Why should the State run an airline, an insurance company, a shipping company, a telecoms company, a fertiliser company, hotels and various types of banks? Back in the day this is what the State used to do, which as well as being fantastically inefficient, also gave the political class further opportunities to exercise political patronage. It was, and is, a rotten system at all levels.
It seems no-one was really in charge
At ISME we say that the State is there to regulate and we welcome this aspect of the State’s involvement in the productive economy. But the State excels, time after time, at poor regulation. German economist and Irish banking report author Klaus Regling has told the Oireachtas Banking Inquiry that ‘“Ireland was a country where it seems no-one was really in charge.” So what in the name of God do we pay our taxes for?
What’s heating the State’s buildings?
Down at the bottom of the economic food chain the State still has its big fat fingers stuck where they shouldn’t be. This week we watched architect Duncan Stewart’s ‘Eco Eye’ TV programme @ecoeye on RTE. The core question being investigated was why, in a country which has excellent timber growth, is the State not using its timber resources to heat the State’s buildings, schools, hospitals, government offices?
Nothing negative to be seen here
There was fulsome praise of Coillte on the progamme which RTE’s blurb refers to as ‘a new harder hitting documentary series format’. Coillte, the State’s commercial forestry company is also the TV series’ sponsor something omitted from the website blurb. This might explain why there was no mention of problems with moisture and hoppers in running wood chipping boilers. In fact there was nothing negative said about timber, forestry or indeed sponsor Coillte. But there were many sharp intakes of breath from the presenter about the horrors of importing oil and gas from outside the State – the stuff that keeps us warm and industry at work. This was clearly setting a future, Coillte friendly, agenda where some crazy State apparatchik just might try to make this State policy.
Tree cutters versus turf cutters
But at ISME we don’t sweat the small stuff. We wonder, however, as to why the State needs to be involved in the running of a forestry company? It’s a fundamental question - one that goes to the kernel of the big government / small government issue. The State’s tree cutters were to have been amalgamated with the State’s turf cutters, Bord na Mona, but Coillte, using company (State) resources funded an advertising campaign in praise of itself that seems to have thwarted the Government’s ‘cut the quangos’ efforts.
Why does the State have to grow trees?
Can anyone tell ISME why the State should be growing trees? We have no problem with the State managing State assets like national parks. But don’t farmers, in their thousands, grow their own crops, year after year, without State intervention? Stalin believed in getting the Soviet State involved in growing things but that only led to the starvation of millions of people. Maybe it’s time for a ‘tougher’ Enda to take out the secateurs and start doing some real cutting? Voters might thank him for it.