Ray Crotty Memorial Lecture 15th of October 2011 – Presented by Dr. Conor McCabe

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  1. Dr.Tom O\'Connor

    September 30, 2011 8:06 am

    Certain things jump out of Crotty’s writings: firstly, he describes what he calls the ‘paradox of property’: the rancher class who also made up the government kept a zero tax on land; they were able to practice low-risk/low investment agriculture, fattening cattle and sending them to the UK. If they had to pay tax on land, they would have to use it more efficiently, which would have generated spin-off indigenous industries, like milling, chemicals, food etc. Secondly, land was held as a speculative asset by the ranchers and their family members in the professional classes, because it could shelter money from tax. This made land attractive as an investement vehicle and the price rose almost continuosly since independence. But often, the land wasn’t worked at all or at best only marginally, because it was just held as an investment, again preventing spin-off industries from developing,as happened in Denmark and Japan at the same time. The whole process strongly contributed to what Crotty calls ‘Irish undevelopment’. This resulted from ‘the paradox of property’, the more expensive land became, the less efficiently it was used. To make matters worse, Crotty points out, as does Conor in his book, that the rancher class sent their money to the London money markets and deprived the country of valuable investment capital.
    On the social side, Crotty wrote that the English colonisers imposed a ‘capitalist colonial culture’ on Ireland, even though prior to conquest, it would have been a more communal and tribal society.
    Essentially, this experience produce gombeenmen and ‘cute hoors’, greedy class interests and an indifference to fellow citizens in the growing Irish middle class which profited from the colonial experience, largely drawn from the tenant farmer classes, who bought up more and more land from the late 19th century onwards, and whose sons and daughters almost exclusively populated the universities and professions. This naked selfishness became was demonstrated in poor welfare state performance and also transfered organically to Irish people. To this day, this is a signifant factor, explaning why over half of Irish society have right wing attitudes to the welfare state. It also explains how the elites who promulgated this philosophy groomed themselves and their family members for high office, Michael Mc Dowell, Nora Owen, Liam Cosgrave and many others being cases in point.
    Icould keep writing, but I’ll stop here. The insights that Crotty had have been bang on the money and were never more relevant than what they are today.