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Paula Clancey of Tasc in a recent talk ( http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q05VebLgHfc ) made reference to a statistic, which is both appalling and attractive. It is attractive because it provides a measurable route to greater equality.

She says that in Ireland the disposable income of the top decile = (The disposable income of the bottom decile) X 11!

How about this as we think about the fast approaching formation of the next Irish government ?

That the basic precondition for Labour Party participation in ANY coalition be a programme as follows:

End of year 1: The disposable income of the top decile = (The disposable income of the bottom decile) X 10

End of year 2: The disposable income of the top decile = (The disposable income of the bottom decile) X 9

End of year 3: The disposable income of the top decile = (The disposable income of the bottom decile) X 8

End of year 4: The disposable income of the top decile = (The disposable income of the bottom decile) X 7

I’d be more than happy if the Labour Party wanted to move further or faster but the proposal above has the attraction of being both radical and very modest.

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6 Comments

  1. My favourite statistic is the HEAP chart that TASC produced. The paper version is 1 meter tall, and the highest income on the main axis is €134,000.

    There is a wee note in the top left of the poster that says to continue on the same scale and to get the top three wealthiest household, the poster would need to be 12.5 times the size of Liberty Hall.

    There are some challenges in the objective you set:
    (a) Generating sufficient support for it – both in the population and those is power. Fine Gael has already ruled out the possibility of a more progressive income tax system (on the basis that all the talent we need to get us out of the recession up up home and move elsewhere).
    (b) How to do it. Tax is an obvious route, but it doesn’t get at the idea that it’s wrong that anybody had that much in the first place.

  2. Tom,
    Thank you for your comment.

    Yes, I like the HEAP chart.

    Re a) I’ve argued in other places on the blog that Labour should stop pursuing majority government or even Labour led government because that necessarily means increased populism. MY point is that Labour should instead accept minority status and positively pursue coalition with any party willing to concede radical preconditions. What I mean by these preconditions are demands that NO other party could possibly make. In other words if they could be accepted by FG or FF without enormous cost to those parties, they are not the right preconditions. Coalition with Labour should come at an enormous ideological cost and everyone should know the cost going into the election. This would give voters who agree something to vote for and cause the debate to shift to previously unconsidered ideas and options.

    https://colummccaffery.wordpress.com/2010/05/02/irish-coalition-government-the-need-for-labour-to-inspire/

    b) On the Labour Party members’ blog there is a strange adherence to taxation as the only route to reducing inequality. (This became apparent when I suggested a public service pay ceiling some years ago)However, there was still no support when I argued that I’d no problem with using taxation to achieve the ceiling, pointing out that a tax rate of 100% above the ceiling would be fine. In short I think talking taxation is at best a secondary issue here as the basic question is, “Do we want a slightly more egalitarian society?” If the answer is “yes”, then let’s set a measurable objective and leave how it is to be done to government and civil service.

  3. “What sort of philosophy one chooses depends on what sort of person one is.”

    • Sean,
      Thank you for the comment. While I’ve known and liked people who had views which appalled me, they tended to strike me as at least reasonable people, i.e. open to argument. That I couldn’t convince them to change, often prompted me to examine my own arguments. That I couldn’t see how two reasonable people stayed poles apart, prompted me to think that there may be a fundamental division between those with an optimistic and those with a pessimistic view of human nature.

  4. How about you explain decile, percentile I know, 10th I know, I never heard the word decile, honestly. It’s a huge turn off. Why would you only reduce it bit by bit? So you earn 10 times more than I do, you think I am going to appreciate you taking a 10% cut? It’s doing nothing for me. And to make that THE basic precondition,for being in government, is OUTRAGEOUS. It’s not even socialist. The proposal is not radical, and in my personal view imodest.

    • I recall when I first came in contact with the word “decile”. I too reckoned it had to do with one tenth. I checked by asking a friend. It’s now, I realise, in common use. I use it because I find it handy.

      The bit-by-bit approach is to make it appear modest in the sense of not very demanding. It is radical in the sense that that it places the reduction of inequality as a responsibility of government. It says nothing about making a cut but requires that all policy have reduced inequality as AN objective. I think that equality is at the core of socialism.

      Incidentally, on FB you argued for pay cuts for government and other high earners. Now you say this doesn’t interest you if it does nothing for the low earner.


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  1. […] I’m not arguing for preconditions as such; I’m arguing for a tiny number – even one – of socialist preconditions. (My suggestion can be found here: https://colummccaffery.wordpress.com/2011/01/04/labour-in-government-a-radical-but-modest-proposal-to… ) […]

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