It may be difficult to imagine but there are significant grounds to believe that the economy will recover quickly from this trauma, and there are strong reasons to be optimistic that the eye-watering budget deficit, a cause of concern to many, will narrow, on its own, with no need for austerity.
Structural trends in our society as we adapt to new ways of working will enhance productivity, because of the end of the enforced commute. From a productivity point of view, commuting is dead time and dead time is dead money. This, too, will change.
Planning for housing based on national population dynamics is one of the most basic functions of economic policy in any country. More people means more homes delivered at stable prices, built by a healthy, innovative construction industry, using the most up-to-date techniques to meet whatever communal and societal standards are expected without requiring long commutes.
This is what proper countries do. On this score, Ireland is the dunce of Europe. We build in the wrong places, at the wrong price, at the wrong time, driven by the interests of landowners and banks, leading to booms and slumps, bankruptcies, ghost estates and now hundreds of thousands of citizens priced out of a pathetically dysfunctional market. This has to stop.
If coronavirus eventually recedes as we all hope, public health will be gradually elbowed out by public housing as the number one issue facing our economy.
A year ago this week, an election was fought more or less on the issue of housing. Sinn Féin did exceptionally well in that ballot, not least because it created the perception that it cared more than others about the anxieties of younger people.
We need to take a breath regarding the “end of the city” narrative. It takes quite a bit to finish off a city. Berlin was reduced to rubble, yet it rose again. If carpet bombing couldn’t destroy the German capital, Covid-19 and Zoom will not finish off Dublin, although their impact on the city will be profound.
Change happens when technology and culture move in the same direction. Technological change is never enough to drive social change. It is necessary but not sufficient. There needs to be cultural buy-in too.
The annual hullabaloo about RTÉ presenters’ salaries focuses attention on the licence fee. In this system, a captured audience is obliged to pay a fee to an organisation, whether it uses the service of not. Irish citizens risk jail if they don’t stump up to pay the salaries of these presenters. It seems quite anachronistic.
Unlike the BBC, RTÉ also raises private advertising revenue. Some justify this fee on grounds of culture, others don’t. Economically, this arrangement is a form of capitalism, “rentier capitalism”, prevalent in Ireland, where anointed organisations are preferred and are allowed to operate in a grey area – half public, half private – where budgets are soft, the market is captured and over-runs are common.
Do you remember when you got your first pair of Doc Martens?
For me, it was 1984, just in time for The Clash at the SFX. With The Clash you knew who was going to turn up but to spice it up, London’s finest were supported by an anarchic Belfast skinhead outfit, The Outcasts, who brought their own crew.