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‘Non-ideological’ ideology. November 19, 2019

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.

Interesting to read Pat Leahy on RTÉ at the weekend. In the IT he suggested that government Ministers look dubiously on that organisation, at least its news gathering aspect and consider it slanted against them. He argues:

Some of this is about corporate performance. And some of it is about chafing at the intrusions of journalism. Fine Gaelers constantly raise the coverage of the campaign against water charges (one senior Fianna Fáiler tells me: “They have a point”). “RTÉ opposed water charges and did everything they could to bring them down,” says one Minister. Many others have said much the same to me.
My view is that Fine Gael greatly overstates the water charges stuff. But the important thing for RTÉ to understand is that Fine Gael really, really believes it. As Tony O’Reilly observed, governments always feel persecuted by the media; oppositions always feel ignored.

But wait, he throws them a bone.

…some of it may be justified. Even RTÉ’s stoutest defenders would admit that its coverage of issues can sometimes amplify demands for more public spending without the context of necessarily confined budgets. After all, to spend in one area means not spending in another. Powerful interests tend to get less scrutiny than Ministers. Whatever you think of this, the perception in Government is real, it is keenly felt, and it is a dynamic that RTÉ bosses will have to deal with. It is they, after all, who are asking the Government for help.

Yet that is a specifically ideological view of public policy – even if it attempts to cloak itself in some sort of neutrality. It ignores the reality that those proposing increased public spending tend to be attached to parties or entities that support…well… increased taxation. There’s no great mystery there, but it is presented only in part in order to delegitimise that particular ideological approach.


1. Saints and Scholars - November 19, 2019

I take your last point and I would add, maybe in your favour, that some of what I will loosely call deserving cases for some or additional public money aren’t highlighted just by those parties also calling for increased taxation, but sometimes by parties advocating lower taxation. But I read Leahy’s point somewhat differently to you. I didn’t read him as saying that overall spending must be contained within a number close to that accumulated within current tax provisions (i.e., that additional spending can only be accommodated by commensurate reductions elsewhere), but that there is some limit applicable to overall spending that probably exceeds potential demand which is close to limitless.

The “media”, not just RTE very often highlight individual circumstances or cases (a hard case erases a thousand numbers) that, in a world of limitless finance, are clearly prima facie candidates for some of it. I would suggest loftily (not even the rigour of the back of an envelope) that it might be possible to double health spending in this country without a penny of it going to things that were indisputably wasteful. But as Pascal says (on Callan’s Kicks at least) he only has a certain amount of money and no matter how much tax is increased or borrowing capacity played out, there would still be a limit to how much money he would have to spend.


WorldbyStorm - November 19, 2019

That’s a fair criticism S&S re the potential interpretations. And I don’t believe that in any context there are limitless resources.

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