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The tragic and unnecessary deaths of three homeless people again highlight the unconscionable housing situation in this country ‘Housing summit following deaths of homeless’ (Irish Examiner, September 2).
There are approximately 3,000 children homeless in Ireland. Students are being priced out of the private rental market and are at risk of losing college places as a result.
Scarcity of resources is not an argument — in Ireland, there are 27 empty properties for every homeless person, excluding holiday homes and derelict buildings. Likewise in New York, a major city in one of the richest countries in the world, approximately 100,000 schoolchildren will be homeless at some point during the coming school year.
These absurd anomalies can only be understood in the context of the outworkings of 40 years of failed neoliberal economic policies.
Neoliberalism views the market itself as a sort of benign, omniscient force of nature, the workings of which should be facilitated by government, to inevitably reward those who live by its rules. Massive corporate transfers, in the form of tax breaks, government subsidies and grants to corporations, are justified in this light.
This propaganda has undermined the Keynesian post-war, social democratic model which instead saw economics, not as a sort of higher power to which we are subservient, but as a human creation, a tool to be used for the good of all to underpin a stable, inclusive society.
Perhaps the most insidious fallout of neoliberalism is its undermining of democracy. The more that control of vital public services and institutions is given over to unelected, profit-making, private companies, the less impact our vote in local and national elections can have.
This has contributed, in part, to Brexit and the Trump presidency; voters
rejected mainstream politics, which they recognised as co-opted and
annexed by corporatism.
It behoves our government to take heed of the ineluctable failure of the market to deliver anything like the utopia promised by its neoliberal champions. It must resume its responsibility to provide a functional, inclusive and equitable state, based on co-operation and mutual respect rather than commodification and competition, for all its citizens.
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