Since the election, I have been focusing on putting digital democracy into practice, and I’m happy to announce that our first event will be coming to you in September!
Sign-up now at: www.fullerdemocracy.com
In the meanwhile, here are a few of my thoughts on some of the recent developments in politics in Ireland and abroad:
- Water Commission – a convenient, if extremely expensive, way for Fianna Fail and Fine Gael to avoid annoying voters who paid water charges while lessening the antagonism from those who didn’t. Only happening because they cannot afford to lose votes to each other. Once this ‘grand coalition in all but name’ is over, water charges will likely be back on the menu. However, it is a convenient lessen in democracy, as it illustrates the point that when politicians are afraid of an election being called at any time they become more wary of voter preferences. It’s when they are assured of their position for five years that the gloves come off. One more reason why we shouldn’t be running politics this way.
- Reunification with the North – at first it seems jaw-dropping to think that a universe may exist in which Enda Kenny could possibly preside over the reunification of Ireland, but when you think about it, it makes sense, as this is a short path to Fine Gael being able to cut Fianna Fail and Sinn Fein off at the knees on a hitherto differentiating issue. Conservative politicians across the board often have a surprising record of instituting the very policies they spend so much time deriding whenever they think they can really make political capital out of it. However, I suspect this is really about Enda lending a hand to British politicians who are still searching for a sneaky way to remain in the European Union after Brexit and find any threatened break-up of the UK a handy argument. After all, Irish politicians did a great deal to help them in the recent British referendum by coming up with specious arguments for Remain, eg. that Brexit would necessitate border controls with Britain, despite the fact that Ireland and Britain share a Common Travel Area which actually has nothing to do with EU membership, and, in fact, predates their membership by 50 years. But, as we know, politicians are never ones to let facts stands in the way of trying to scare people into doing what they want.
Either way, Enda stands to win on this one.
Personally, I’ve been for reunification long before I ever even thought I’d live in Ireland.
- The Housing Plan – the fatal flaw of the recent Housing Plan consists in increasing rent supplements without introducing rent control. Rent supplements did need to be increased to make up for the round of hikes that FG/Labour caused with their widely-advertised-in-advance and easily gotten around two-year rent freeze, but there is still a central problem here; having government supplement a rental sector that has no caps means that taxes are being used to directly fuel the high costs of housing. Essentially, money goes from middle class tax, lightly brushes the hands of poor as it briefly passes through them, and ends up in the pockets of landlords, many of whom are very well-off. Who benefits most from a hike in rent supplements? Not the poor or low-earners. Who benefits most are landlords. Just like bail-outs don’t help debtors, they help creditors. So, next time you look at your tax bill, remember, you might be helping the needy a little bit, but you are helping the rich a lot more. And if landlords can get a rent supplement increase whenever needed, it won’t be long before they ask for the next one. And then the next one. And the next one.
There’s absolutely no need for life to be this way. It is perfectly feasible to put rent controls linked to inflation in place and stop inflated accommodation prices from sucking the rest of the economy dry.
- The 8th Amendment – one of the few highlights of the pre-election debates was watching Michael Martin and Enda Kenny spend several minutes trying not to say anything at all about the 8th That being said, I support the Citizens’ Convention on the 8th Amendment that the government has called, because I believe that many good things can come out of sortition-based participation in conjunction with referenda. However, if one were serious about making decisions this way, it could be done a lot faster, as my own People’s Programme will shortly prove. I suspect that for FF and FG the Citizens’ Convention represents a great way of a) potentially kicking this issue out past another election cycle and b) providing a very large focus group in which they can see whether those who are against a referendum will actually stop voting for them if they hold one.
That being said, due to my personal philosophy on public participation, I’m not really that picky about why elites choose to allow it. In fact, some people have speculated that more participation will come about because elites will choose to outsource thorny questions in this manner and eventually the idea will catch on from there.