It is easy to forget that between 1915 and 1930 a wave of populism swept the world. We are no longer ruled by kings or churches; we have no vast landlords or centuries old empires. All these things were swept away by a new set of ideas, all based on strong feelings that inequities existed that could only be rectified by fundamental change.
These new ideas - mainly nationalism and socialism - engaged and energised whole populations in a matter of months. In Ireland, the original Sinn Fein party under Eamon de Valera won 47pc of the vote and 75pc of the seats in its first election in 1918. In the same year Russia and Germany were convulsed by civil wars.
These changes brought about ruin. Ireland's economy shrivelled for two generations, mostly under the same party and leader. They were continually re-elected to implement their ideologically directed economic mismanagement that resulted in mass emigration that lasted until the early 1960s.
Elsewhere, the world witnessed the emergence of regimes based on economic idealism - mostly socialist or communist, but also on the heady ideals of nationalism and socialism - it's often forgotten that the word 'Nazi' was an abbreviation for 'Nationalsozialismus' - the name of Germany's National Socialist Party.
About five million Russians died of famine in 1932 alone while up to 40 million may have died of famine in China in 1959. Pol Pot's socialist nationalism caused the deaths of up to two million in the late 1970s. Today Venezuela continues it's seven-year collapse under Nicolas Maduro - with an estimated excess mortality of 40,000 people per annum. All around the world, hundreds of millions of families have been displaced or destroyed; generations-old settlements and entire economies have been snuffed out by populist ideologies.
This is surely clear and continuing evidence of how abstract ideas - based on powerful feelings - can become quickly facts. Feelings and facts make poor bedfellows.
The most striking facts to emerge from the recent general election were the exit polls. These showed that health was felt to be the most important issue [32pc] followed by housing and homelessness [26pc]. These feelings contradict the facts set out in by Dan O'Brien in these pages recently which showed that Ireland was performing very well on these issues in comparison with other states. But a feeling of dissatisfaction has set in and these have not been shifted by mere facts,
At the other end of the spectrum lay issues that are widely recognised as being of great social and economic importance - taxation, childcare and crime, but less than 4pc of those surveyed felt that these were important.
Astonishingly only 1pc of those who were surveyed attached importance to the single biggest issue that will dominate our lives for the next generation - Brexit. The electorate's silence on this real issue, compared to the other emotionally heightened issues, is surely an extreme version of feelings dominating facts.
Where do these feelings come from and are they important?
Feelings are important because they are a central part of that family of intangible things that include emotions and values - which can be too easily dismissed when they appear to be fleeting or fashionable. Yet once these persist, they become core values, they become a fiercely defended part of our identity as a society or a country.
One of the problems with these intangibles is that they can defy logic and evidence. Witness Venezuela's persistence in re-electing a government that is clearly destroying and impoverishing the county. As already mentioned, we, in Ireland spent 30 years being similarly self-harming between the 1930s and the 1960s.
A recent taxi driver's rant went something like this: "Those fools in the Government know nothing. They say that they got us through the recession and now we have full employment. I'm sick of them being right about everything. I hate that. We've got to get rid of the smug bastards."
Lucky the country that feels that it can punish leaders for the sin of being right, but the inescapable truth remains that feelings are facts. When feelings change, everything changes, often regardless of facts. Values and opinions come with a price in the real world of taxation, jobs and prosperity. Populists always perish on the rock that promises must be paid for. Yet economists continue to be thwarted by illogical idealists.
'Animal Spirits' was the best explanation of one of history's greatest economists as he sought to explain the origin of those emotional responses that sweep through society from time to time. He referred to 'a spontaneous urge to action rather than inaction' - rather than any measured or logical approach. John Maynard Keynes would have understood our taxi driver who just wanted a change.
Increasing literacy and the growth of mass media played a large role in the sudden social, economic and political upheavals that happened in the early 20th Century. It may be that such a change is happening again, but this time social media is the origin, amplifier and accelerant.
Perhaps Ireland's politics are increasingly based on opinion emerging from the strange and easily manipulated world of social media? This is little understood at best and woefully underestimated at worst. Most people have never even heard of the term 'bot farm' where new opinions are forged and spread. More than half of all web traffic is made up of bots. Increasingly these are the point of origin of the concerns of our voting taxi driver who spends his idle hours on the rank browsing Facebook.
Warnings about deliberate cultivation of easily manipulated emotional issues like health and housing continue to fall on deaf ears.
What's the harm in having policies based on feelings and opinions instead of facts? Isn't everyone entitled to their own feelings and opinions? A virus takes no account of feelings.
The world may be about to learn a very real and potentially lethal lesson about the disconnection between feelings and facts. We will shortly need to be led by people who are expert, accurate and right. Real leadership is not about popularity.
Misinformation and disruptive online behaviour, of the types exhibited by anti-vaxxers, may soon find itself severely and rapidly controlled. Social media will confuse, protest, blame and panic, probably in that order, as the need for coordinated or controlled social action emerges to deal with the growing threat of the coronavirus outbreak. This may be the final battleground between dramatic online opinions and dull data from the real world.
Ireland is now in the grip of populists - just the same as the UK and the US - unmoored from the realities of facts or consequences. The coalition imposed by our PR system may help to blunt the worst extremes of populist policy promises, but this can only happen in a society that is aware of the threat of online manipulation with misinformation.
Advanced countries have begun a national conversation about how to defend themselves against such social media. Ireland is one of the world's biggest users of social media, perhaps it's time that we talked about this.
Acceptance is not a cure and apathy in the face of misinformation may be fatal. There is still time to take your mind back!