Sunday 19 November 2017

Editorial: Right diagnosis but cure unclear

Taoiseach Enda Kenny and Michael Noonan
Taoiseach Enda Kenny and Michael Noonan

IN POLITICS, like medicine, diagnosing a problem is generally easier than curing it.

That said, the decision by the Coalition, if only out of self-interest, that one of its political priorities in 2014 is the rebuilding of the confidence and fortunes of Ireland's coping classes is to be commended. Two millennia ago Aristotle warned that society is damaged if, in the absence of a strong centre, the state solely consists of 'masters and slaves, the one despising, the other envying'. Little has changed since, for the best measure of the health of a country is the numbers of its citizenry who can rise above mere subsistence to plan for a better future for themselves and their children through education, hard work and thrift. Though it appears to be all too easily forgotten by our political and mandarin elites, such coping classes also contribute to the good order of society as consumers, small entrepreneurs and shareholders and by the spirit of self-reliance in areas such as the purchase of health insurance and their own homes.

Significantly, those who try to cope rather than simply depend are also the main drivers of our political system -- for a thriving middle class that believes it has a stake in the country will always be politically engaged. The latter trait adds a particular resonance to one of the central themes of the Sunday Independent's series of Millward Brown polls -- where increasing numbers of citizens, who have been reduced to a subsistence lifestyle by our complex economic collapse, are turning their face away from politics. Such a decision is not surprising given the rising belief that an all-too-complacent political elite is disinterested in the hollowing out of the future of the straitened Irish coping classes.

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