From top: cycling in Copenhagen, Denmark; Dan Boyle
Maybe the Little Englanders are right and Brexit does represent an opportunity. For us not them. With John Bull’s Island shamefully obsessed with a don’t darken our shores attitude to migrants (or just others in general), and with the man-child firmly ensconced in the Oval Office, maybe the real opportunity is ours in Ireland, to distangle our involvement with the Anglo American economic model.
It is only an economic model and a very poor one at that. A model that seeks to pump prime an economy for short term benefit and often to a very shallow extent. It is a model that we have convinced ourselves no longer needs to make things, just as long we can provide appropriate ‘services’.
There are other economic models, better economic models. Models that portray an economy, and its effective management, as a tool of a wider society, and doesn’t see society as an unfortunate adjunct that distracts from the more important entity of the economy.
The Anglo American model needs and encourages inequality to thrive. It’s mantra is low costs/high profits. It produces jobs but many of these jobs are low paying and have little security. It cares little for social protection and not at all for social infrastructure.
As the UK and the US indulge in their mutual insanity, if Ireland were now to take a different turn, it could be of real and lasting value.
If we need an obvious example on how Irish society has become tainted by the Anglo American model, our housing crisis is surely it. Since 2011 our government has stuck limpet like to a belief that you can’t buck the market; that the State should play no role in controlling housing supply or demand.
Perhaps we could begin to adopt a more humane philosophy that is as approximate to us. We should go Nordic.
The naysayers and the knee jerkers will have arguments at their ready. Ireland doesn’t have the oil or the gas reserves of Norway, they will say. That is true, but then neither do the five other Nordic countries.
We no longer have control over our monetary policy, as many Nordic still do, they will counter. That is also true although Finland is also a member of the Eurozone.
The main misgiving is that the Irish, unlike their Nordic counterparts, are less disposed towards paying high levels of personal taxation. This is to distort the effect of the various systems of taxation in these countries.
In Ireland our tax burden is disproportionately shared. In Nordic countries the principle of earn more pay more is not only more readily accepted, the transparency necessary to show how the social dividend is distributed is far more obvious.
The Nordic model is not perfect and is far from idyllic. But it better, so much better than the Anglo American model. In education, health care, crime prevention, immigration and integration, child care and care for the environment, we lag so far behind our Nordic cousins.
If we could marry the Swedish ability of establishing international companies from within its borders; the Norwegian commitment to re-investment; the Danish attachment to renewable energy; the Finnish standards of education; and the Icelandic stoicism to maximising its economy, how much better we could be.
Certainly better than relying on the arrogance and shamelessness of the Anglo American model. It’s time methinks to engage again in our Viking heritage.
Dan Boyle is a former Green Party TD and Senator. His column appears here every Thursday. Follow Dan on Twitter: @sendboyle