Our global society is broken. Donald Trump & Brexit are symptoms along with the rise of the far right elsewhere in Europe. In an old pattern, fundamental economic crisis often results in society becoming very much more brutal for most people. In the age of nuclear weapons this current crisis could be our last. And with a somewhat longer countdown to disaster we are also facing climate catastrophe.
The crisis is fundamental rather than temporary because there are two underlying factors that are irreversible. The first is the end of the era where the environmental costs of growth could be mostly discounted in the belief that dilution would neutralise pollution. For much of the industrial revolution the poisonous effluent dumped into the ecosystem had only local severe effects with the vast oceans and atmosphere diluting the pollutants enough that global effects were minor. This is no longer the case with climate change being the most talked about of several examples where the pollution generated by growth can no longer be absorbed without serious global consequences.
A bit of great news as the year closes - Apple have been told they owe 13 billion to the Irish state. Great news now in terms of housing, healthcare and eduction where that money is badly needed. But also great news in the long term for workers everywhere as its a blow against corporate tax avoidance.
The native Irish ruling class have long been prone to parasitical activity, enriching themselves by acting as agents of absentee landlords or today as law firms for multinationals keen to avoid and evade paying taxes. As landlords agents that involved breaking down the doors to evict those who were literally dying of starvation. The modern form is less hands on but the repercussions are similar, the 13 billion they don’t want to collect from Apple are the same billions whose absence has people dying on hospital trolleys.
A new report from Social Justice Ireland has shown that the economic crisis has pushed 100,000 more people under the poverty line in the south of Ireland, with a total of 750,000 people. That's about 15% of people.
Oxfam has just released a report that shows global inequality has escalated rapidly over the last 6 years. The particular measure they used is a very important one. First they calculated the wealth held by the poorest 50% of the planets population, which is about 3.6 billion people. And then they asked how many of the richest people held the same amount of wealth.
How many could we house, educate and care for with 19 billion? The Irish government is currently furiously fighting the European Union to prevent Apple paying us back taxes it owes us. There has been a lot of ‘concern’ about government plans to spend 48 million looking after 4000 people fleeing warfare in Syria and Iraq. The government and the media defend there ‘our own’ is first - the super rich in Ireland and elsewhere!
Irish government policy is creating a fresh property boom that is once more driving the most marginalised onto the streets and into insecure accommodation. The deliberate creation of housing scarcity has seen huge numbers being evicted by greedy landlords, normally making use of the rights stripping clause that allows them to claim they are intending to move a family member into the property. Right now in Dublin who doesn’t have friends being evicted under that clause?
Homelessness in Ireland could be solved at a stroke by allowing people without homes to move into the 302,602 empty houses in the country.
That figure comes from the National Institute of Regional and Spatial Analysis. It's equivalent of half the homes in Dublin, many of the vacants being in ghost estates that developers have been deliberately allowing to fall apart.
Do we live in an economy or in a society? Last night Europe's central bankers sent the clear message they expect us to be the well behaved slaves of an economy rather than equals in a society. Less then two weeks after the Greeks had elected an anti-austerity government the ECB in effect told them they intended to block the promises of change that government was elected on.