Judgement day has arrived and the politics of lunacy threaten to take over

This week, a number of prominent business people intervened in the election campaign by suggesting that voters should be careful about what they vote for today.

They warned that there is a real risk “that the upcoming election will lead to significant political instability and hand greater influence to populist left-leaning political parties and fringe elements that are anti-business and anti-job creation”.

Not surprisingly, those political elements that were the targets of the warnings reacted in a predictably negative manner and I heard suggestions that those people should mind their own business and not get involved in a political campaign.

Predictably enough, I totally disagree with that perspective. After all, the signatories of the letter have achieved something that very few — if indeed any — of the targets of the letter ever achieved, the creation of real jobs in the economy.

If entrepreneurial endeavor, business acumen, and employment are sacrificed on the altar of political populism, the Irish economy will be considerably worse off as a consequence.

On Tuesday, we got the latest piece of positive news on the economy, and more tellingly on the labour market.

In the year to December, there was an increase of 44,100 in the number of people at work in the economy.

Full-time employment accounted for over 88% of the total increase.

Overall employment increased by 2.3% in the year to December, but the construction sector saw growth of 8.5%.

Only one component of the private sector saw a decline in employment, that being the financial, real estate activities and insurance sector that had an annual decline of 4,000.

We now have 1.983m people at work in the economy, and are moving tantalisingly close to the 2m mark.

That will be a psychologically very significant milestone when it is reached, and it should be in the first half of 2016.

Since the current government was elected, seasonally adjusted employment has increased by 121,500 and there are now 140,300 more people at work in the economy than at the bottom of the market in the third quarter of 2012.

This is good news, but there are many aspects of the labour market, which albeit getting better, are still not where they should be.

Long-term unemployment accounted for 54.5% of total unemployment in December.

This is too high but at least it is on a firm downward trend. The non-seasonally-adjusted unemployment rate stood at 8.7% in the final quarter of 2015.

It stood at 9.9% in the BMW region, 7.6% in Dublin and the mid-east, 8.5% in the mid-west, 7.4% in the south-west, and 11.9% in the south-east.

Following one of the most disastrous economic collapses that any country has ever experienced, it is naïve to believe, and naïve for politicians on all sides to suggest, that all of the legacy problems could be solved in such a short period of time.

It does not take a genius to figure out that Ireland still has many challenges to overcome.

These include the labour market; the health service, and indeed public services in general; infrastructural deficiencies; housing supply and inequality.

However, on most fronts, progress is being made, but to solve these problems, a lot more economic growth will be required to generate the necessary resources.

As the aforementioned letter suggests, those people who actually generate employment and economic activity are nervous about what might happen after today’s election.

If we elect people to government who despise wealth, who believe that higher taxes on the few is the solution to all problems, and who look with suspicion on those who invest and take risks, then the future threatens to be, as 17th century philosopher Thomas Hobbes wrote in Leviathan, nasty, brutish, and short.

It was also very worrying to see the Taoiseach, who was in Waterford visiting and making a jobs announcement at a business that somewhat unusually for that city in recent years has been a resounding success, being barracked and heckled.

The politics of lunacy threaten to take over and those who genuinely care about the future of the country, should be concerned.

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