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David McWilliams interview… December 9, 2012

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Economy, Irish Politics.

…in the Mail on Sunday conducted by Jason O’Toole. Some interesting stuff squirrelled away in there, though McWilliams is notably unforthcoming on matters political or even economic (and this is noted in the interview). Indeed this fits with a broader pattern of a certain ambiguity about where he stands on the political spectrum though given his appearance on the stump with Shane Ross (IIRC) perhaps that’s no mystery at all. Indeed he’s a lot more forthcoming about his marriage and his children – not baptised, and his holidays. But perhaps that’s a necessary rebalancing given that his books are ubiquitous.

Though perhaps less ubiquitous than one might think.

Despite his success, David insists his position can be a precarious one. ‘The thing about sitting on the stairs and listening as his parents discussed their financial worries. ‘You don’t need to know words. You can sense the urgency and maybe the fear. A lot of the stuff I value in economics comes from that childhood memory,’ explains David, whose father’s Protestant parents migrated from Scotland in the Twenties. It’s an insight that belies the public façade of the smooth-talking David as someone born with a silver spoon in his mouth. Instead, he emerges in this deeply personal interview as a far more complex figure, driven to success by the experience of observing his father’s financial woes. The 46-year-old is an alumnus of Blackrock and Trinity but stresses he was only afforded the luxury of such an education because his mother was a primary teacher who kept them afloat when his father was unemployed.

And that’s interesting too because:

…that David was partially inspired to write about the recession by his own childhood experiences, when he watched
he his father ‘put on his shirt and tie and pretend to go out to work’ to fool their middle-class neighbours in leafy Monkstown in south Dublin. ‘He was ashamed of being unemployed,’ David reveals. ‘He worked in a paint and chemical factory that went to the wall. When you see that happen to the man in the world you most love, if you see him emotionally and psychologically battered by something beyond his control, it affects you.’

There’s more in this line and as is his wont he’s mapped it more broadly:

Keeping up appearances was extremely important to David McWilliams’s granny. She kept a ‘good room’ to be used only on special occasions. Local dignitaries would be entertained in the pristine area, to ensure she didn’t feel embarrassed in front of them. David uses the allegory in his new book, The Good Room, by comparing his granny’s mentality to that of the Government. He accuses the State of being more concerned with the ‘perception of respectability’ and accepting austerity, rather than burning the bondholders, in order not to ‘embarrass our neighbours by reminding them we’re bust’.

And as to whether we’ll see more of him?

…he still itches to have another go at a chat show. ‘I’m the only person who’s ever got fired by TV3, RTÉ and Newstalk,’ he laughs. ‘Honestly, though, it’s frustrating. I’d love to do TV and radio again, I make no bones about it. But it may not happen.’


1. Jack Jameson - December 9, 2012

Can’t recall McW being fired by TV3, RTÉ and Newstalk – can anyone enlighten me?

Was he simply not very good?


sonofstan - December 9, 2012

There’s a big difference between being fired and not being offered a new contract after your first one expires.


Jack Jameson - December 10, 2012

TBF David McW is the one who’s quoted as using the term “fired” 😉


Michael Carley - December 10, 2012

Actually, in law (at least in the UK), non-renewal of a contract is dismissal.


2. CL - December 9, 2012

Its clear where Williams stands politically; he regards Milton Friedman as his hero and he has praised the neoliberal attacks on labour in New Zealand.


3. Branno's ultra-left t-shirt - December 9, 2012

I’m not sure its clear where McWilliam’s stands politically. He has written articles critical of austerity, and empathised with how it is impacting on ordinary workers. He has said attacks on the public sector are pointless (pointing out some of his family are teachers). While he may think he is a free-marketer he is either genuinely confused or cynical enough to move with the times. His musings, buzz words and ultra-confidence fitted perfectly with the media mood c. 2005. But he had, unlike the Dan O’Briens or Marc Coleman’s, become a little more critical by 2007.
Unfortunately for the left, McWilliams, Ross, Donnelly et al, are often given platforms to critique the government and do so quite well, in ways that make their own right-wing politics either more palatable or invisible. That’s a danger.
But I’m still not sure about McWilliams being an out and out Freidmanite.


CMK - December 9, 2012

McWilliams is the cutest of cute hoors. His living depends on going with the flow of discourse, as you point out above. He’ll write what he knows will sell and the superficial critiques of austerity that our nexus of right wing neo-liberal’s pump out of their media sewage pipe will sell nowadays.

They gotta make a livin’ and there’s a livin’ to be had in just those superficial critiques. Any systemic analysis of capitalism, and how the current crushing of whole European societies represents a gold rush for his former chums on the trading desks of the merchant banks and the City, is strictly verboten. These guys are coining it and I’d say McWilliams would be betting on a Greek default with the best of them. Them were the days!

An individual who gorged on the dismembering of the Soviet economy knows not to bite the hand that feeds so he won’t turn his fire at capitalism as a system. He’ll attack X or Y element but, deep down, he’s a believer. Anyone who remembers his ‘Agenda’ show on TV3 in the early 2000’s would realise that he’s an out and out neo-liberal who, as a genuflection towards liberalism, would have the odd leftie on now and again. For balance, like.

But the persistence of Frank Fitzgibbon on that show and, IIRC, Shane Ross indicated, to me at least that he, like Vincent Brown (who seems to have a circle of media and business friends who are, to a man an woman, viciously anti-worker), just where his loyalties lie.

McWilliam’s will interview Noam Chomsky or Joe Higgins or Kieran Allen but in the same way that David Attenborough will look at two hippopotamus shagging; there not part of the real world, they on the ‘Left’ which is essentially alien to human society. Just as Attenborough would try to render the incomprehensible from the nature world, so McWilliams will try to educate his viewers about the odd, fundamentally unnatural, world of the ‘THE LEFT!’. Society, in McWilliams’ view, maps pretty closely onto whatever bilge Friedman and Von Hayek, and their spawn, have generated over the past sixty years.

McWilliams is perfect for our intellectual culture, particularly at this juncture. He won’t frighten the horses by asking big questions, he’ll do his best to re-assure the confused that capitalism and capitalists are actually working to help them; he’ll keep pumping out books which are to economics what Celia Ahern is to literature; but above all, he’ll keeping making money, which is where it’s at for him.


CL - December 9, 2012

I doubt if even Friedman himself was and out and out Friedmanite. But he was one of the main progenitors of neoliberalism and Williams has been fulsome in his praise for neoliberalism in New Zealand.
“The New Zealand approach of completely changing the health and education services, forcing all public servants to take individual contracts to reduce collective bargaining and removing the ban on firing public servants might not be exactly what is needed here, but it does suggest that it can be done.” -David McWilliams


4. Branno's ultra-left t-shirt - December 9, 2012

Points taken and noted re Browne, who is a charlatan and it always amazes me that the left go crazy for him.


5. nibbles and bits - September 25, 2014

Hi there to all, how is the whole thing, I think every one is getting more from this web site, and your views are good for new


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