Where do we go from here?
Posted on April 29, 2013 by Tom Healy
Public debate about matters of public concern in Ireland has been characterised in a number of ways. I suggest that the following traits may be stronger than elsewhere in the world and could reflect deep and enduring historical factors:
- There is a disproportionate emphasis on 'survival' with the consequence of a great focus on the short-term over the long-term;
- Intellectual discourse about values, evidence and philosophy is not given the space and priority it deserves (in short there is a certain anti-intellectualism); and
- Fatalism dominates the perceived choices and options.
The latter is not without basis. Ireland - both parts of the island - are small open regional economies in a large and complex global market. In the case of the South significant areas of sovereignty have been eroded - for better or otherwise - over recent decades. The 'bailout' programme with its policy conditionality and oversight does constrain choices at least in relation to targets on public debt and government deficits. However, there are more choices possible than is often claimed within the constraints imposed by European treaties, the recent 'programmes of assistance' involving the Troika and the vagaries of survival in terms of access to capital markets, reputation and political good will. One example of this is in the area of taxation where it is almost a matter of received wisdom and canonical truth that (i) we have one of the highest possible and most progressive income tax systems in OECD countries and (ii) keeping taxes low as a percentage of GDP (or GNI) is a necessary and vital part of the Irish economic success story both in the past and going forward. Both assertions deserve a comprehensive analysis and challenge. In the meantime, a vision of what might be possible and why the current trajectory of public policy is failing is offered in the following piece published in the Business Supplement of the Irish Independent recently.