Archive for August 21st, 2009

Do The Hustle, Irish Times Style

It hardly takes a Nostradamus, but my prediction yesterday that

the run-up to the vote will be used as an opportunity for the right wing media in this country, otherwise known as ‘the media’, to demonise and denigrate those left wing parties and individuals who will campaign for a No vote. It will be a marvellous opportunity, in the midst of a full-blown economic crisis, now that the far-right opportunists of Libertas have vanished, to place leftists in the same bracket as the aborted baby-fetish fascists in Coir, denounce them as unreasonable antediluvian freaks

got some fairly rapid confirmation today, in the form of Patsy McGarry’s piece in the Irish Times.

Strange bedfellows of the anti-Lisbon campaign – The Irish Times – Fri, Aug 21, 2009

Ah yes, Cóir and Éirígí. Isn’t it a sad day for the Irish language that whenever we now see any new political organisation with an Irish name those same two words, “isolationist and backward”, spontaneously come to mind? Cóir, for instance, give the impression that neither the pope, the Vatican nor the Irish (Roman) bishops are Catholic at all when it comes to the EU. Éirígí, for its part, when not hijacking protests by the Shell to Sea campaign or by Thomas Cook workers, would be identified by many as among supporters of “traitors to the island of Ireland”. That was how Martin McGuinness described the murderers of soldiers Mark Quinsey and Patrick Azimkar and PSNI constable Stephen Carroll in Northern Ireland earlier this year.

My bad, I missed the ‘murderers’ bit. In flagrant ignorance of my advisory tweet last week:

Twitter / Hugh Green:

My rules for efficient newspaper column reading. No 1: stop reading as soon as you encounter ‘but hey’.

I persisted, for shame.

Well, well. Of course, it is a little embarrassing that Sinn Féin should find itself sharing this consistently anti-EU stance with members of Éirígí and those other great lovers of Ireland and all things Irish, the United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP) and hard-line UK Tories. But hey, politics makes for strange bedfellows.

To appear on the same side of the argument as someone else on something ain’t all that. As Patsy McGarry no doubt would agree, if he were to read this piece by porn magnate Larry Flynt, whose denunciation of the ‘ruling class‘ in America, observing that

So arrogant, so smug were they that, without a moment’s hesitation, they took our money — yours and mine — to pay their executives multimillion-dollar bonuses, something they continue doing to this very day. They have no shame.

bore strange echoes of a similar piece written recently on this side of the Atlantic.

Ruling class average in all but vanity – The Irish Times – Fri, Aug 07, 2009

Their extraordinary vanity would be hilarious were it not so ludicrous, as illustrated through the inflated salaries and outrageous expenses they believe are their due, making us poor suckers the laughing stock of the developed world.

written by Patsy McGarry.

Now I’m not implying that Patsy McGarry spends his spare time reading Barely Legal and Asian Beaver. But hey, journalism makes for strange bedfellows.


Image via Wikipedia

Never let it be said that I am not willing to admit my mistakes. I changed the name of this site a few months ago to the most mundane and boring thing imaginable. As I said at the time, it came to me while I was doing the dishes. But I got sick of it, it was an awful name, and I have changed it again.

The name is a reference to a quote from Francis Hutcheson, who, from humble beginnings in Drumalig, which is somewhere near Lisburn, which is somewhere up the M1, went on to become a formative influence on the thought of Adam Smith, a student of his, who referred to him as “the never to be forgotten Dr. Hutcheson.”  In his superb account of the role of classical political economists in primitive accumulation, The Invention of Capitalism: Classical Political Economy and the Secret History of Primitive Accumulation, Michael Perelman cites Hutcheson as follows:

“If a people have not acquired an habit of industry, the cheapness of all the necessaries of life encourages sloth. The best remedy is to raise the demand for all necessaries….Sloth should be punished by temporary servitude at least.”

Perelman assesses:

The menacing “at least” in this citation suggests that the never-to-be-forgotten professor might have had even sterner medicine in mind than mere temporary servitude. What else might the good doctor recommend to earnest students of moral philosophy in the event that temporary servitude proved inadequate in shunting people off to the workplace?

This attitude, of course, is not unique to classical political economy. We might ask, was there ever a nation in which the rich found the poor to be sufficiently industrious?


I have shamelessly plundered Perelman’s book for my tagline too. It is a quote from John Bellers, the ‘famed Quaker philanthropist’, who remarked that “Our Forests and great Commons (make the Poor that are upon them too much like the Indians) being a hindrance to Industry, and are Nurseries of Idleness and Insolence”.

Leda’s Place, Swan Burgers 10c Each

If Cameron takes his cues from Black Swan man, the Tories are in trouble | Larry Elliott | Comment is free | The Guardian

Nowhere is the intellectual confusion more apparent than in Cameron’s source of economic ideas. A few months ago the buzzword was “nudge”, a reference to a book co-authored by the economist Richard Thaler, which argued that with help from government and private organisations, individuals could be persuaded to make better lifestyle choices. Cameron’s championing of Thaler was meant to show that there was a softer alternative to Labour’s big state approach to every problem.

That was then. Now the phrase du jour is Black Swan, the title of a book by Nassim Nicholas Taleb. Cameron shared a platform with Taleb earlier in the week and said the book “confirmed his own prejudices”. We can only speculate on which prejudices these might be, since they have a distinct pick’n’mix quality. Taleb is an interesting thinker, but he has an entirely different view of the world to Thaler and would not last five minutes in the new, soft-focus, all things to all people Conservative party.

Let me tell you about the dream I had the other night. I was in a public toilet, standing at the urinal, and I looked down to see the image of a small black swan about six inches north west of the drain. I was very worried about the consequences of hitting the black swan, so I ended up making an embarrassing mess.

I on Twitter

August 2009