Wednesday 18 October 2017

The State is morally obliged to help out those in debt

Fire and brimstone approach to personal debt is self-defeating -- and plain wrong, writes Marc Coleman

ONE of the sad things about Ireland is how, instead of resulting in a blend of the best aspects of both religions, centuries of strife between Catholicism and Protestantism seem to have given us the worst of both worlds. Instead of mixing Catholic forgiveness with Protestant rigour, we have mixed Catholicism's moral ambiguity with the retribution of Protestantism.

And we have no moral compass guiding how we use the latter: Tuesday's pension levy was yet another example of how in Ireland retribution is visited not on the guilty but on the innocent. Debt forgiveness is another example.

If you're a regulator, a councillor or politician whose stupidity caused the crisis, then Catholic absolution is at hand. If you're a residential buyer who trusted your leaders and bought property at outrageously overvalued prices, then it's Calvinist damnation. Banks that blew billions receive the Catholic generosity of €18.7bn in further recapitalisation. Residential mortgage holders who invested out of need rather than greed can hope at best for law reform. Here, bankruptcy is as often as not the fault not of those affected, but the gross policy mismanagement of our economy.

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