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What is Wrong with Irish Business?

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IBEC’s pre-budget submission is a tour de force.  In the name of ending austerity it calls for  . . . more austerity; namely, reducing public expenditure in real terms.  This is done to pay for tax cuts that will primarily benefit higher income groups.  And in calling for real cuts in investment it then proposes to use fiscally inefficient public-private-partnerships which will drive up the cost of investment in order to create new channels of profits.  And in all this it manages to avoid the elephant in the room – the long-term chronic under-investment of Irish business in the economy.

Irish business has gotten all the breaks.  Historically, it has been the beneficiary of ultra-low corporate tax rates and social insurance while paying below-average employee compensation (compared to most other EU-15 countries).  And, yet, it is a chronic under-investor.  The following data is taken from the EU Ameco database.

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In 2012, Irish corporate investment is at the bottom of the table.  Even when adjusted for multi-national accounting practices (which is what the Irish Fiscal Advisory Council’s hybrid-GDP effectively does), we come in marginally ahead of battered Greece.  Our corporate sector invests 38 percent less than the EU-28 average – or nearly €6 billion less.  It invests less than half the level that pertains in other small open economics (SOE) – or nearly €9 billion less.   This is pretty bleak.

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Those Darned Public Sector Pensions

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Public sector pensions – is there any three-word formulation more likely to angry up the blood? Not likely (except, maybe, ‘public sector pay’). Mention public sector pensions in polite company and animal sounds will be heard. We are constantly told that we can’t afford public sector pensions, they are a burden on the taxpayer (the private sector taxpayer, the public ones don’t count as they will become a burden when they retire), that they will in a few years sink the economy.

Listening to the debate, you’d think it was public sector pensioners that caused the fiscal and economic crisis, sank the banks and forced us into a bailout.

But a few facts that are emerging suggest otherwise (a few facts are always a healthy tonic to unsubstantiated assertions). WorldByStorm over at Cedar Lounge Revolution pointed to the Sunday Business Post article based on documents obtained under the Freedom of Information legislation:

‘A quarter of public service pensioners receive a pension of only €5,000 annually, according to government documents [and] almost half of all public service pensioners get a pension of about €10,000 or €11,000 annually.’

25 percent received a pension of only €5,000? Almost half on €11,000 or less? Can this be true? And, if so, where does that leave the ‘public-sector-pensions-are-ruining-us-school’?

Well, yes, it can be true. The latest Analysis of Exchequer Pay and Pensions Bill shows that the average public sector pension is €20,800 a year. It should be noted that much of this includes payments for spouses. Further, many recipients do not receive a social insurance top-up pension.

Of course, this doesn’t cost the state an average €20,800 per year. Some of this will be returned via the tax system. Further, the pension income is returned to the economy in spending, resulting in greater economic activity and consumption tax revenues.

This doesn’t deter the great campaigners.

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Wideawake Philosophy

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Book Review: After Finitude, Quentin Meillassoux (Continuum, 2008) & Quentin Meillassoux, Graham Harman (Edinburgh University Press, 2011)

In a letter to Harriet Shaw Weaver in 1926, when he was working on what would become Finnegans Wake, James  Joyce points towards what he is now trying to do in his writing by saying that some things cannot be expressed in ‘wideawake language cutanddry grammar and goahead plot’. Quentin Meillassoux’s style of writing, when it comes to philosophical argument at least, is decidedly pre-Wake for his book After Finitude is characterized by a lucidity and correctness that Joyce was quite capable of but nonetheless had put behind him. Meillassoux writes in a way that is not typical of Continental philosophy and what sets him apart from many of his peers perhaps helps explain why he has gained such praise for his work; for some he has already earned a place in the hallowed pantheon of ground-breaking French philosophers. A remarkable achievement for someone whose reputation is largely based on just one book, although dedicated followers of French philosophical fashion can train their truffle hounds to dig up a scattering of essays, excerpts of an unpublished text, The Divine Inexistence, and a second book, The Number and the Siren, about Mallarmé's poem Un Coup de Dés. Is the Meillassoux phenomenon just another cliquish storm in a Parisian teacup or has something explosively new appeared?

The manifest of works of continental philosophy usually indicates intellectual freight of a heavy and bulky kind and one that sometimes requires cognitive apparatus, like set theory in the case of Badiou’s Being and Event. So it comes as welcome relief to know that After Finitude, a mere 128 pages long,  is one of the more reader-friendly texts of recent French philosophy and that its basic argument is put forth with crystal clarity. The book’s author is not one to wallow in words and there is an intellectual impishness to the writing that adds to its attractiveness.

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Cathechism: This is a Catholic Country

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Cathechism: This is a Catholic Country

Q: Why were a hundred thousand children abused?
A: Because this is a catholic country.

Q: Why did the abusers get away with it?
A: Because this is a catholic country.

Q: Why did the people of the country, to their as yet unpurged disgrace, let the
abusers get away with it?
A: Because this is a catholic country.

Q: Why are LBGT’s still beaten up on our streets, and why are they still afraid
to hold hands on most of our streets, and why are so many young LBGT’s driven to self-hatred and suicide, and why do LBGT’s still not have their equal rights?
A: Because this is a catholic country.

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Austerity Works

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It’s time to stop saying austerity doesn’t work. It works very well. It is designed to support incomes. Greece, for example, has just paid 400 million euro to Kenneth Dart, a man whose fortune was made…

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