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October 01, 2007



I enjoyed the post. I wanted to make a couple of points.

I agree the left needs to highlight more the problem with our tax base (regressive etc) and also the issue you mention about the competitive economies being higher tax.

You said rightly that any party that mentioned raising taxes would get trounced in the polls. Right. We need to understand better why we have such a fixation with low(ish) tax. I think there are many reasons but I think two things figure:

1.Mistrust of government generally - fuelled by the disastrous economic policies of the late 70s, early 80s - together with the corruption revelations over the last 10 years or so. Basically they really fucked us up quite recently and they cannot be trusted with our money.

2.A perception that public services are universally and uniquelly inefficient. This isn't true. Many private companies are inefficent too. And not all public service agencies are dead weight. But we cannot escape the fact that many of them are. Key to this is the dire, awful need for reform of our public service. Particularly the big money eaters - health and education.

We are stuck in the viscous circle whereby public services don't work terribly well, partly because they need reform, partly more investment. But because of the poor perception, the Irish electorate are too skeptical to invest and just want their money back.

There are other cultural, national psyche explainations too, but I hold that the two key starting points are modernisation of our political institutions and reform of public service. If it can be made to work, people will support it. The trouble is in breaking the cycle of cynicism.

As a footnote, I wonder how much defence spending distorts your analysis - if at all. What I mean is that many Eu countries spend about 3% GDP (UK figure worked out from wikipedia values!) on defence. We spend .5%. That means that even if we have overall 2.5% less tax / gdp than other countries, we still have the same % to spend on non-defence. Though the UK figure is certainly high, but the Eu 15 figure is not to hand.

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