Dan Boyle: The View From The Till


From top: Dublin city centre yesterday; Dan Boyle

Two distinct political approaches have accompanied the international reactions to the novel coronavirus crisis.

The political philosophy holding most influence in how responses are being determined can be identified by which of these two questions are being asked, in what intensity, and to what degree of prioritisation.

The questions are ‘How does this crisis affect our people?’ or alternately “How does this crisis affect our economy?’.

It is fairly obvious that the administrations in the US and in the UK, have been asking themselves the second question first, most loudly and most regularly.

Any policy response to a pandemic will bring about huge societal adjustments. To anticipate such responses in purely financial terms is particularly misanthropic.

The follow through questions asked by these administrations seem to have been solely based on economic impact.

In the circumstances we all find ourselves now, no approach is going to be without difficulty. To make achieving success that more difficult because of ingrained philosophical hang ups, will rightly be seen as especially wrong.

The first response to this public health crisis in the US and UK has been to seek to limit the role government can and should play.

The underlying ‘values’ behind this belief is a perverse understanding that the more government/public agencies become involved, the greater the damage they are likely to cause.

The definition of this damage is informed by a secondary principle – the business of business should be largely unaffected.

While they will proclaim otherwise, these theories are callously indifferent to human health and life.

Few would argue that we be indifferent to the economics of any health crisis. But to give potential economic consequences such a priority is unfair to most people in those societies.

In Ireland we have had a government, now in a caretaker capacity, that has been similarly wedded to market principles. This adherence has seen housing provision become further and further detached from public need.

It has also made the achieveing of a health service, which was truly public and which the public has confidence, much more difficult to attain.

However in its approach to how this virus is impacting Ireland, the government is operating a far more people centred approach.

It is an approach that hasn’t been without flaws and won’t be without difficulties, but it is an approach that it is founded on better principles.

It would be better if our new government could be formalised. Like Eamon Ryan I believe that a national government would be best placed to deal with the scale of the predicament we face.

Even if not possible, the default setting should be to continue to support the government as it is constituted on the course it is currently following.

To seek to create a new government, formed on a crude majoritarian basis, that would divide rather than continue to involve the Dáil, would be precisely the wrong action to take as we seek to collectively tackle this crisis.

The approach to date has been, thankfully, politics free. The support our public services and agencies need has to engage our entire political system acting unambiguously towards a single focused goal.

Forming a new government in Ireland, especially a government that could be tempted to reassert market principles to social policy areas, is something that shouldn’t be encouraged until we can get this virus under control.

Dan Boyle is a former Green Party TD and Senator and serves as a Green Party councillor on Cork City Council. His column appears here every Thursday. Follow Dan on Twitter: @sendboyle


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14 thoughts on “Dan Boyle: The View From The Till

  1. Don't Cha Kno

    Communism is the deadly virus that Dan has fallen foul of.

    Beware: Governments create poverty.

    Governments create ignorance.

    1. Otis Blue

      As a famous Communist once said:

      “There are decades where nothing happens, and there are weeks where decades happen”.

      1. Don't Cha Kno

        Only people create things of value before dirty lying ego-seeking communists steal it from them to enable their cronies.

        Remember the Bank Bailout Dan?

        Surprised you still have the nerve to show your face in public, let alone run for public office or lecture us – the people who pay your inordinate compensation – on the value of anything.

        You’re propped up by the very failing system you protect.

  2. class wario

    It’s a silly approach in any case because the economic hit is inevitable. The idea you can just carry on mostly as normal while potentially hammering your health service capacity is ludicrous. It’s either economic hit now or later with a premium of human life on top.

    I have to say I don’t really agree with the national govt stuff either, mind. It’s a nice and flowery idea but I’m not sure it’d be any more effective at this time. Thankfully the current govt have mostly been deferring to the medical and science people on this one.

  3. Gabby

    Economists, whether conservative or left of centre, have measured economic performance in terms of economic growth. GDP and trade balances are grandly measured with macro statistics. At the moment major transnational airlines are shutting down their services and national economies are freezing so that majorities in national populations can be spared from the worst effects of the coronavirus pandemic. With millions of housebound citizens forced into unprecedented periods of leisure, this may be a time to revisit two books that challenged the economic growth model 50 years ago.
    a) The Limits to Growth (1970) published by a group styling itself ‘The Club of Rome’. This book stated that infinite economic growth would use up finite earthly resources and render the planet a wasteland that nobody could inhabit.
    b) Small is Beautiful (1973) by German-born British economist E.F.Schumacher. His main focus was on local people everywhere needing to focus on their production & consumption habits. He stressed that our economic and social contribution to society might be dependent on a reflective philosophy of life.

    Here is one of several thoughtful comments made by E.F.Schumacher in his collection of essays:- “An attitude to life which seeks fulfilment in the
    single-minded pursuit of wealth – in short, materialism – does not fit into this
    world, because it contains within itself no limiting principle, while the
    environment in which it is placed is strictly limited.”
    ― E.F. Schumacher, Small Is Beautiful: Economics as if People Mattered

  4. White Dove

    Thanks Dan. I believe there will be a general reset after this virus – at every level: personal, political and cultural – and that it will be a great one.

    Onwards and upwards to a better frequency for humanity!

    1. millie vanilly strikes again

      That would be a fine thing to see. If this crisis has shown anything, it’s what we are all capable of as a society, and that change is absolutely possible across the board when push comes to shove.

    2. shortforbob

      I see the current measure taken to protect life and to protect society and I wonder why we can’t do half as much to fight climate change.

      I guess it is difficult to think big or think long term.
      I admire your optimism but think changes will be small, maybe even small changes could be significant though.

  5. Joe Small

    Forming a government “on a crude majoritarian basis” – you mean like every government in the history of the state, as provided for in our constitution?!

    1. Clampers Outside

      Aye, it was a really odd phrase, and thing to say. An Orwellian like attempt to make the norm of majority appear distasteful… I dunno what Dan is at with that, and I usually like Dan’s posts :)

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