Wednesday, April 26, 2006

The PD's Vision of Ireland. Again.

It may appear a little easy to have a go at the PD's in order to fill space, but it just never ends, I'm afraid. They appear to represent the bad stuff in Ireland, and we had more of the same at the PD conference at the weekend (Tax Reform 100-40-40: Sharing the Gains). Here are the problems:
1. Health Service problems caused by their own limitations on public service numbers
2. Gardai problems caused by their own limitations on public service numbers
3. An abject and unapologetic allegiance to Smithsonian economic model and the invisible hand as the cure-all
4. A short termism that is devoid of vision, clarity and all too political.

Here's why. Being an economically right-wing party, the PD's are all for free markets and small government. In theory, almost all services provided by the state can be provided more efficiently by the free market. Hence privatisation is a good thing, and small government is a good thing. This translates into a number of trends. First, no new hires in the public sector. Net numbers must fall, and continue to fall. Where additional staff are required, contractors can be brought in, supplied by the private sector - agency nurses, security companies to protect money (and staff prisons), and so forth. When investment is talked about in the public services, it is in infrastructure and buildings, not in new staff. Macro-economic policy is all but ignored, and the enrichment of the private individual is championed, noting that the freedom of the individual will in turn protext the economy as individual rational actors will provide the necessary protection.

Here's why that's wrong. First, the vagaries of market forces mean that staff that are not permanent may not always be available. Second, the minimalist approach to state protection marginalises the disadvantaged and the poor, and exacerbates their position. Third, the existing permanent staff in state services get demoralised by the deterioration of the work environment, and the lack of consistency in the work environment. Fouth, we have yet to test the theory in an underperforming economy. Fifth, the scale of the country is such that the Smithsonian economic model is not necessarily applicable here. Sixth, Ireland is a part of Europe, within which the increasing sovereignty of Europe compromises the State's ability to appropriately manage the Smithsonian model in the face of the European Social model, which is by far the preferred model throughout the EU.

The lack of vision is about where Ireland is going - it is becoming, to use, the tired old cliché, an economy rather than a society.

And before one jumps to conclude that this writer is a left-wing pinko crying out for increased union membership and so forth, let it be known that the Unions are as bad if not worse than the PD's. They are as bad because they ignore the wider interests of society in return for increased pay within the partnership model. You lie down with dogs and you rise with fleas. And it is purely pay that they want. More and more and more pay, and the more leverage that they can get to secure more pay, the better. They talk about social development and servives, but at the end of the day ideology gives way to existential questions - trade unions are becoming (have become) redundant save as collective pay bargaining organisations, and therefore in order to preserve their existence they need to deliver that. This ignores the economic reality that unlimited wages means unlimited inflationary pressures and ultimately compromises the economy. Short termism again. They are of course worse than the PD's because they pretend to be socialist, when they are in fact the most heinous of capitalists.

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