In our general election guide to the economy, our Social Theologian, Kevin Hargaden says we should ask ourselves who the economy serves, and how it is affecting our lives and the life of the planet.
3 Things You Need to Know
- While the Irish economy is statistically booming, three quarters of a million people still live in poverty.
- If you feel like you keep hearing about economic growth but see little evidence of it, you may be right: the statistical health of the economy is inflated by multinationals using Irish financial systems to protect their profits from tax elsewhere.
- It is true that the Irish economy is growing again, but the benefits are disproportionately accruing to those who are already wealthy.
3 Questions to Ask Yourself
- For decades we have believed that “growing the economy” is the most important thing. The economy is expanding rapidly, but is it really positively impacting our quality of life?
- So much of our economic activity is dedicated towards finding housing and so much wealth is accrued by accumulating houses. Who really benefits from our society’s obsession with property prices?
- The climate and ecosystem cannot be ignored. How can we turn this challenge into an opportunity by using the need for change as a means to transform our economy to be more just?
3 Questions You Need to Ask Politicians
- Instead of just talking to me in terms of empty slogans like “jobs” or “growth”, can you explain to me what the economy is for? Does it exist to serve us or do we exist to serve it?
- What, then, are you going to do that will stop the stratospheric rise in housing costs and the associated tragedy of widespread homelessness?
- Since everything is connected to the economy, there is no way to slow climate and ecosystem breakdown without changing the economy. Where should the Government invest money to make the most effective change?
3 Things Politicians Might Say
- “Keep the recovery going”
Some version of this message will be repeated, over and over. It is a licence to continue the austerity policies that decimated housing and healthcare, and increased poverty levels. The politician who speaks in this fashion is likely someone who just wants more of the same for the next five years.
- “Ireland is at full employment”
It is one of the ironies of modern life that full employment still means almost one in twenty people don’t have jobs. The statistical picture about employment can hide the extent to which people are employed in casual contracts, double-jobbing, or working for very low wages. The primary cause of homelessness is simply not having enough money to pay rent – even when working full-time – indicating that we need more than just catchphrases.
- “We have to be realistic”
Have you ever noticed the irony that the same politicians who declare that they have done a magnificent job in making Ireland one of the most prosperous economies in the world also lament that we do not have enough money to provide basic human needs like housing and healthcare? “Economic realism” tends to be decided by those who have benefited the most from the present arrangements. What’s the point of politics if the people cannot declare they want to do things differently?