Lowry should read Bastiat

27 September, 2011

So former Fine Gaeler Michael Lowry is miffed that the Government has turned down the plan he was promoting for a super-casino in Tipperary. That’s not a surprise, nor is it a surprise that the present incumbents have taken the first available opportunity to stick it to Michael, given his disgraceful and self-serving support of the last Government.  Of course it’s always possible that the fact that Lowry (whom Matt Cooper described as the most disreputable politician he’d ever met) was involved had nothing to do with the decision, and that it was made entirely on its merits. Anyway, the decision was undoubtedly the right one, whatever the reasons for it.

The Irish Times reported that

Mr Lowry …. said he wanted to support plans that would bring an economic boost and up to 2,000 jobs to his Tipperary North constituency….Thurles Chamber of Commerce president Austin Broderick said the area was “totally devastated” by the Government’s refusal to allow a large casino. “It’s unreal. One thousand jobs gone down the Swanee…”

Here we go again, with alleged job creation/saving potential being used to justify everything from continuance of dodgy tax breaks to loss-making capital investments, to opening yet more shops.  John Kay has neatly disposed of similar fallacies (see here), but to see the rebuttal done elegantly and forcefully, one needs to travel far back in time and read the works of Frédéric Bastiat (1801-1850), particularly his famous Parable of the Broken Window.

In Bastiat’s tale, a man’s son breaks a pane of glass, meaning the man will have  to pay to replace it. The onlookers consider the situation and decide that the  boy has actually done the community a service because his father will have to  pay the glazier to replace the broken pane.  The glazier will then presumably spend the extra money on something else,  thus helping the local economy. The onlookers come to believe that breaking  windows stimulates the economy, but Bastiat exposes the fallacy. By breaking the window, the man’s son has reduced his  father’s disposable  income, meaning his father will not be able purchase new shoes or some  other luxury good. Thus, the broken window might help the glazier, but at the  same time, it robs other industries and reduces the amount being spent on  other goods. Net result: a loss to the economy overall.

Building a super-casino in Tipperary may create jobs, but overall it will have a negative effect on the economy as it will divert limited investment capacity from more sensible (and more socially responsible?) projects which, as it happens, would also create jobs.

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HMQ meets DO’B

1 June, 2011

I’m obviously a bit of a weirdo.  There I was, expecting to see some negative commentary in the newspapers (and elsewhere) about how inappropriate it was that Denis O’Brien was invited to the big function held in the Convention Centre on Thursday evening two weeks ago.  He was even photographed with the Queen.  But no, nothing by way of adverse comment in the papers I read, anyway.

You have to admire DO’B for his chutzpah, his liathróidi.  But who cleared him to be invited?  Sure, the event was hosted by the British Embassy, but it’s not conceivable that they didn’t run their invitation list by either the Department of the Taoiseach or the Department of Foreign Affairs.

Was the Queen of England aware of just how controversial DO’B is?

For those with short memories: our beloved Dáil instituted a sworn enquiry on 11th September 1997, the terms of reference of which included investigation as to “whether any substantial payments were made directly or indirectly to Mr Michael Lowry ….. during any period when he held public office in circumstances giving rise to a reasonable inference that the motive for making the payment was connected with any public office held by him or had the potential to influence the discharge of such office”.

After incurring vast expense to the taxpayer, the tribunal headed by Mr Justice Michael Moriarty issued a report only last March (!) which found inter alia that  Lowry had “conferred a benefit on Mr Denis O’Brien, a person who made payments to Mr Lowry, within the meaning of [the tribunal’s] terms of reference”.  It found that Mr O’Brien made or facilitated payments to Mr Lowry of £147,000 Sterling, £300,000 Sterling and a benefit equivalent to a payment in the form of Mr O’Brien’s support for a loan of £420,000 Sterling.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny said in the Dáil on 29th March:  “Previous Tribunals elicited thousands of words…..but pitiful inaction….. by those who sat, then, over here.  The new government breaks from that precedent and acts definitively and decisively.  We referred the Moriarty Report to the Garda Commissioner, the Director of Public Prosecution and the Revenue Commissioners.”

Mr O’Brien has denied any wrongdoing, and the issues dealt with by Moriarty may be tested in some form in a court of law.  But in the meantime, surely we are right to expect some circumspection from our political establishment in dealings with Mr O’Brien, and that they should keep him at arm’s length on our behalf.

What on earth is causing Fine Gael to hold back on calling for Michael Lowry to resign, or at least condemning him unreservedly?  Or should that be who is causing Fine Gael to hold back on calling for Michael Lowry to resign?  Is it you, Phil?

A letter in today’s Irish Times sums it up nicely:

Madam, – Mr Justice Moriarty described the actions of Deputy Michael Lowry as a “cynical and venal abuse of office”.   All the major parties in the Oireachtas voted for the establishment of the tribunal and now that it has reported, it behoves the Government to take swift action and censure Deputy Lowry in the strongest terms possible. Failure to do so would be political cowardice of the worst kind. – Yours, etc,   NIALL GUBBINS,  Carrigwell,  Carraig na bhFear,  Co Cork.

What possible gain can there be in any hesitation on Fine Gael’s part in this matter?  Lowry has always been more Fianna Fáil than Fine Gael in spirit, and his recent “deal with the devil” during the Cowen regime only confirms that.  I remember hearing about a Lowry-organised fundraiser in the 1990s in the Burlington at which a number of builders and developers of a definite Fianna Fáil bent were seen strutting their stuff.  There was always a whiff of sulphur around Lowry. 

Enda, this will haunt you for years if you get this wrong.  Don’t wait for Leo or Lucinda to push you stumbling in the right direction.  Show some leadership!