New Government? Same old, same old

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Next Taoiseach: Marty Leo McDonald?

By the time this goes to print there may be a government in place, unlikely though that is. Whether it will be a Fianna Fáil/Fine Gael coalition, a Sinn Féin coalition with Fianna Fáil, or less likely with Fine Gael, or least likely, some form of left alliance comprised of Sinn Féin, Solidarity- People Before Profit, Labour, the Green Party etc, it matters very little.

Reflecting on the debates and the policies, they all say much the same things without saying much at all. Their policies are little more than saying how they will spend someone else’s money and a bit about how much they will take off other people. They say much about what they will spend it on, but very little about how that spending will lead to improvements in society, or for people. The pre-election debate was a lot about how much government can do for you. Not about how much or how little it ought to do. The general tenor was that all parties felt that the government should be involved in as much as it can get away with.

Priority seems to be on government intervention and provision rather than enabling. Very little was to be heard about the principle of subsidiarity. The what? I hear you ask.

Catholic social teaching considers subsidiarity as a fundamental social value with direct implications for politics, but with a moral aim of respecting the autonomy of the human person in the face of state power. Pope Pius XI stated, in his encyclical, ‘Quadragesimo Anno’, that subsidiarity:

“is a fundamental principle of social philosophy, fixed and unchangeable, that one should not withdraw from individuals and commit to the community what they can accomplish by their own enterprise and industry.”

The Catholic view is that the principle of subsidiarity is a moral issue and to cross is it is objectively wrong. Pope Pius XI’s encyclical states that:

“Just as it is gravely wrong to take from individuals what they can accomplish by their own initiative and industry and give it to the community, so also it is an injustice and at the same time a grave evil and disturbance of right order to assign to a greater and higher association what lesser and subordinate organizations can do.”

It sounds a bit convoluted but in many respects, it says that the state and government should back off rather than roll in and take over too much. Our political debates ignore this issue. In the US, the idea tends to divide the Democrats and the Republicans – although not cleanly. And in the UK, the Tories and Labour are similarly divided. In Ireland, there is little of the divide. Increasingly, the Government creates the expectation of entitlement, and is becoming the equivalent of a ‘cargo-cult’.

When one party promises more than another, they are presented as more virtuous. Although it is forgotten that they are spending someone else’s money. And they all promise to spend it on much the same things, ambivalent about the impression that auction politics is providing to an impressionable youthful electorate.

Subsidiarity is about empowering individuals. It is also about the family and respecting and promoting that fundamental unit of society that keeps it all together. The ties that bind and prevent society from disintegrating into a morass of individuals, dependant on and answerable only to the State.

But where are the pro-family policies proposed by the new governments? Where are the policies that empower families to make autonomous decisions? Where are the pro-family tax policies? Where are the tax breaks for single income families who wish to choose to have a stay at home parent? Where are the childcare policies that give families choices rather than being herded by the government into two income lifestyles, daycare as the only childcare?

All the parties mentioned above campaigned for abortion. They want it safe, legal and rare. None of them consider abortion bad. Some of them danced at Dublin Castle when the 8th was defeated. It is legal. It will never be safe, often for the mother and always for the child. And where are the policies that will make it rare? Where are the incentives for the mothers to keep their child in the face of socio-economic challenges? Where are the incentives to not choose abortion?

The best the last government (Fine Gael and de-facto Fianna Fáil) could offer was free condoms which they seemed to be adamant in providing despite expert advice that it would make absolutely no difference, and Sinn Fein and all of those on the left, just clamour to get parents out to work and the children into institutional childcare as quick as possible.

Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael media releases were like adverts for The Bold and the Beautiful, absent of families and children, only upwardly mobile, joyful singletons. Mary Lou McDonald was ridiculed online by associates of Fine Gael for suggesting the government ‘should encourage the people to procreate’ on the leaders’ debate, yet it was only Aontú that came out with any pro-family policies.

In a recent visit to Ireland, Katalin Novák, Hungarian Minister for the Family and Young People, spoke of the National Programme for Supporting Marriage and Family (NPSMF) in her country which includes:

  1. Women who have had and raised at least four children will be exempt from personal income tax payment for life.
  2. Couples under 40 years of age are eligible for a €30,000 grant when they first get married.
  3. The government contributes to the mortgage loan of families with two or more children.
  4. Families raising at least three children can avail of a grant to purchase a new 7-seater car.
  5. Families receive preferential loans for the purchase of a home.
  6. Grandparents eligible for a child-care subsidy to support working parents and increase in crèche places for those that wish to avail of them.
  7. Children’s allowance from the second trimester.

Nothing like this in Ireland where the dream is presented as a confused message of getting all out to work, crowd out the possibility of having families young, promote abortion, keep everyone busy and chasing careers with success defined by money and status, which the government will take it off you and spend it on things you may have spent it on yourself if you had been able to keep it, while reinforcing the poverty trap at the expense of promoting and celebrating a reasonable standard of living.