The Nation or the Market: Why Ireland’s Traditionalists Must Break from the Trappings of British and American Conservatism.
The Tories and the Republicans, Thatcherites and Reaganistas. In the Anglophone world, they are the pinnacle of Conservatism – small Government, lax regulation, mildly socially conservative, and low tax. They are also unfit for use in an Irish setting. Britain birthed the Industrial Revolution, America made it her own. Ireland was never caught in the ground swell of industrialisation that had wrought its way through the Western world, with all the costs and benefits it brought.
Ireland remained largely agrarian and economically protectionist, the redistribution of land following independence was done on such a scale so as to snuff out any burgeoning form of Socialism. Ireland’s path has been a different one to most nations of the world, and not one so replicable.
But what does this have to do with the ideology of freeing the markets? Well simply put – Ireland’s history with mercantilism and capitalism was a bruising one, one which led directly to the destitution of the population, and contributed to the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Irish people through starvation in the Great Famine.
Ireland’s relationship with laissez-faire capitalism was non existent until the turn of the 20th century, when we were flung head-first into the Celtic Tiger, whizzing so quickly through two decades we had barely time to enjoy our on-credit-paninis before they were so unjustly stolen away.
Brevity aside, the forces of the market we unleashed have long worn away the institutions of the State by any measure. Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil, who could previously command eighty percent of the electorate, slumped into the fifties, or on a good day, the low sixties. Society’s social capital was misappropriated, every interest group took what it could, damned whether it led to our collective demise.
We stand now, a decade on from the financial crisis, no better than we were five years ago. Families can’t afford housing, educational arms races lock us into paths with diminishing returns, debt becomes perpetual, the birth rate slumps, and Ireland is inserted into the global monoculture with its nominal quirky differences just enough to add a veneer of authenticity to the plastic culture so pervasive around the developed world.
This is not a harken to days gone by, Ireland’s intense poverty was not something noble, nor should we seek to replicate it. But what we must do as conservatives, as traditionalists, as nationalists, is remember that our past is different to that of America and Britain, our issues are not the same, the solutions cannot be transposed.
What Ireland requires is neither blind faith in, nor State control of, the market, but an understanding that the market is a function of human nature, and when we play loose with the rules, it brings out our worst excesses.
What every Irishman and woman must do is encourage reward for productive enterprise, allying the market with the State, protecting livelihoods, and ensuring that the pie is more equally split amongst all the children of the Nation. We need a Gaelic-infused capitalism.