Water charges and the common good

Sir, – In Maureen Gaffney's opinion, unpaid water charges should be collected to achieve a society where people contribute for the common good ("Why we must collect unpaid water charges" Opinion & Analyses, December 22nd).

She bases her opinion on the results of psychological experiments by behavioural economists on how a social contract works, and relates these findings to water charges.

What is missing from the analysis is that our social contract pre-Irish Water was that water was free to citizens, having been paid for from their taxes. She correctly contends “that people are motivated to create good societies” and will contribute, provided they have the ability to contribute and their contributions are not squandered.

However, just societies are based on trust, and Irish politicians are not trusted to act for the common good. –Yours, etc,



Glasnevin, Dublin 9.

Sir, – I am surprised that Maureen Gaffney failed to spot the flaw in the analogy she presents in favour of her argument that “we must collect unpaid water charges”. She bases her argument on the conclusions of an experiment by behavioural economists, in which everyone started with the same amount of money. This starting point was the foundation for the rest of the experiment leading eventually to the findings on which she places such great store. Your columnist’s entire thesis , that we must collect unpaid water charges, was based solely on these findings.

Unfortunately, our society has not yet reached the point where everyone starts with the same amount of wealth, so the article falls flat on its face before it even gets off the ground. Furthermore, Dr Gaffney rightly talked of the importance of having a social contract, but omitted to acknowledge that we already have one in place, underpinned (albeit badly) by our taxation system.

Such blinkered thinking is not untypical of those supporting water charges. – Yours, etc,


Boyle, Co Roscommon.