I nearly fell out of my chair with shock when I read the e-mail asking me to write a chapter for a book on Ireland’s future. Twenty young people from all different areas were to present a vision for Ireland’s future and the wonderful Lou Hodgson thought (for some reason) that I had something to offer. Six months later, the first copy of the book has arrived and it will be in shops next week. Its called “New Thinking, New Ireland” and I still cannot believe I’m part of it.
Naturally enough my chapter was to focus on economics. One thing I learned was that while I don’t find writing for a blog that hard, writing for a general audience isn’t easy. Firstly, as the scope of the chapter could be as broad as I wanted I didn’t know where to start (an example of the paradox of choice, where too many options can be paralysing). Also, I felt that this was my one shot to present whole new ideas to a general audience and to get my thoughts out into the public. Therefore I wanted it to be perfect and to address as many of Ireland’s issues as I could. This aim for perfection was also paralysing as nothing I wrote seemed good enough. This blog was hugely helpful both for improving my writing style and for providing a database of ideas that I could draw upon. Finally, after a month of agony I was able to produce a chapter I am immensely proud of that express a lot of ideas I have been thinking about and will hopefully open people’s minds.
So what did I write about? Well to find out you will have to buy the book, but I can give you an idea here. Throughout the chapter I was trying to balance the amount of information I would provide. I obviously wanted to get across as many important ideas as I could and wanted to educate people, but I didn’t want it to be overly confusing, after all most readers would know little about the economy other than it is in a mess. Hence I opted to explain it in as clear language as I could while avoiding technical terms.
So I begin by stating the dire state of the economy and economics and the need for new ideas. I then explain basic Keynesian economics (the only technical term I use in the chapter). I explain how lack of demand is the reason for the recession and unemployment, therefore we need to boost demand to end the recession. As many other writers in the book would be an entrepreneurial type and not entirely government friendly, I stressed that my argument was based on practicality and not ideology. We must rely on government spending, not because it is the best, but because no one else will spend. I work through the circular flow of income, why my spending is your income and why austerity isn’t working. I explain where the money for a stimulus would come from, the role of the markets and why the bank debt is unsustainable. Along the way I use some nice analogies and good phrases if I say so myself.
My chapter can really be broken into two halves, because even if we ended the recession, that would only bring us back to 2006 without addressing the underlying faults of the system. Now I could give 100 areas where reform is needed, but I decided to focus on some of my more novel and interesting proposals. I did this for two reasons, firstly because I wanted to get new ideas across to people and secondly, people haven’t built up as strong ideological defences against new ideas and are less likely to dismiss them out of hand.
So I begin by making an argument for democratically run companies. After all, everyone supports democracy and agrees it is the best way to run a country so why not bring it to the workplace? In this way I take a radical idea and explain it in a simple and intuitive way that makes it attractive for people who might not have otherwise agreed. Also by calling them co-operatives, they sound less radical and more appealing. I also argue against inequality and unemployment and even throw in some questioning of mainstream economics and the laws of supply and demand. The second key point of the second half of the chapter is the argument for a three day working week. This is another new idea that may not of occurred to people but gives them something to think about. Again I choose it as it is non-ideological and can appeal to all sections of society.
So that’s a rough snapshot of my chapter and my attempt to get people to think about economics in new ways. I am tremendously excited about the book and highly recommend everyone to buy it, not just for me, but for all the other contributors who talk in imaginative ways about the future of Ireland. The book is called “New Thinking, New Ireland”, is available on Amazon and will be in shops on the 20th of September.
Update: An extract from my chapter has been published here