President’s speech on inequality

 

A chara, – In his speech to the “Re-thinking Economics: The Role of the State” seminar, President Michael D Higgins delivers a scathing attack on the political and economic status quo (“President attacks ‘free market fundamentalism’ for creating ‘yawning inequality’”, News, November 12th).

The speech goes further than other recent speeches by Mr Higgins, in calling for the replacement of our current system of broadly liberal capitalism within a social-democratic framework, with a system under which the state would decide what products and services should be developed and produced, what jobs should be done, and by whom, and how resources should be distributed.

In his speech, Mr Higgins invites us to move towards “collective solidarity” and to reject philosophical individualism (which he credits for greed and narcissism).

What he neglects to mention is that the political realisation of Lockean ideas of individual autonomy and dignity is perhaps the crowning achievement of the Enlightenment, a period that has contributed more to human advancement than any other in human history.

While this speech was delivered at an event called “Rethinking Economics”, it contains nothing new.

Philosophers from Plato to Rousseau to Hegel, Marx and Engels have pondered utopia, and how state power might be harnessed to make it reality.

We have seen the horrific results each time these ideas were put into practice.

In trying to find lessons to be learned from these philosophers and the consequences of the application of their ideas, we might remember the words of the great liberal economist, FA Hayek: “The curious task of economics is to demonstrate to men how little they really know about what they imagine they can design.” – Yours, etc,

DERMOT REID,

Dublin 4.