Wednesday, May 26, 2010

The Rise of the Thinking Man's Shinner ... Purely Anecdotal

At a relatively recent party (of the shin-dig rather than political variety) I spent quite a long period debating Ireland's economic position with two members of Sinn Fein. The two individuals could not have been more different. Shinner Type A was what I would refer to as a "stereotypical Sinn Fein supporter" when it came to economics. His solutions to our current crisis were:

1) Tax bankers and financial workers heavily, and put a salary cap of €100,000 on all financial workers

2) Develop Ireland's universities as a means to economic progress (he couldn't elucidate what, precisely, he meant by this. I would assume he meant as centres of research excellence).

3) Follow something called the "Swedish model", which means encouraging the growth of jobs in "Human Resources" and "the Green Sector" while simultaneously discouraging Multi-Nationals from establishing in Ireland. Who we would be providing "Human Resources" services to without the Multi-Nationals was not made clear. But apparently, this helped Sweden develop from "a bunch of pirates in the 19th Century into the best economy in the world". Seriously...pirates.

Shinner Type B was...very impressive. Socialist, yet not brusquely so, with all the taxes and terminology couched in terms of social justice. When I asked him about how high taxes would dampen entrepreunerial ambition, and discourage new jobs he... agreed with me! He then went on to say how Sinn Fein should focus on taxing fixed wealth, such as property, and concentrate more on the conspicouous signs of wealth rather than discouraging workers and employers to chase greater earnings/profits.

Now, did I agree with Shinner type B all the, of course not. I am, after all, very right-wing (thank God!). But what impressed me was how tailored and measured the message became as he spoke to me. This was not "red revolution" simply for the sake of adolescent rebellion; this was a targetted, considered and thoughtful approach. Does this represent a new line by Sinn Fein, where they might actually consider wooing the middle-class vote, prying voters away from Labour? Or was this guy just a one-off amid the hordes of angry young men (and women), clad in Che Guevara t-shirts and spouting canned phrases extolling a "socialist republic"? Only time will tell, but if Sinn Fein could offer a real socialist alternative, simultaneously offering something to the hard-pressed working class while promising left-leaning middle class voters better returns on taxes (i.e. a breaking of the grip of the allegedly socialist Unions), they might be on to a winner.

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