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 Localism - A solution for Ireland's financial problems

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PostSubject: Localism - A solution for Ireland's financial problems   Thu Oct 30, 2008 5:07 pm

I'm a keen follower of "Young Turk Tories" Daniel Hannan and Douglas Carswell's efforts at bringing in direct democracy, especially their Localist Papers. Localism as defined by the new tories involves devolving power from the centre to the regions, say counties where decisions can be made, if possible via direct democracy. It would make government more efficient, more transparent, more accountable and more relevant to the citziens. It would also make things cheaper.

As the Tories seem set to win in the UK, isnt it time that we in Ireland started looking to what is happening across the water. I mean it is only a matter of time before we begin to ape them, as we have almost always done in matters political, so we might as well resign ourselves to this debate - tiresome as it may seem to some of the well-connected of the political class amongst us. I would expect Fine Gael to be the obvious runner with this but would be happy to support any party that took this up as this is something that means more to me than any party. That something is real democracy by the way.

I've just reviewed the government expenditure estimates(the voted ones) for next year and they amount to almost 64billion euro. Much has been made that we simply cannot afford this, and even if we had a government so bold as to raise taxes to the really high levels that are necessary to pay are way (and some say stay in the euro -less we want 20% interest rates) we all know that taxes are the best means for suffocating entreprenuers and eventually driving businesses and employers away.
The fact remains is that we have over extended ourselves. Yes the US has a massive war budget on its hands but we have a massive bureaucracy. Now we still want excellent health and education services and we are not hardhearted enough to have people dying on the streets so we will want to have some form of welfare and we also want some kind of protection or police force. Although I'm tending towards the libertarian right, I do accept that there are services that the irish people need. And lets not forget a good national infrastructure for communications!

If the people want these services they have to pay for them, but the government must balance its budgets. So as a solution lets use localaism. This means completely revising the system of local government towards a system where towns, or townlands have directly elected mayors, and counties are given power to tax their residents. Rates come back, but the amount of taxation is decided by the people through direct democracy. That normally covers local roads and improvements and that is 1billion off the exchequer.
But we can also devolve other things to local government, such as Health(partly) and social welfare. Carswell writes positively about local welfare in his localist papers, The Localist Papers: 5. Local Welfare
by using the favourable example of the Clinton's 1996 Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Act in the US which basically devolved Welfare to the states level with favourable results: 1.6millon fewer children in poverty.
The case is clear. Localism not only helps to reduce national spending, but it brings transparency and more responsibility on the part of the citizen, making the service itself more efficient. No more ridiculous soviet-styled decisions coming from Dublin about a new compter system. If the people in Cork want a new fully equiped hospital they can bloody well have it so long as they vote for it and vote to pay for it!
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PostSubject: Re: Localism - A solution for Ireland's financial problems   Thu Oct 30, 2008 5:17 pm

Respvblica wrote:
I'm a keen follower of "Young Turk Tories" Daniel Hannan and Douglas Carswell's efforts at bringing in direct democracy, especially their Localist Papers. Localism as defined by the new tories involves devolving power from the centre to the regions, say counties where decisions can be made, if possible via direct democracy. It would make government more efficient, more transparent, more accountable and more relevant to the citziens. It would also make things cheaper.

As the Tories seem set to win in the UK, isnt it time that we in Ireland started looking to what is happening across the water. I mean it is only a matter of time before we begin to ape them, as we have almost always done in matters political, so we might as well resign ourselves to this debate - tiresome as it may seem to some of the well-connected of the political class amongst us. I would expect Fine Gael to be the obvious runner with this but would be happy to support any party that took this up as this is something that means more to me than any party. That something is real democracy by the way.

I've just reviewed the government expenditure estimates(the voted ones) for next year and they amount to almost 64billion euro. Much has been made that we simply cannot afford this, and even if we had a government so bold as to raise taxes to the really high levels that are necessary to pay our way (and some say stay in the euro -less we want 20% interest rates) we all know that taxes are the best means for suffocating entreprenuers and eventually driving businesses and employers away.
The fact remains is that we have over extended ourselves. Yes the US has a massive war budget on its hands but we have a massive bureaucracy. Now we still want excellent health and education services and we are not hardhearted enough to have people dying on the streets so we will want to have some form of welfare and we also want some kind of protection or police force. Although I'm tending towards the libertarian right, I do accept that there are services that the irish people need. And lets not forget a good national infrastructure for communications!

If the people want these services they have to pay for them, but the government must balance its budgets. So as a solution lets use localaism. This means completely revising the system of local government towards a system where towns, or townlands have directly elected mayors, and counties are given power to tax their residents. Rates come back, but the amount of taxation is decided by the people through direct democracy. That normally covers local roads and improvements and that is 1billion off the exchequer.
But we can also devolve other things to local government, such as Health(partly) and social welfare. Carswell writes positively about local welfare in his localist papers, The Localist Papers: 5. Local Welfare
by using the favourable example of the Clinton's 1996 Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Act in the US which basically devolved Welfare to the states level with favourable results: 1.6millon fewer children in poverty.
The case is clear. Localism not only helps to reduce national spending, but it brings transparency and more responsibility on the part of the citizen, making the service itself more efficient. No more ridiculous soviet-styled decisions coming from Dublin about a new compter system. If the people in Cork want a new fully equiped hospital they can bloody well have it so long as they vote for it and vote to pay for it!

OK I'm waiting to hear your reasons for why we have to stick to an outdated victorian concept of local government when our next door neighbors are even planing to ditch it.
Damm this is the wrong forum. Mods- can you move it?
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PostSubject: Re: Localism - A solution for Ireland's financial problems   Thu Oct 30, 2008 5:38 pm

Moved to Political Ideas & Theory / Radical Poltics.

I'm afraid you got me at dinnertime - I won't be around until later for a look ! I'd say this - Anything rather than the Status Quo though. Almost.
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PostSubject: Re: Localism - A solution for Ireland's financial problems   Thu Oct 30, 2008 5:51 pm

It works well here (Switzerland) but it is about much more than devolving power from the centre. It is about government from the bottom up rather than the top down. The striking thing about it here is that the cantons collect all taxes, passing on to central governmentthat which is theirs. That is a huge weapon to hold in keeping central government under control.
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PostSubject: Re: Localism - A solution for Ireland's financial problems   Thu Oct 30, 2008 6:06 pm

Slim Buddha wrote:
It works well here (Switzerland) but it is about much more than devolving power from the centre. It is about government from the bottom up rather than the top down. The striking thing about it here is that the cantons collect all taxes, passing on to central governmentthat which is theirs. That is a huge weapon to hold in keeping central government under control.

I'm not surprised that a prosperous country like switzerland is also extremely democratic. Isnt germany quite democratic at the states and local level as well?
I know Spain isnt. There is local government though it is voted in via a terrible list system. The mayor of Alicante retired a la Brown/bertie and handed over the reigns to some lady who is known to be quite corrupt and involved with the building industry. Nothing we could do about it of course Without the direct democracy aspect ilocal government becomes like another level of bureacracy and probably drives up costs if anything.

Actually Spain is a really messy situation with regard to tax and not something to follow.

The bottom up approach is definitely as you described in Switzerland is my preference. Its the way that states should actually stick together. It brings a rationality to the republic, beyond ethinic and historical ties. Central government needs to be brought under control. We are going to pay as a people for being irresponsible in that regard.


Last edited by Respvblica on Thu Oct 30, 2008 6:10 pm; edited 1 time in total
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PostSubject: Re: Localism - A solution for Ireland's financial problems   Thu Oct 30, 2008 6:09 pm

The US is also much more democratic and devolved to local level, with Town Meetings, detailed referenda on policies and budgets, and involvement of party members in selection of candidates.
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PostSubject: Re: Localism - A solution for Ireland's financial problems   Thu Oct 30, 2008 6:13 pm

cactus flower wrote:
The US is also much more democratic and devolved to local level, with Town Meetings, detailed referenda on policies and budgets, and involvement of party members in selection of candidates.

Thats true. You'll also see a lot of state and local referendums occuring on November 4th.

Ireland by comparison to many ountries is still stuck with these victorian local institutions which were only ever implemented by a Tory government to kill off Home Rule with kindness.
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PostSubject: Re: Localism - A solution for Ireland's financial problems   Thu Oct 30, 2008 6:22 pm

Tax is the crucial thing I think, and transparency/accountability. If the tax take were posted every month or quarter on the Town Hall and people were able to vote on local budgets then we might see a difference.

The €10 ticket tax introduced on air travel in this budget for example ... Pat Breen of FG was on about it today on the radio - you wouldn't mind if a percentage of that tax stayed in Shannon airport but it doesn't .. wtf?

Taxes collected should be accountably spent on services they're collected from - if water is charged for then I'd like to see efforts to reduce the loss and waste as well as efforts to collect rain etc. Similarly with road tax. The road tax I'm paying next week is going to bail out Anglo Irish Bank I'd say ....
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PostSubject: Re: Localism - A solution for Ireland's financial problems   Thu Oct 30, 2008 6:26 pm

Auditor #9 wrote:
Tax is the crucial thing I think, and transparency/accountability. If the tax take were posted every month or quarter on the Town Hall and people were able to vote on local budgets then we might see a difference.

The €10 ticket tax introduced on air travel in this budget for example ... Pat Breen of FG was on about it today on the radio - you wouldn't mind if a percentage of that tax stayed in Shannon airport but it doesn't .. wtf?

Taxes collected should be accountably spent on services they're collected from - if water is charged for then I'd like to see efforts to reduce the loss and waste as well as efforts to collect rain etc. Similarly with road tax. The road tax I'm paying next week is going to bail out Anglo Irish Bank I'd say ....

Yup!
And this is the real point where democracy(as envisioned on our parliemntary system) has left the building, so to speak. Democracy means people taking decisions and people being accountable and responsible for those decisions. In our world thats measured in money.
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PostSubject: Re: Localism - A solution for Ireland's financial problems   Thu Oct 30, 2008 7:03 pm

Auditor #9 wrote:
Tax is the crucial thing I think, and transparency/accountability. If the tax take were posted every month or quarter on the Town Hall and people were able to vote on local budgets then we might see a difference.

The €10 ticket tax introduced on air travel in this budget for example ... Pat Breen of FG was on about it today on the radio - you wouldn't mind if a percentage of that tax stayed in Shannon airport but it doesn't .. wtf?

Taxes collected should be accountably spent on services they're collected from - if water is charged for then I'd like to see efforts to reduce the loss and waste as well as efforts to collect rain etc. Similarly with road tax. The road tax I'm paying next week is going to bail out Anglo Irish Bank I'd say ....

i did the tax return for an american company and its directors, the rates bill from the town authority had a great breakdown of its expenditure (fire, police, water, hospitals etc) on the back and showed you how your money went to pay for the various bits and pieces.

much better than the grey wall of silence you get from irish gov when tax is paid.
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PostSubject: Re: Localism - A solution for Ireland's financial problems   Mon Nov 03, 2008 10:08 pm

I think in Ireland there is a case for a three tier system at National, Regional and Local level.

National Policy and Strategy, EU liaison and Foreign relations, should be the business of central government. All day to day and technical matters should be devolved.
Regional level could deal with technical and expert functions that are needed for local service delivery - health services, administration of education and training, engineering, environment, some area planning and so on. Ireland is too small I think to have these things devolved to local level.
Local Government could provide local services on the ground: education, local infrastructure, building control, housing, waste management, parks and recreation, youth services and so on.
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PostSubject: Re: Localism - A solution for Ireland's financial problems   Tue Nov 04, 2008 12:48 am

Thats a good summary Cactus. A hierarchy with 3 tiers would probably suit us fine. I presume the large towns and cities would have their own local government.
Theres no use in having regional or local government unless the people are directly enpowered. Spain has shown me, with its awful list version of PR, how crooks can easily make their way into the system and target corrupt town councillors and local politicians. Also theres a scandal here on the palaces local politicians have been building for themselves, and there is no doubt that party politics simply means that when theres power there are always jobs in the public service to hand out to your supporters.

The key therefore to localism is direct democracy at all levels.
On the other hand what do you think about the idea of the regions sending delegates to the Seanad?
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PostSubject: Re: Localism - A solution for Ireland's financial problems   Tue Nov 04, 2008 11:18 pm

Slimbuddha has talked about the Canton system here - this is from Finfacts, by Michael Hennigan;

Quote :
Why Swiss Planners Build What People Want

Switzerland’s political structure is highly devolved. It allows the cantonal and sub-cantonal tiers of government to determine local tax rates.

Tax autonomy leads to tax competition between councils and cantons. Providing inadequate land for housing means councils risk losing inhabitants – and therefore tax income – to neighbouring areas. On the other hand, council areas attracting new inhabitants are able to lower their tax rates or improve services.

There has been virtually no real house price inflation in Switzerland for more than three decades, while at the same time Swiss houses have become bigger and better, allowing more and more Swiss to live in the houses they desire.
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PostSubject: Re: Localism - A solution for Ireland's financial problems   Wed Nov 05, 2008 12:08 am

cactus flower wrote:
Slimbuddha has talked about the Canton system here - this is from Finfacts, by Michael Hennigan;

Quote :
Why Swiss Planners Build What People Want

Switzerland’s political structure is highly devolved. It allows the cantonal and sub-cantonal tiers of government to determine local tax rates.

Tax autonomy leads to tax competition between councils and cantons. Providing inadequate land for housing means councils risk losing inhabitants – and therefore tax income – to neighbouring areas. On the other hand, council areas attracting new inhabitants are able to lower their tax rates or improve services.

There has been virtually no real house price inflation in Switzerland for more than three decades, while at the same time Swiss houses have become bigger and better, allowing more and more Swiss to live in the houses they desire.

I think it's an insult at this stage of humankind that we are not frequently asked to flex our mental and moral muscles while voting. We are asked to produce in a very narrow way while the effort involved in participating in our communities would surely enrich the community itself and its citizens with autonomy, dignity and involvement.
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PostSubject: Re: Localism - A solution for Ireland's financial problems   Wed Nov 05, 2008 1:27 am

While the swiss have bigger and better houses for the same price as 30 years ago we(spain and Ireland for me) have more expensive worse quality houses.

When looking at at a political system look at the golas, look at the results. We have a rotten tree bearing rotten fruit. The democractic or psuedo-democratic systems in place across Europe are designed in the interests of the few. The swiss system works for the citizen.

Short of outright rebellion, what can we do? The parties who control the state are hardly interested in giving away a power they have long monopolised. Even if there was a sympathetic voice in FG or Labour, it wouldnt be long before he/she was quickly silenced in the interests of the group. Are we locked in the present system therefore with no way out?
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PostSubject: Re: Localism - A solution for Ireland's financial problems   Wed Nov 05, 2008 1:36 am

Respvblica wrote:
While the swiss have bigger and better houses for the same price as 30 years ago we(spain and Ireland for me) have more expensive worse quality houses.

When looking at at a political system look at the golas, look at the results. We have a rotten tree bearing rotten fruit. The democractic or psuedo-democratic systems in place across Europe are designed in the interests of the few. The swiss system works for the citizen.

Short of outright rebellion, what can we do? The parties who control the state are hardly interested in giving away a power they have long monopolised. Even if there was a sympathetic voice in FG or Labour, it wouldnt be long before he/she was quickly silenced in the interests of the group. Are we locked in the present system therefore with no way out?

FG are going on an Irish Tour in a while - will it be lip service and bluster ? We could heckle them at their rallies to introduce more participation... If more people knew about particpatory models which do exist then maybe people would wake up and want that too ? Brazil's and Argentina's citizens in some parts of those countries can vote on their local budgets... that's something we could work out here too surely. I don't know the details of how such a system might progress but really and truly without a progressively advancing participation then Democracy is effectively dead.

I believe that knowledge and awareness is a big part of the key; the Irish are becoming sophisticated in their other tastes, why not in politics ? It needs education though - I'm paranoid they're purposely taking less care of it in order to stultify a generation which might demand more ability to input their concerns and see a response.
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PostSubject: Re: Localism - A solution for Ireland's financial problems   Wed Nov 05, 2008 1:39 am

I hope that this new fangled sophistication doesn't last so that I am no longer offered 17 types of bread when all I want is a sandwich.
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PostSubject: Re: Localism - A solution for Ireland's financial problems   Wed Nov 05, 2008 1:45 am

I'm rabbitting on about participation when you are talking about Localism Resvblica. In Ireland it might be no harm if Munster was able to tax its citizens differently.... Plus I think Dublin needs to be treated almost as a region in itself - some conglomerations or regions reach a critical mass of population or whatever that they need to be treated differently from what's generally around, in terms of regulation and tax. Housing in Dublin is bound by very different rules from housing in North Clare ... no skyscrapers in the Burren.
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PostSubject: Re: Localism - A solution for Ireland's financial problems   Wed Nov 05, 2008 2:00 am

Auditor #9 wrote:
Respvblica wrote:
While the swiss have bigger and better houses for the same price as 30 years ago we(spain and Ireland for me) have more expensive worse quality houses.

When looking at at a political system look at the golas, look at the results. We have a rotten tree bearing rotten fruit. The democractic or psuedo-democratic systems in place across Europe are designed in the interests of the few. The swiss system works for the citizen.

Short of outright rebellion, what can we do? The parties who control the state are hardly interested in giving away a power they have long monopolised. Even if there was a sympathetic voice in FG or Labour, it wouldnt be long before he/she was quickly silenced in the interests of the group. Are we locked in the present system therefore with no way out?

FG are going on an Irish Tour in a while - will it be lip service and bluster ? We could heckle them at their rallies to introduce more participation... If more people knew about particpatory models which do exist then maybe people would wake up and want that too ? Brazil's and Argentina's citizens in some parts of those countries can vote on their local budgets... that's something we could work out here too surely. I don't know the details of how such a system might progress but really and truly without a progressively advancing participation then Democracy is effectively dead.

I believe that knowledge and awareness is a big part of the key; the Irish are becoming sophisticated in their other tastes, why not in politics ? It needs education though - I'm paranoid they're purposely taking less care of it in order to stultify a generation which might demand more ability to input their concerns and see a response.

True. It also needs money, time and resources. Embarassed
I think here is a good place to work out or help work out the details. I pretty clear that I want direct democracy and localism, but I am still not crystal clear about how we could implement it or what form would best suit Ireland.
Being in another democratically challenged country such as Spain( Laughing Laughing ) means though that I cant get over and join in the FG tour which I would like. pale It could be fun.
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PostSubject: Re: Localism - A solution for Ireland's financial problems   Sun Dec 07, 2008 3:40 am

A practical starting point for localism could be to have a discussion board site like this at local level, strictly for the people of a county, town or other area to raise issues pertinent to them and discuss various solutions. The step on from what we discuss here or on e.g. p.ie would be, where there is significant interest and agreement, to identify and contact the relevant representative (e.g. TD) or body (e.g. county council, transport authority etc.) with suggestions or questions and a request for response. Imagine a situation where every substantial thread generated a question or proposal in the 'real' political world, and the response (or lack) could be recorded and geniune action might ensue - or at the very least expose TDs or councillors as the useless gombeens some of them are.

I am somewhat sceptical about direct democracy and definitely don't believe it would be desirable to switch to it overnight - we are rooted in a political tradition that many are used to engaging with and right now many people do not want to engage in politics, preferring to let politicians carry on as long as the consequences are ok if not the prettiest. I'm not condoning this, just saying this apathy needs to be overcome before considering direct democracy. The above suggestion foresees a move to deliberative democracy as an exploratory step.
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PostSubject: Re: Localism - A solution for Ireland's financial problems   Sun Dec 07, 2008 3:47 am

Arete wrote:
A practical starting point for localism could be to have a discussion board site like this at local level, strictly for the people of a county, town or other area to raise issues pertinent to them and discuss various solutions. The step on from what we discuss here or on e.g. p.ie would be, where there is significant interest and agreement, to identify and contact the relevant representative (e.g. TD) or body (e.g. county council, transport authority etc.) with suggestions or questions and a request for response. Imagine a situation where every substantial thread generated a question or proposal in the 'real' political world, and the response (or lack) could be recorded and geniune action might ensue - or at the very least expose TDs or councillors as the useless gombeens some of them are.

Interesting suggestion Arete, and nice and simple. I can't see any reason why it couldn't be done. There is a link here on the portal with all the TDs and Senator'e email addresses - it would be easy to add the Councillors.

Quote :
I am somewhat sceptical about direct democracy and definitely don't believe it would be desirable to switch to it overnight - we are rooted in a political tradition that many are used to engaging with and right now many people do not want to engage in politics, preferring to let politicians carry on as long as the consequences are ok if not the prettiest. I'm not condoning this, just saying this apathy needs to be overcome before considering direct democracy. The above suggestion foresees a move to deliberative democracy as an exploratory step.

Perhaps direct democracy would reduce apathy, particularly where the decisions are local ones. People like to have a say about the area they live in.
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PostSubject: Re: Localism - A solution for Ireland's financial problems   Sun Dec 07, 2008 3:51 am

What about the opposite as in the idea of a global currency such as Keynes's bancor?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bancor
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PostSubject: Re: Localism - A solution for Ireland's financial problems   Sun Dec 07, 2008 3:54 am

Respvblica wrote:
OK I'm waiting to hear your reasons for why we have to stick to an outdated victorian concept of local government when our next door neighbors are even planing to ditch it.
Damm this is the wrong forum. Mods- can you move it?

I have views on participatory levels of scope reaching from the local on up to the global which I'll flesh out later when I've time.
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