Thursday 20 October 2016

There is more to being human than productivity and growth

Published 16/02/2016 | 02:30

Taoiseach Enda Kenny setting out details of FG plans to invest in
services. Photo: Mark Condren
Taoiseach Enda Kenny setting out details of FG plans to invest in services. Photo: Mark Condren

The Taoiseach's recent reference to the inaccessibility, for most of us, of what he called, "economic jargon", sounded somewhat patronising. Of course, economics has its own distinctive concepts and language; however, the problem with economics is not its jargon but its pretensions to being an exact science operating in a morally neutral setting.

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Economic reasoning has profound implications for the arrangements that touch on the fair distribution of wealth and on equality of access to the means of creating wealth.

Mr Kenny echoes the economists' persistent emphasis on productivity and growth without a serious concern for determining the beneficiaries.

The institutions and structures that underpin economic activity cannot be readily assumed to be the most effective, productive, efficient and equitable means of creating and distributing wealth.

More critical is the failure of economic thinking to face up to the fact that there is an essential difference between the laws of the physical sciences and the precarious regularities in social phenomena, placing economic predictions on a very insecure footing.

Granted, there are some fairly predictable regularities in the relationship between, for instance, prices and consumption: when petrol prices fall there is an increase in the use of motor transport.

Furthermore, there is a common assumption that economic theory is morally neutral; questions of fairness or considerations about what constitutes a life befitting us as humans are left to others. For the economist, equity tends to be subordinate to efficiency.

There seems to be a persistent evasion of any conception of the human good; the notion of human well-being is assumed to be peripheral to the economist's concerns. An unfettered free-market economy, like ours, by its very nature generates a range of inequalities relating to wealth, income, opportunity, power, influence and well-being that are steadily poisoning our way of life.

Though these cannot be eliminated, there arises a moral demand that, at least, they be minimised.

Philip O'Neill

Oxford, England


Slaughter in Syria

Yesterday, I watched TV news footage of the conflict, or should I say the slaughter, in Syria. Bashar al-Assad's forces, backed up by Russian jets, are systematically carrying out genocide of the people of Aleppo.

Surely it's time for action to at least try to stop this? Russian President Vladimir Putin cannot be allowed to carry on with his reign of terror, he must be faced down and if it means the world will once again be plunged into danger, not unlike the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis, then so be it.

US Secretary of State John Kerry's efforts at diplomacy are at best ineffective and at worst a waste of time.

The victims of this conflict are once again innocent men, women and many, many children. Ground your bombers, Mr Putin, for God's sake, have you no conscience?

Mike Burke

Sixmilebridge, Co Clare


Media's election coverage

The election debate so far seems to be about little more than personality and which vested interest gets what.

We can blame the politicians, but the media coverage also has a lot to do with it. During the boom, the narrative was that we were awash with cash, everything was getting better and better and there was no downside to the spending spree. The fact that the spending spree involved a tripling of bank lending and a tripling of government spending was pretty well ignored and was virtually unchallenged.

During the consequent bust, and right up to the present election campaign, the anti-austerity narrative has taken over. That basically amounts to every vested interest being given the unchallenged freedom to demand more and more of taxpayers' money.

This election is taking place after the biggest calamity to hit this country since independence.

You would never know that looking at much of the media coverage of the election debate so far.

A Leavy

Sutton, Dublin 13


Know the facts on voting

The General Election is under two weeks away and there will be wall-to-wall coverage on the state of the parties, the likely winners and losers and the implications of the results for party leaders. What won't be discussed, however, is the electoral system itself, because apparently the body politic assumes voters know how to vote, despite nobody telling them.

Ireland is almost unique in having PR-STV, which is only used in Malta and parts of Australia. Yet despite that, when was the last time you saw an information flyer or received a booklet in the letterbox explaining the voting system? So before you cast your vote, do you know the answers to the following questions?

1. What is PR-STV?

2. What does 1, 2, 3 mean?

3. Is it possible to tactically vote in PR-STV?

4. Why are candidates disappointed when voters say they will "give them a vote"?

5. Why do candidates fear journalists saying their seats are safe?

6. Is it okay to give a protest candidate your number one and your preferred candidate number two?

7. Do you know how to calculate the quota or, for that matter, what is a quota?

8. Why are there multiple counts, and how are votes transferred?

9. What is the purpose of the tally?

10. Why are some candidates elected without exceeding the quota?

Jason Fitzharris

Swords, Co Dublin


Production in crisis

I am relieved to see the Irish Independent is allowing someone to question the whole concept of the Irish 'recovery' in an economic world that is becoming increasingly unstable ('Don't ignore the crisis looming far beyond the campaign trail', Letters, February 15).

This is turning out to be one of the most ill-informed elections ever held, dominated by the concept of 'recovery'.

Thousands of steel workers protested in Brussels yesterday. The 21st century world is in serious trouble because there is vastly more product available than the human race can consume. Here, our parties outdo themselves with promises of 200,000 or 250,000 jobs by 2020; we will be very lucky to avoid job losses as automation and robotics undercut the work force.

Padraic Neary

Tubbercurry, Co Sligo

Irish Independent

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