Pain We Can Believe In

O’Brien replaces Quinn as top Irish ‘Forbes’ list billionaire – The Irish Times – Thu, Mar 12, 2009

The pain spread inexorably to these shores, with Mr Quinn estimated by Forbes to have seen his fortune drop by some $4.5 billion in the past year to €1.5 billion.

You know the recession’s biting when you’re down to your last €1.5 billion.

That leads me to another piece in today’s IT:

Referendums vulnerable to chequebook democracy – The Irish Times – Thu, Mar 12, 2009

Elections reveal only one part of the problem, however. Referendums show the other. Last June’s Lisbon referendum showed the scale of influence capable of being exerted by one single unelected individual who has access to the kind of resources needed to finance expensive campaigns. Thus in a second recent announcement – this time made to the recent Fianna Fáil ardfheis – Brian Cowen announced restrictions on the use of money to influence the outcome of referendums.

Now you won’t get any argument from me on bringing in restrictions on the influence of private individuals in referenda. The problem is that referenda are but a small component of politics in a supposedly democratic society. If you want a participative democracy, people need access to information. But when that information is produced within oligarchic structures, democratic processes are impaired, threatened, constipated, strangled, whatever you’re havin’ yourself.

So, referring back to the first article:

O’Brien replaces Quinn as top Irish ‘Forbes’ list billionaire – The Irish Times – Thu, Mar 12, 2009

The US magazine Forbes, which has dropped Independent News Media (INM) chief Sir Anthony O’Reilly from its latest list of world billionaires, suggests that the world’s richest people have on average lost 23 per cent of their wealth in the last 12 months.

and

Forbes estimates that the accumulated fortune of Denis O’Brien, (Quinn’s) successor as the wealthiest Irishman, was static last year at $2.2 billion. This was despite big losses on his investment in INM, where he has challenged the dominance of Sir Anthony.

Will we see Cowen take on O’Reilly and O’Brien, private individuals whose influence on democracy here is immense (not to mention one R. Murdoch Esq.)? Will we Fergus.

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