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One of the best courses I took at UCD years ago was John Baker’s course in Political Argument. I opted to do an essay on Fairness. It turned out to be complex and interesting. Don’t worry, I won’t give details. However, I’ve lately been commenting on how “fairness” has come to be such a weasel word, used to signal virtue without saying anything very much.

This morning I heard Micheál Martin interviewed on RTE Radio and he was stressing the importance of “fairness”. Needless to say, the interviewer didn’t ask what was meant by the term. If it retains any meaning in political discourse, it now means doing nothing that would change the existing structures of economic inequality. It means that if there are to be charges or cuts, then everyone will pay and perhaps the rich will pay a little more but their income must remain so many multiples of the minimum wage.

What it boils down to is this: “I’m paid ten times the minimum wage because I’m worth it and the market says so. We live in tough times and I’m prepared to do my bit but it wouldn’t be fair to reduce me to five times or even eight times the wage of a café worker.”

Jesus wept! The interviewer didn’t even ask!!!

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  1. By Time to prioritise | Colum McCaffery's Weblog on 17 Jul 2013 at 9:15 pm

    […] Ireland needs to talk about economic inequality but not in vague terms which allows conservatives to pose as egalitarians. It’s time for socialists and other progressives to make the reduction of inequality of income the prime objective. The Labour Party now favours equality audits before budget and policy decisions ***** but the party in government continues to talk about economic recovery and fairness as if they were prime considerations, and most of the government’s harshest critics on the left share that agenda. _______________________________________________________________ * http://www.irishtimes.com/debate/letters/speedy-aid-for-the-homeless-1.1446630 ** https://colummccaffery.wordpress.com/2013/06/01/now-that-almost-everyone-is-anti-establishment-whither-dissent/ *** https://colummccaffery.wordpress.com/2013/02/10/theres-nothing-surprising-in-the-return-of-support-for-ff/ **** https://colummccaffery.wordpress.com/2012/09/18/fairness-has-become-the-conservatives-shield/ […]

  2. […] 1%, the rest of our structure of inequality could be adequately financed in a “fair” way (https://colummccaffery.wordpress.com/2012/09/18/fairness-has-become-the-conservatives-shield/ ) and the vast majority of rich people on multiples of the minimum wage or indeed multiples of the […]

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