Rejoice! We are free! says the Heritage Foundation
Ireland is the seventh freest economy in the world, according to the conservative US thinktank the Heritage Foundation, an organisation for which the ability of millionaires to transform themselves into billionaires unencumbered by anything resembling “government control” – or laws as they are more generally known – is paramount. Ireland, incidentally, which it describes as “mostly free”, came in two spots ahead of the US itself. (The full rankings are listed here.)
Given that economic management in Ireland has often seemed like an oxymoron lately, I thought it might be a good idea to find out a little more about the kind of ideologues that our Government has managed to impress through the apparent chaos. On a hunch, I turned to the index of Naomi Klein’s book on “disaster capitalism”, The Shock Doctrine. Halliburton, Hamas, Harvard, Hayek, Hemingway… ah, there it was: Heritage Foundation. Pages 14, 255, 289, 295, 355 and 410.
Klein, who is of the left, describes the Heritage Foundation as “ground zero of Friedmanism”, referring to its slavish following of the beliefs of late free market evangelist Milton Friedman, who would have privatised oxygen if he could. It was the Heritage Foundation that two weeks after the levees were breached in Louisiana came up with a list of Pro-Free-Market Ideas for Responding to Hurricane Katrina – a list packaged as “hurricane relief”, Klein writes, but comprising of such measures as the suspension of laws requiring federal contractors to pay a living wage.
Let’s see what the Heritage Foundation has to say for itself. On Obama’s plans to reform health care, it is thoroughly alarmed: “The result of so much government control is that health care is one of the most highly regulated sectors of the American economy.” This means “less personal freedom”, it laments. It is similarly hostile to Obama’s reforms to education legislation called the No Child Left Behind act, describing them as “a reckless spending spree”.
On poverty and inequality, it says poverty, what poverty? “Poor persons in the US have far higher living standards than the public imagines… By his own report, his family is not hungry, and he had sufficient funds in the past year to meet his family’s essential needs. While this individual’s life is not opulent, it is equally far from the popular images of dire poverty conveyed by the press, liberal activists, and politicians.” The greatest weapon against child poverty, it states, is not a living wage (or indeed a functioning welfare state), but marriage.
On sex education, well… it’s against it: “Abstinence education programs are effective in reducing sexual activity against enormous pop culture pressures. Alternative comprehensive sex education programs disparage abstinence and teach that casual sex among teenagers is acceptable and desirable.” Freedom only goes so far, then.
These are the people who just love what we’re doing with the economy.