I was watching the frontline debate about the household levy and the new water charges and it struck me how typically "Irish" the debate turned when someone mentioned the fact that some of the people who now are saying that they don't have the "ability to pay" the charges will somehow have the ability to spend EUR 1,000s on booze/flights/hotels/tickets during the European finals this summer.
The debate turned "Irish" as in it was completely ignored by everyone in the audience and people continued to spew the "people who can't pay shouldn't pay", "the most vulnerable in our society", "tax the rich" claptrap that I am so sick of hearing.
How about this (to really assess those who have the "inability to pay"):
1 - Phil Hogan organises a team from Revenue, complete with IT support, and Gardai to set up stall in the arrivals lounge of Dublin airport to greet returning fans from the Irish play-offs of the European finals.
2 - Pick people at random and ascertain whether they are Irish, own property and have/have not paid their household charge
3 - If it turns out that they haven't coughed up the EUR 100 for the household charge but managed to fork our a multiple of that to get pissed up in Poland for the week offer him/her one of two options.
- Pay the EUR 100 now
- Go to jail now
I'm positive that the "inability to pay" brigade will somehow come up with the reddies when faced with this situation.
A little while ago in the "left-wing, right-wing" discussion, I rather unkindly commented that the Irish voter doesn't make decisions on a left/right basis, but on a "costs me/costs someone else" basis. Elsewhere, and equally cynically, I've said that anyone who believes the Irish "don't do civil disobedience" is missing the fact that the characteristic of Irish civil disobedience is that it is not overt or loudly demonstrative but instead consists of passive resistance to unwelcome measures, and is normally found only when a government measure costs money.
I think this is another good example of that feature - there's a form of Irish "social solidarity" where nobody challenges anyone else's playing of the poor mouth card, and expects similar license themselves. Only about half the population appears to be willing to pay taxes on the basis of the sort of social solidarity found in, say, Nordic countries - the other half won't reach for their wallets unless they're obviously going to be forced to do so.
I'd be interested to see if there have been any studies done on the subject.
I presume you have the household charge mainly in mind here?
That was a €160 million revenue raising measure which has run into similar levels of revolt in other jurisdictions because of its nature. I would be very wary of characterising "passive resistance" as being the norm in Ireland, or anything but out of the ordinary in fact.
Of the major consolidation measures that have been reined-back, I struggle to think of any that did not arise from strikes or peaceful protests (including via the media). I'm thinking particularly of things like the medical card restrictions on the elderly and the cut to disability payments that was rescinded in December of last year.
I would say passive resistance is the exception - not just in that austerity measures are rarely resisted, but that when they are resisted, it is generally done by protest.
I'm a bit confused by the reference to the Nordic countries - is there some insinuation there that someone who cares about the most vulnerable in society ought to be encouraging the Scandinavian social model?
I'm thinking of the Household Charge, the non-means-tested Medical Card, student fees, household rates (back in the day), septic tank charges, turf cutting, and so on - the examples are pretty numerous, and all share the same feature, which is that a hit to the pocket gets you a revolt. To some extent one can even attribute some of the Greens' electoral unpopularity to the 5c "carbon charge" on fuel. Even our attitude to Europe seems largely determined by whether it's perceived as giving us money or costing us money.
I'd consider passive resistance characteristic because the public demonstrations, in most cases, were quite small - and often consisted of the same people - while the effect on the government usually resulted from a far wider pattern of passive non-payment or non-compliance.
I've discussed "salience" elsewhere specifically in respect of the household charge, and agree it's important, but nothing I've said requires that it not be.
There's an easy upcoming test, of course, which is water charges. I'd expect to see there the exact same results as the household charge - there will be a number of "public meetings" with much the same faces at each one (SF/ULA making political capital and grabbing airtime, essentially), and a wider pattern of passive non-compliance which will be decisive.
As to the "most vulnerable in society" and the Nordic model - that's the point, really. We're not talking about the "most vulnerable in society", most of whom are exempt from the household charge in any case - we're talking about people's readiness to proclaim themselves as "most vulnerable" when by any objective measure they're not, and what is actually objected to is that they are losing some of their discretionary spending capacity.
There is room for a lot of shading on details, some of which you've picked up on, but I would say that my central point here is that Irish politics is primarily about the money in one's own pocket at all levels, from the voting public to the elected representatives (with the latter a reflection of the former), and that public debate revolves around money to the exclusion of principle. As an ancillary point, I would say the Irish public demonstrates certain forms of rather negative social solidarity about money, such as not contradicting someone else who is playing the "poor mouth" card in order not to be contradicted when playing it oneself. The "most vulnerable in society" thing I regard as merely another card in this kind of play - a form of hypocritical claim that frames one's argument for personal benefit as a moral argument, and one's opponent, therefore, as callous and vicious.
I don't like that kind of argument from either side - on another thread, we had a poster framing opposition to mortgage write-downs in an equally tendentious way, with non-payers characterised as well-off D4 types while those who wouldn't get a write-down characterised as quintessentially good Irish people. Either way round, it's grossly dishonest, and regrettably characteristic of public discourse in Ireland. One might say that the love of money is the root of all Irish politics, but that it's the love that dare not speak its name, and therefore hides behind a cloak of decency - which renders much Irish public discourse fabulously hypocritical.
I'm still not seeing the link between non-compliance and nonmeans tested medical cards, student fees, septic tank charges or turfcutting protests.
Although it depends. Obviously if you're calling every nonviolent protest a demonstration of passive resistance then yes, they were so. It's the same almost everywhere.
However, if you're calling nonviolent resistance (i.e. civil disobedience) a demonstration of passive resistance, then the household charge qualifies, but I still can't think of any other, and certainly the examples you provided would not.
These are all very much the exception to the rule.
I think there is an ingrained belief that everyone else is screwing the system so why shouldnt I? At the same time because everyone else is screwing the system, I should not contribute towards its upkeep.
Eh, to be honest I'm not really very concerned about that particular point. It exists mostly in relation to those who wonder why we don't do Greek or French style protest, not by comparison to a complete lack of resistance.
Okay, I'm only responding to it because you brought it up in saying "anyone who believes the Irish "don't do civil disobedience" is missing the fact that the characteristic of Irish civil disobedience is that it is not overt or loudly demonstrative but instead consists of passive resistance"
As far as I'm concerned that's completely mistaken - unless one is talking about a handful of peaceful street protests. Despite a bit of moaning and the airing of some more justified grievances online or via other media, austerity in Ireland has largely been swallowed - rightly so.
Leaving aside the many obvious problems with this little rant for a moment... We are not as a nation harshly taxed. And the people who could claim to be reasonably heavily taxed are those with wealth. So either you're wealthy or you're not paying an exorbitant amount of tax.
You know what Scofflaw I love it when you get into the Scofflaw version of a rant. It tends to bring out some real post gems.
That's because in Ireland the politicians are intimidated by the electorate, egged on by many journalists (so called), and concede or backtrack at the first hint of trouble building.
Remember the fishing licences twenty years ago.
Austerity hasn't really kicked in yet. The social welfare bill has only been tickled.
Wait till the public service is confronted.
No; to be quite honest.
in the absence of reliable information on future growth, I can't claim that real austerity has been seen relative to what shall be observed under future macroeconomic policy.
The only available information would suggest that real austerity is being seen.
If you have any additional data, please post it.
However, loathe as I am to engage in any sort of nationalistic pride, I would completely reject what I would call the self-flagellating dismissal of the perfectly sensible direction that the Irish austerity strategem has taken to date. I think it is entirely misleading & unhelpful to do so, and discredits the progress that has been made in correcting Ireland's deficit which has been largely co-operative and progressive - a fine thing to say.
I welcome you to examine my spouse & I P60 & dare you to quote that statement to us, totally pissed off of paying through the nose for everything for no return only the promise of more tax & charges .I am public sector the better half according to this forum is private sector.
With regards to the household charge, most people that I know who haven't paid it are refusing to pay it as there is a complete of services in their area...
The main problem people are having with the water charge, is the potential of having to pay for the installation(which I think is a joke in the first place).
But why should there be a separate water charge on top of the household charge...
All the household charge is good for at the moment is water, every other service is paid for separately as is