Friday, November 19, 2010

Initial Thoughts About the IMF

I don't really know much about the IMF, outside of they're coming meaning we're in a whole pile of trouble. But, on reading the comments and papers and watching the news, I do have some reflections I'd like to share, both good and bad. I'll start with the bad in the hope that this ends on a good note.

The Bad

  • The humiliation and shame we feel about the IMF being in the country. Well, it is tough. And I suppose humiliating. But we did bring it on ourselves. We'd like to think Fine Fail brought this on us, but the fact is, their economic policies were being questioned in various corners since Charlie McCreevy's "What I have, I spend" comment. Elections since then appear to have based on the electorate being willingly deluded that money was free, and like trees, would simply grow. Children who convince their parents they can have another chocolate at Christmas. Parents who just want the peace to get on with Trivial Pursuit, say 'Go ahead'; children get sick and think "How could they do this to me"
  • This business of the beggars on Stephen's Green being an iconic image of the trouble we're now in (here it is). Well, this is where you should feel shame. I first started spending a lot of time in Dublin from about 1994/1995. People were begging there then. They have been begging there ever since. If you have only noticed them now, well, shame on you. Perhaps it's a sign of just how blinkered the society was that nobody noticed them before.
  • We should feel humiliated and ashamed of our politicians. The hiding away of the Green party and the Fine Fail back benchers rattling their sabres feels plain wrong to me. Both these groups voted for the bank guarantee (rightly or wrongly - I'm not questioning the guarantee right now, though I think I did over on the Fat Man blog a while ago), which appears to be the primary cause of our current serious troubles. Sure, they're political creatures and they have to survive, but I'd like to see a bit more backbone. Say "We got it wrong", apologise and try to move on. Stop trying to pretend there were always various factions at play after voting along party lines for years.  On the other hand, we have Dick Roche boasting that they're playing poker with the IMF - which seems such a level of hubris that he must be completely unaware of what the rest of us are thinking and feeling.
  • I don't know where I sit with the whole "Is this what they died for?" bit. Frankly, it feels to me like we're feeling so angry and depressed we want to be moreso. But with news not getting much worse for us, we've turned to our history to try and resurrect some of that old misery we used to love so much.
The Good
  • I welcome the return of humour to Irish political discourse. Our dark humour and dampened spirits have exceeded themselves in the delivery of razor sharp wit and observation of the society within which we have found ourselves.
  • Someone had to put on the brakes. This is a good/bad point, but let's look at it as a good point. We have been overspending for years; and we have been running the country on unsustainable taxes raised from one-off projects (construction) and similar deals (business activity). How we thought this could just go on forever is absurd, unless the government brought in 15 year destruction orders or something
  • Following on from that, we appear to have gained some sense in ourselves. And, perhaps of ourselves. Perspective you might call it. Well done us. Hopefully this will lead to a more independent electorate: the end of voting on party lines for family reasons. The beginning of a more rigorous consideration of what it is that political parties stand for; and what their policies might mean. I recall a debate in the UK sometime round the early 2000's where someone snidely cut across a panel member, saying "But you're going to vote Lib Dems - and they want to raise your taxes!" to which the other person replied "Yes, and that's how they'll pay for a better public service. I still don't know how the Tories or Labour intend to do that." Wise thinking indeed.