The High Moral Ground

I left this comment on Donal Donovan’s piece in today’s Irish Times titled ‘Critics of austerity need to demonstrate that alternative strategy can work’. Donal Donovan is a former deputy director of the International Monetary Fund and a member of the Fiscal Advisory Council (about which more, in an upcoming post).

‘Stressing the human costs of the deep recession’ isn’t ‘claiming the high moral ground’, as the author claims; it’s acting as if people actually mattered. It’s acting as a moral human being and not as the implacable Vulcanoid agent of international capitalist bureaucracy. What is the point of economic policy at all if it’s not to serve human needs?

Why should the human effect of austerity policies not be at the very forefront of public concern?

The IMF and other practitioners of economic orthodoxy regularly resort to medical metaphors in order to justify their policies. The injunction to ‘do no harm’ is not one of them. The Lancet has already reported on the damaging health effects on European countries subjected to austerity.

The matter of restoring the health of the financial sector takes precedence over the actual health of the population. Only yesterday it was reported in this newspaper that that the €15 million allocated last year for extending the availability of free primary care ‘was spent on offsetting the HSE’s deficit’. How is it ‘claiming the moral high ground’ to point out that economic policy prescriptions such as those issued under the austerity regime actually kill people?

Don’t advocates of national-austerianism owe the European public at least one justification, in quantitative human terms, for stripping away welfare systems and smashing worker rights?

Come on, Mr Donovan: spell the opportunity cost out for us in terms of body count.

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