Where good intentions can sometimes lead

Remote control: San Francisco, the new centre of power in Ireland?

Hell, they say, is paved with good intentions. Good intentions gave us the Protestant Reformation. One part of the world sees that epoch as one of the better things that happened in our history. Another part of the world gets a definite whiff of sulphur from it. The same applies to the French Revolution – not even all the French are are unambivalent about that one. Karl Marx, and his offspring, the Russian Revolution, was undoubtedly inspired by a desire to better the lot of mankind – but very few people are today in any doubt about the hellish misery, death and destruction which flowed from that package of good intentions.

It seems that modern capitalism is now, with good intentions, attempting to reform itself according to the new ethics which we call political correctness. But the shallow philosophical foundations of the ethics of political correctness provide no basis for any stable political or economic framework for society. It is as wrong-headed as the extremist readings of mankind which the Enlightenment or the murderous logic of dialectical materialism left us with.

The Economist cover-story this week asks what companies are for. The magazine notes how a growing number of people want big business to help fix economic and social problems.

“Even America’s famously ruthless bosses agree”, its editor-in-chief says, Zanny Minton Beddoes, says. “This week more than 180 of them, including the chiefs of Walmart and JPMorgan Chase, overturned three decades of orthodoxy to pledge that their firms’ purpose was no longer to serve their owners alone, but customers, staff, suppliers and communities, too.

“That sounds nice. However, this new form of collective capitalism will end up doing more harm than good. It risks entrenching a class of unaccountable CEOs who lack legitimacy. And it is a threat to the dynamism that is the source of long-term prosperity—the basic condition for capitalism to succeed.”

Ireland is a country which, small as it is, has left a mark on the world. Not too many would argue that this mark was for ill rather than for good. If it did so it did it in spite of dungeon, fire and sword. The power which governed it, over four long an painful centuries, attempted to impose the Protestant Reformation on its people. It failed.

Eventually the Irish people broke free of the hegemony of the British Empire. Independence was won in the early twentieth century and the new Republican-inspired State sought to make its way in the world alone. It was too much and in the last third of the century it bargained – or bartered – its sovereignty with the embryonic new State which is the European Union. It’s independence now is a very notional thing. It has also become the European footprint for a very large segment of the corporate world.

This corporate powerhouse is the foundation of Ireland’s prosperity and Ireland’s elected government is now beholden to the twin masters of the European super-state and a handful of giant American corporations for the massive level of employment they bring to the country and the tax revenue this generates.

This brings us back to the Economist. This, of course, is not the dimension of the new direction of capitalism which preoccupies the writers of What Companies are For. But it is a dimension which is very real for the Irish – or at least some of them.

The Irish are already very aware of the significant soft power which these corporations and European political institutions have exercised, overtly and covertly, on the moulding of its social policies. Abortion ideology, gender ideology and neo-Marxist relativism, permeate the social culture of these organisations Ireland’s recent changes in social legislation are simply following this script to the letter.

But if over many centuries the Irish resisted the efforts of an external power to undermine and subvert its traditional Christian reading of what human existence means, they no longer do so.

The majority of the Irish have overcome their rebellious instincts and are now happily accepting the “nice” collective capitalism bestowed on them by the benevolent dictatorship of of “unaccountable CEOs who lack legitimacy.”

A Nation Once Again was an anthem composed by the Irish patriotic poet, Thomas Davis, in the nineteenth century. Today it has a rather hollow ring.


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