A modest proposal for the rebirth of the boom

Surely everyone knows the SpunOut initiative is part of a long-term strategy to restore the Celtic Tiger?

Fri, Apr 5, 2013, 15:17

I assume nobody has been fooled by Minister for Health James Reilly’s claim that he has instructed the Health Service Executive to review the funding of young people’s mental health website SpunOut. ie, arising from its publication of an article advising teenagers on how to approach the tricky question of three-in-a-bed sex. Surely everyone copped that the SpunOut initiative is part of a long-term strategy to restore the economic conditions of the Celtic Tiger? Indeed, I suspect it’s part of a radical pilot scheme designed to further expand options and understandings relating to intimate relationships, which, if successful, could be rolled out across the EU.

Allow me to explain. Since virtually all money is nowadays generated via loans – which mostly means mortgages – the obvious way of rebooting the European economy in tune with present economic understandings is by devising some mechanism whereby banks will be enabled to expand their lending practices as they did a generation ago arising from what is termed women’s emancipation. Back in the 1970s the price of an average house existed in a cast-iron relationship with the average annual income of a male worker, which was usually, for mortgaging purposes, subject to a multiplier of 2½. A key triggering factor in the creation of the 1990s housing boom was the undoing of this correlation, when banks altered their basic mortgage-lending formula to take account of double-income families as more and more women moved into the workplace. Thus, banks were enabled to cut loose a little, extending additional credit equivalent to a second household income, opening up a rolling frontier of lending capacity. Consequently the money supply across Europe more or less doubled in every decade since the 1960s, largely accounting for the ostensibly exponential expansion of the European economy during that period.

Mortgage ceiling
By the turn of the millennium, however, the mortgage ceiling was being brushed against, the cumulative average of two (male and female) salaries having been stretched as far as it could reasonably go. It was becoming obvious that, within the present dispensation, there was no possibility for generating another surge, and the present plateau was arrived at.

Mortgages, from which most of our money originates, now take two total concurrent careers to repay and cannot be further expanded within the existing model. Since money is chiefly generated through mortgage lending, the European money supply has recently been contracting alarmingly, as prudent borrowers take advantage of every opportunity to pay down debts early.

Hence James Reilly’s ingenious strategy. It’s obvious that the only thing standing between Europe and a return to robust economic health is the rather uninspired habits of its population with regard to marriage and cohabitation. The recalcitrant propensity of citizens to settle down with just one partner is clearly at the root of our continuing difficulties. Far better for people to live as threesomes, foursomes and whatever-you’re-up-for- yourselfsomes. Hence the SpunOut experiment.

When ‘gay’ meant ‘happy’
If you think this implausible, consider a scene in a public house, about 1974, in a sleepy midlands hamlet, where the town’s two openly homosexual men (the word “gay” still meant “happy”) might be sipping pina coladas together of a fair day. Were you to walk into that bar in Granard or Drumlish and fall into conversation with these two notional national prototypes, you would find it impossible to communicate how much public attitudes towards them would shift in the coming half-century. Were you to tell them that, by the teenage years of the 21st century, they might be able to get married – and to one another! – they would fall off their stools laughing. Within an hour the joke would have travelled the length and breadth of the town, provoking the same response in all who heard it. Yet in 2013 here we are, on the brink of an era in which it will seem implausible that people could once have seen marriage as something that happened only between a man and a woman.

And, if marriage no longer needs to be something that involves a male and a female, why does it have to involve just two of either sex? Why not four or five or 100? Why not one man and the National Women’s Council of Ireland, or two women and Shamrock Rovers? Or one man and One Direction? Surely only backwardness and myopia stand between us and total freedom – not to mention, as James Reilly has so shrewdly understood, economic nirvana?

One day we will look back on the SpunOut episode and indentify it as one of the great national turning points – akin to the 1971 arrival of the condom train at Connolly station – when we finally shook off the narrow-mindedness of the early 21st century.

On that day, in a commune in the midlands, a child will turn artlessly to her mother’s partner and enquire, “Daddybuddy, what’s a couple?”