Jesuit calls for new economic model

May 22, 2012 in 2010

Jesuit theologian Gerry O’Hanlon SJ and policy analyst Nat O’ Connor from the independent think-tank TASC will jointly address a seminar on developing a new economic model for Irish society, on Thursday 11 March, 8pm, in Manresa Centre for Spirituality, Clontarf, Dublin 3.

According to O Hanlon, the global recession, along with our own dreadful errors, has wreaked havoc in Ireland and the he huge increase in unemployment, with devastating consequences for relationships and families, is the most visible sign of widespread unrest and uncertainty.
“Our government and political class are understandably working hard to restore stability and economic growth but they seem to think that they can keep the same old neo-liberal economic model that got us into this mess in the first place. They can’t. It can never be ‘business as usual’ again.”

The theologian and author of The Recession and God, says we need a new debate to take place that is more radical than anything we’ve had before around banking, financial markets, the economy, politics and religion which might lead to a different, more holistic economic model.
Nat O’Connor of TASC believes proper debate can only take place if people are aware and informed but often this is not the case.  “Ireland is in an unprecedented economic mess. A lot of the commentary has suggested (explicitly in many cases) that ‘there is no other way’. the Government has ‘no choice’ but to cut public pay and social welfare. But politics is the art of the possible, and there are always choices that can be made. O’Connor believes that challenging the received wisdom can open up ways for new decisions that can benefit the whole of society not just the wealthy few.

“Over 200,000 people are unemployed and over twice that number are on the live register. Yet the jobs crisis has not received the same level of immediate State reaction as the crisis in the banks. What would have to change in the economy if we valued employment over ‘economic growth’?

O’Connor says the same is true regarding the issue of taxation and our general acceptance of the status quo thinking surrounding it. “The collapse in State tax revenue was in large part due to overreliance on construction and financial services. The ESRI states that ‘past policy mistakes make things much worse in Ireland than they would otherwise have been’, (Recovery Scenarios for Ireland, p. 1). What is different about Ireland’s tax system compared to other countries? What values inform it? How could it be changed?

These and other issues will be debated in front of a open audience in Manresa as a follow on to their Winter seminar when over a hundred people gathered to examine what a social justice/Christian response to the current economic crisis might entail.