President Higgins and the role of the state


Sir, – Referring to the seminar “Re-thinking Economics : The role of the state”, Dermot Reid claims (Letters, November 14th) that President Michael D Higgins called for “a system under which the state would decide what products and services should be developed and produced and what jobs should be done and by whom and how resources should be distributed”. Having attended the seminar and examined his written speech (see the President’s website), I can say that Mr Higgins said no such thing and he has never espoused such a view.

His speech referred, and rightly, to the potentially key “transformative role” that any state can play in the lives of citizens, a transformative role that can achieve cohesion. Most governments, including our own, accept that the state can and must play a key role in relation to economic social and environmental concerns. Hopefully, the views of Milton Friedman and Friedrich Hayek on the minimal role of the state, adopted with adverse effects by leaders such as Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan, can be consigned to history.

Mr Higgins’s critique of the neoliberal ideology is now reflected in the recent Beyond Growth : Towards a New Economic Approach published by the OECD. This states: “The frameworks and prescriptions which have dominated policy-making in recent decades are no longer able to generate the solutions to the problems and challenges we face today. We need a less incremental, more profound change”.

The huge support Mr Higgins received in two presidential elections also suggests that his views are widely shared in Ireland. – Yours, etc,


Trinity College Dublin,

Dublin 2.