Dr. Garret Fitzgerald is not impressed with the notion that if the majority of legislators believe that Government proposals are wrong or misguided, they should vote against them. No, according to the good Doctor, whatever legislators think of Government policy, whether on NAMA or public expenditure cuts, they should just bite their lip and support it. Because if the Government is defeated a destabilising effect will set it, leading to the takeover of the country by the IMF, the withdrawal of lending by international markets and our inevitable enslavement in the economic salt-mines. Our only salvation is to shut-up and support Fianna Fail. Dr. G. has spoken.
This is the extreme edge of the TINA argument (‘There Is No Alternative’) and Dr. Fitzgerald has been hanging around at the extreme edges of late. In a previous column, he attacked anyone who dared question the desirability of the McCarthy Committee proposals:
‘. . . there is an air of total unreality about most of what has been said and written by many of those who have attacked these proposals and who are still in absolute denial about the scale of the crisis we currently face . . . We are at present a country of ostriches. It is time for everyone to wake up to reality.’
Unreality. Absolute denial. Ostriches. Wake Up. Well, I guess that put some of us in our place. Dr. G. was at it again in his most recent column – this time raising all manner of woe and betide if anyone dared to exercise their democratic responsibility.
‘Responsible opposition is vital if the State is to be kept out of the IMF’s hands . . . No worse fate could befall an opposition than to precipitate themselves into government by defeating measures, the rejection of which could throw our State into the hands of the IMF.’
Dr. G. has moved from a legitimate position of supporting the McCarthy Committee proposals and NAMA to a more extreme position that anyone opposed to such is risking opening the door to the IMF. Okay, a bit robust but it’s a tough debate. However, it turns near-hysterical when such a position denounces the democratic process itself – the very idea of the politics of choice.
For instance, if opposition parties can mobilise public opinion to such an extent that the Government is prevented from implementing the McCarthy Report or setting up NAMA; this would no doubt precipitate an early election. In such a scenario, people may wish to support an alternative approach and elect a government that reflects that desire. It is this process that is deeply disturbing to Dr. G. In any other country, it would be called democracy.
Dr. G. elaborated on his position on Morning Ireland:
‘It’s not the best moment to change the Government because all eyes would be on us . . . If the Government fell on this issue, world financial opinion – the folks that lend us money – they wouldn’t understand what lies behind this; they’d only see that the Government hasn’t got its proposals through. They would be reluctant to lend us any more money at that stage . . . To restart the whole process, to abandon NAMA and restart the approach . . . to do that it would take a long time to sort all that out, put forward and get through new proposals. And during that time we would find it very hard to borrow . . . It’s not the best moment to destabilise things.’
In other words, we must not allow people to exercise choice, we must not allow people to elect a Government that they believe would be best placed to address the crisis. Not because they would make a worse choice. But because the very process of debate and popular decision-making itself would undermine our capacity to borrow. World financial opinion must be satisfied, even if that means denying people the option of electing, in their opinion, a better government.
Of course, Dr. G. doesn’t explain how he knows that it would become ‘very hard to borrow’. We just have to take his word for it. And support, for the time being, Fianna Fail – tolerate their policies no matter how profoundly mistaken or counter-productive we might believe them to be. For at the end of the day, our opinion doesn’t matter.
It is hard to imagine a more profoundly anti-democratic sentiment than this. Indeed, what government in the world wouldn’t want to use that argument to postpone an election or a legislative vote of confidence?
Now, Dr. G. is not proposing some indefinite ‘dictatorship of the financial-ariat’. He doesn’t’ mind elections as long as they can’t affect policy.
‘After these two measures (i.e. McCarthy Report and NAMA) have been successfully implemented, if the Dáil or the electorate so decided, there could then safely be a change of government.’
So we’re allowed to have many parties competing for office, so long as it won’t result in any substantive changes. One state, one policy.
In one sense, Dr. G. should be congratulated for bringing to the forefront what is implicit in the ideology of TINA. It is the logical conclusion of a debate of one-hand clapping. For now we know we don’t need the other hand (it is not a serious participant, as Jim O’Leary previously informed us; the hand is actually not a hand at all but rather an ostrich). Indeed, all that other hand can do is destabilise things. Better to cut it off rather than have it offend the orthodoxy.
This is the final twist in a desultory debate where some commentators are determined that the people should be given neither sight nor hearing of any alternative economic policy. Never mind be given a choice to elect a Government that would pursue such policy.