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  • irishtimes.com - Posted: January 12, 2011 @ 1:15 pm

    Rejoice! We are free! says the Heritage Foundation

    Laura Slattery

    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.

    • Lucy says:

      Oh dear… Too true, I wish there was more discussion in general of how far we have gone on the capitalist road, I think the Irish people are far less enamoured with it than our politicians in general, and yet economic policy never seems to be debated here. At election time we have them all saying ‘vote for me, you’ll give less and get more’, and then when in government they ram through these neoliberal rules… but what can we do?

    • Betterworld Now says:

      It is worse that you think – TINA* is the repost to every suggestion that does not fit with the headlong rush to follow the neoliberal agenda proposed by Friedman:
      TINA to getting the banks lending again
      TINA to getting unemployment down
      TINA to slashing wages
      TINA to flogging off public assets
      TINA to cutting services
      It is worse that you think – TINA* is the repost to every suggestion that does not fit with the headlong rush to follow the neoliberal agenda proposed by Friedman:
      TINA to getting the banks lending again
      TINA to getting unemployment down
      TINA to slashing wages
      TINA to flogging off public assets
      TINA to cutting services
      TINA to closing hospital beds

      When ever you hear of TINA, you are listening to the Friedman code being spouted by a true believer. And anyone who doesn’t believe can “go and commit suicide” for all the true believers care.

      (*There is no alternative.)

    • mairead Scannell says:

      Hmm, sad but entirely true. The whole of Ireland should read the Shock Doctrine by Naomi Klein. Lets face it Ireland was set up and then shorted.. yes shorted..by who? Capitalist America. America is not a democracy, far from it, it is a Capitalist Country. Everyone should also read “The Empire of Illusion” .

    • John Power says:

      You don’t deal with the actual issue at hand: economic freedoms are generally desirable (and they are). Instead you bring up sex education and healthcare in a fairly typical example of the Irish Times’ general disdain for the American right. But what’s that much got to do with anything?

    • click here says:

      Oh god – I remember reading The Shock Doctrine shortly after it was published; shortly after that, everything went wrong here, and I thought, “Well, now we can add Ireland to Klein’s statistics…”

      If these Freidmanites are so opposed to government, they should go ahead and relocate to Somalia: a shining example of “small government”.

    • Pauline says:

      Yeah.. but the actual truth is very simple.. Government exists to do the things that are needed and shouldn’t cost the earth – health care, education, infrastructure, disaster recovery… Katrina vrs Brisbane – the difference Australia has a functioning government.

      One of the best things Australian unions did with “guest labor” – instead of vilifying these poor Chinese workers brought over on contract, they explained their rights. Rights which mean they got a whole years wages for a few weeks work and didn’t care if they then got fired and deported back to China.

      The answer isn’t to make our wages smaller but to make their wages bigger, so that they too can live…

    • Pauline says:

      What we can do is very simple… it’s time to stop letting governments get away with stuff, to tell them what we want.

      I said this to an activist friend of mine who nearly died with the radical notion that instead of giving them vague idea’s we want implemented, write the laws for them so they can’t mess around with them and provide loopholes…

      there are plenty of people with the knowledge and intelligence to re-write our constitution and laws, to vet our new laws to ensure that they are doing what they are meant to … unlike the Stillorgan stop on the Luas…

    • Pauline says:

      Oh … I love the re-location plan.. I think Ethopia has small government too…

    • John Power says:

      Mentioning Ethiopia or Somalia as examples of small government is clearly absurd. Come on. They are failed, or border-line failed, states. These are countries which have been or are being ravaged by war, endemic poverty and disease. No one claims that imposing anarchy on a basket case nation is going to magically create a successful country. Obviously, you must have a functioning state of some sort, or at least stable conditions to ensure basic rights and the honoring of contracts. North Korea has about as big a government as you can have, but it is not Sweden. But N.K. would also be a silly example to use in an argument like this.

      Hong Kong, one of the richest places on earth, has extremely low taxes and minimal government in most respects. But it also has a functioning political and judicial system and stability, and is clearly a much better example of the advantages of avoiding stifling government.

    • Rick Shea says:

      What can I say? The majority of my fellow USAns have been dumbed down to the point of idiocy. Even after “higher education,” they often only have a reading level at what used to be primary school, and even less analytical ability. I know. I work at one of these “colleges.” The look of dumb apathy, paired with an all-consuming avariciousness in their conduct toward each other, is heartbreaking. I urge anyone who actually cares about their nation’s future to drop any and all models based on those imposed on the population of the US. The wealthy have no country. We are simply another commodity to them, to be used and discarded when we no longer have “value.”

    • Betterworld Now says:

      Small government is was what gave us light touch regulation.

    • myles na peros says:

      Is this the book everyone hasnt read and is quoting from?.
      There is no government now so the press can sell some papers and Ireland can go shopping.
      Would people in Ireland mind a dictatorship? .
      We have no community just greed!.

    • h canu says:

      Ireland was assigned financial serfdom through a lame duck Govt (essentially unaccountable for their actions). That act was lead by a leader, and party, that over a decade + led Ireland irresponsibly to the brink of financial disaster. Looking backwards, one may say that Ireland is free. Forward – it is certainly less free. One might even say the Irish people have abdicated their future freedom through the willingness to allow discredited, unaccountable Govt lead them into the desert last week and to collectively take on responsibilities that should have been shared with the rest of Europe.

    • Martin Browne says:

      Financial Crisis = massive fraud&failure ( in financial institutions an rating agencies)
      Fuel for the crisis = ignorant population + greed + beliefe that investing in bricks and mortar (houses) can’t fail
      Resolution = transparency (and education of ignorant population)


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