your best friend or sister because of his religious beliefs or her gender, is that merely him exercising his perogative to be a bigot?

If government militas round up all Jews, communists, Gypsies, and homosexuals and cart them off to concentration camps, does that matter if it does not impinge upon your rights as a citizen?

Or do you instead need a whole bunch of “ifs”, “buts”, and “maybes” to qualify your central political value?

Jason O
Jan 11, 2010 at 10:04 am

Longman, I think you may have misconstrued my point. I’m saying that the core value should apply to everyone. All of your points involve individuals being deprived of the values I speak of. I’m not arguing that I’m the only person who should be allowed that right!

Michael Collins
Jan 11, 2010 at 11:31 am


What you suggest seems OK as a core principle but, as in all things in life, when one starts adding in caveats and codicils, the message becomes more complex. I gather that you don’t believe that leaving you alone should extend to not forcibly taking money from you in the form of taxes, for instance.

Do you think private heroin use should be allowed? Assisted suicide?

And what is the age at which people are allowed make various choices (smoking, drinking, sexual relations, joining the army etc) for themselves?

I suspect that an attempt to reduce any credible political belief system to a simple phrase would be counter-productive, as it would play into the hands of those who would seek to misrepresent it.


Longman Oz
Jan 11, 2010 at 11:47 am

All of your points involve individuals being deprived of the values I speak of.


Now, as has been widely written about in recent months, a relatively small percentage of the population pays the most in tax. In democratic terms, they are a clear minority – probably with a disproportionate amount of influence on government policy, but a minority nonetheless. Yet, in revenue terms, they represent a clear majority. Hence, if they could choose exactly what their taxes get spent on, what do you think that the likely outcome would be?

Now, the smart money would be on civil unrest before terribly long, but let us leave that to one side!

Instead, even if you are not saying that bankers and lawyers should have a greater say than nurses and teachers in terms of how this country is run, your suggestion does run dangerously close to making the case for personal wealth being the biggest determinant of who has political power!

You might instead refer me back to the fact that if the bankers and lawyers “are not leaving others alone” because of their selfish decision-making with respect to how their taxes get spent. If so, are you not just coming back around to something pretty much akin to the current system where a popularly elected government is given a mandate on the back of an election manifesto to manage the public resources in certain ways for a fixed period of time?

What I am really saying, though, is that modern democratic societies are made up of many complex interrelationships and competing needs. As a result, by the time that you add everyone’s individual requirements into the mix, it seems to me that the notion of “leave me alone and I’ll leave you alone” has long since ceased to have any real relevance anymore and decisions that will mean that most “are not left alone” need to get made.

Jason O
Jan 11, 2010 at 12:10 pm

I think you may be taking me too literally. Life is complex, and principles needs to be flexible, but it’s not unreasonable to desire a political party that looks at every political proposition from the basis of “Whose freedom does this restrain, and at what cost?” Take taxes. Irish people support high taxes, as long as it is others who pay them. But try and get them to pay for their bins! Or water, actual services, and all of a sudden their libertarians. Should assisted suicide be permitted? It’s an argument worth having. As for heroin use, the argument against it is the same argument that could be used for alcohol use. Would private use cause greater social harm to other non participants than banning it? Should we stop addicts from legally using it? Should the state stop people with binge drinking problems from drinking? Should we all carry drinking licences? You tell me.

James Lawless
Jan 13, 2010 at 12:27 am

This is the basis of much of the split in the american system is it not? Big government dems versus small state republicans? Seems to attract a large chunk of the vote there most of the time..



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