Anxiety of Affluence

There is a fairly good comment piece on affluence in the Irish Times today, fairly good in the sense that it doesn’t try and get its point across through references to yummy mummies buying their organic swordfish and sweet potato baby foods at Lidl these days, though I don’t agree with much of it.

It’s by Michael Casey, who is former chief economist of the Central Bank and a member of the board of the International Monetary Fund, and therefore something approaching an evil capitalist supernumerary who may or may not occasionally take the form of a giant lizard. Not that these details should detain us too much.

I myself was not on top of Croagh Patrick on the day Michael Casey says an assertion was made that affluence in Ireland has led to materialism and has damaged our value system, but I presume he is referring to the homily by Archbishop Michael Neary, in which no such assertion was made.

What he did talk about -I checked the homily on, which was mainly about vocations- was how consumer values could seduce, and reduce everything to wealth and security. He said ‘In the midst of our recent wealth and prosperity, we failed to find the inner joy, peace and faith that we might have expected’. This was evidently true for those who had traipsed up Croagh Patrick -including some nutters barefoot- to hear him preach instead of, say, going ape with a credit card in Dundrum. But that was all he said. If he thought that affluence in se was harmful, he didn’t say so.

So when Casey says:

The assertion that affluence leads to a poorer value system is precisely that – an assertion.

One is inclined to reply, yes, but the assertion that the assertion that affluence leads to a poorer value system is precisely that – an assertion- is precisely that – an assertion, and one aimed at a straw man.

There are other questions raised by the piece, however, which I might take a look at in another post if I get the time.


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