Ireland increasingly resembles a fantasy world, maybe a looking glass world, populated by strange and wonderful creatures, as the rest of us stumble around saying “should never have taken that fecking pill” and hoping that it will end soon. Still, a Lewis Carroll world is perhaps better than say a world designed by Escher or HR Giger.
One of the things that makes me think it’s a Carroll world is the prevalence of memes. Many of the characters in Alice’s various adventures disposed of pithy sayings and cultural tropes, memes if you will. Memes as we all know are little cultural viruses; small pithy phrases that encapsulate very little but are both immune to the prophylactic of evidence and are self-perpetuating. Our governments have had lots of memes.
Ireland is not Iceland (no, they are growing and have 7.5% unemployment) ;
NAMA will get credit flowing (yes, if by flowing one means in the same way that glass, technically a liquid, flows) ;
the cheapest bailout ever (….what can we say);
It’s lLabour’s way or Frankfurt’s way (well, we know how that turned out) ;
Not another penny for Anglo (no, just several billions of the little copper buggers);
Politicians generate lots of memes : they are cheap, sound good, are devoid of content and are parrotable by the foot soldiers.
The latest meme is: we can’t have a decent property tax because we don’t have the data. Attentive readers will suspect that this is not the unvarnished truth. Give yourself a pat on the back, and then enjoy the 12-hour wait in A&E for the dislocated shoulder.
We have several databases; but don’t take my word for it, take the word of someone who knows. Take Ronan Lyon’s word. Ronan is the economic guru of Daft.ie, and also a PhD student at Oxford. He is far far smarter than me, a gifted amateur historian and genealogist as well as a super (mainly but by no means only) property economist. As part of a submission by the Smart Taxes Network he and Constantin Gurdgiev have … devised a property tax. One that is very finely grained, breaking the country into 4,300 areas, each assigned one of ten bands, and allowing for the government to set a rate by a very simple approach. It would be flexible, fair, progressive, simple to collect and administer, all the things that the present debacle is not.
Of course, being Ireland, where policy-based evidence is sought rather than evidence-based policy, it won’t be implemented. Why take a perfectly good, soundly based, easily implementable policy FREE to the government when a series of committees can faff about for an interminable period to create a complex mess. Google, back in the day, used to have a motto: don’t be evil. Maybe we should tell our governments: don’t be meme.