The system is not working

November 27, 2009 at 11:19 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Is it not abundantly clear that much of the institutional framework of contemporary Ireland has failed? Our political and democratic system has been discredited for some time. Our financial and economic system has been exposed as dysfunctional. The State’s regulatory systems have failed. Our planning system has proven incompetent at best and resulted in houses being exposed to catestrophic flooding. Now, once again, the major religious institution in the country has been shown to be corrupted.

There are many features in common across all of these institutions. First, they are led by morally weak and incompetant people. Self-interest and vanity have been the predominant values. Second, they have been self-serving and protective rather than orientated around serving the people. Finally, an incredible ethical emptiness characterises them all. Doing the right thing has become exotic and alien in our institutional culture.

This is why we need systemic change. We need new forms of social organisation grounded on solving problems and serving people.  I do not claim to know what these may be but I do know they must be grounded on bottom-up structures in a much more de-centralised and harmonised society.

For now, as I have argued elsewhere, we must create new networks de-linked from the present system. These would be economic, social, political and cultural spaces outside the logic and control of the present economic and political system. They might involve local trading systems, new currencies, acts of self-governance, reclamations of civic space, communal self-reliance. These networks may be based upon face to face contact, as are traditional geographical communities, or they may utilise the possibilities created by the Internet for virtual community and long distance liaison. The point is to bring people together now to create real, existentially viable alternatives and support networks in order to begin the process of constructing a new, sustainable society. No limit, bar human imagination and ingenuity, can be placed on what these networks may be like or upon what their de-linking activities might be.







The System is Broken – time to build a new one

November 23, 2009 at 12:40 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

The problems that we are facing are systemic. They are not just isolated difficulties. Instead, we are looking at a systems failure. The government and those with a vested interest in the existing system seem to think that it’s a matter of holding our breath and waiting for it all to re-boot. It won’t. The system itself is broken.

We need a whole new way of thinking and acting. We need a new system modeled to deliver social and ecological harmony. Such a system would be designed to re-build social connections and networks. We cannot have human beings rendered ‘redundant’. We must have meaningful activity for all.

I think this can only be done from the bottom-up. We need to see emerging, and to actively encourage, new types of social and ecologically committed enterprises. This would be a whole new mobilisation outside the current broken institutional framework. It would also be outside our traditional understanding of ‘politics’ and ‘business’.

Here are some suggestions:

We need to stop being dependent and powerless and start acting. We need new ideas, new models and new enterprises. Let’s do it!

We need to build a culture of engagement. We need to take responsibility for our own communities and figuring out together solutions to our problems. The key driver of new business ideas is to solve life’s little problems. This must involve building community democratic participative forums, either in one’s geographical area or virtually through new social network sites. Let’s think and solve together!

We need new invigorated local economic activity. One example is to develop local currencies, local capital exchanges and local systems of barter. Local currencies can be used to reward social activity, such as work with children, youth, elderly, the environment.

We need to maximise local resource mobilisation, especially in food and energy. These new resources can then be traded. All of this should lead to ecological enhancement and meaningful activity for all. This also creates local resilience (providing a buffer against global economic shocks) and a basic security foundation for all citizens regarding a minimum of basic goods and services.

What we have learned is that the economy must rest on real activity, on the real social world and on the real environment. We can begin with bottom-up solutions to fix the small things. Lots of small solutions leads to one big solution!


November 18, 2009 at 10:46 am | Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

We are living in a post-democratic society. What I mean by that term is that we have the outward forms of democracy only but not its reality. Yes, we have elections and political parties. But these do not effect real change. That is because effective power lies elsewhere. It lies with those who control the levers of the global market – multi-national corporations, international financiers, large States.

Take Ireland’s current economic policy. Our monetary policy is determined entirely by the European Central Bank. Our fiscal policy is determined by the European Commission. Thus, our present budgetary deficit–GDP ratio is just over 12%. The Commission has insisted this be brought down to 3%. They have given us five years to achieve this. It does not matter which political party or coalition of parties is elected. They must all conform to these budgetary constraints. Our choice lies only in the detail of how we do this.

In effect, our independence and autonomy in these matters are gone. We are in a state of dependency. Our votes will make little difference.

We need a democratic renewal. I have suggested below a mechanism for economic, social and political change that is radical but uses no jargon, involves no protest, is positive, smart and empowering and uses tools already available. It centres on bottom-up participative solution seeking. We need to create a new social movement that does not want formal political power. In post-democracy change will not come from politics!

Economic cost must be fair

November 9, 2009 at 10:07 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

The government has signaled clearly that in December’s budget they are going to reduce public service expenditure by €4 billion. It appears that €2.7 billion of this will centre on social welfare reductions and social service provisions. This would have an appalling effect on our society. What can be done? Rather than just give off about this, here are four immediate alternative proposals.

First, we clearly need to mobilise the enormous wealth which remains in our society and bring it within the tax net. Much of this wealth is hidden behind a complex array of tax breaks and tax reduction schemes. These need to be radically reformed and almost all done away with.

Second, we need taxes on embedded wealth such as property, capital gains and financial speculative transactions. We should be pushing for the introduction of a Tobin tax system on transnational financial exchanges.

Third, we need a third taxation band that targets those earning more than €100,000. The rate needs to be quite high given our present circumstances – perhaps 60%.

Finally, we need to re-examine our corporation tax system. This should not be an untouchable. Take Shell’s deal regarding Corrib gas. They will pay 25% tax on net profits. The Dept of Finance estimate that the State thereby will take just under €2 billion in taxes from a well currently valued at almost €12 billion. This is clearly wrong. We need a significant windfall profit tax imposed. Whatever about the justification for this regime in the 1990s, the circumstances have now changed. The economy is in crisis and everything ‘is now different’; there has been an enormous rise in the value of natural gas which is not connected to any investment by the developers; we now know more about how fossil fuel use is causing catastrophic climate change. For these reasons, Shell must pay far more – at least 50% of the gross value should be returned to the State.

The point is that the citizens of this State can not and should not see reductions in their economic condition unless it is fair. This means that everyone in society – the wealthy and the corporations – must pay their proportional share and be seen to do so. This is the only basis by which we can proceed from this crisis to create a new, fair and just Ireland.

Principle of Safety Vindicated

November 3, 2009 at 2:20 pm | Posted in News | Leave a comment

Today’s decision on the Corrib gas pipeline by An Bord Pleanala finally accepts a critical principle that has longed formed part of the campaign against the Corrib gas project. The Board finds that:

The proposal to route the pipeline at a proximity distance from dwellings which is within the hazard range of the pipeline should a failure occur is unacceptable.

This is a very important vindication of the local community’s campaign. It also specifically validates the position of the Rossport Five. Their opposition caused the original pipeline route to be abandoned.

This principle, obvious as it may seem, has been consistently denied by the government (Ministers Fahey, Dempsey and Ryan), by Peter Cassells and by the Advantica so-called safety review. The ridiculing of local fears on this specific point has been outrageous throughout the last ten years.

Furthermore, Shell’s application on the pipe has been shown not to be ‘complete, transparent and adequate.’ This is also an important finding as it once again undermines Shell’s claims to be trusted and competent and to be a safety-conscious company.

However, it is disappointing that the Board has suggested yet another alternative route, this time up the middle of Sruhwaddoccon estuary. This route raises even further safety concerns.

The fact is that the project is untenable. It should be stopped immediately and completely redesigned according to criteria of health and safety and community consent. Another window now exists to bring this about. Indeed, the entire deal governing the project needs immediate review.


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