Visit Narnia!

We have been having magnificent weather here in Ireland. The sun has been shining and a gentle breeze has been blowing. It has been difficult to resist the imperious call of the garden- even to the neglect of other duties! But now the warm spell is ending. Clouds have appeared, and rain is forecast. Our luck, if it is luck, is coming to an end. The final hours of such a time always reminds my of a masterly passage in C. S. Lewis’ children’s story “The Voyage of the Dawn Treader” 

“But this pleasant time did not last. There came an evening when Lucy, gazing idly astern at the long furrow or wake they were leaving behind them, saw a great rack of clouds building itself up in the west with amazing speed. Then there was a gap torn in it and a yellow sunset poured through the gap. All the waves behind them seemed to take on unusual shapes and the sea was a drab or yellowish colour like a dirty canvas. The air grew cold. The ship seemed to move uneasily as if she felt danger behind her. The sail would be flat and limp on minute and wildly full the next. While she was noting these things and wondering at a sinister change which had come over the very voice of the wind, Drinian cried “All hands on deck.” In a moment…”

Those who want to know what happens next should read on. And those who do not yet now the “Chronicles of Narnia” should begin to explore them starting with The Magicians Nephew.”– where they will find much enchantment and wisdom.

Note: See how Lewis says what he wants to say by only using simple words and short sentences.

After the referendum- just in.

As we have stressed before The Edmund Burke Institute took no part in the referendum campaign. Nevertheless we cannot be oblivious of the fact that the result has deep implications for the future of Ireland. And these implication are our business.

With this in mind, I felt these ( slightly edited ) thoughts would be of interest which I have just received from a young professional who wishes to remain anonymous. They are, of course, used here with his permission. R.M.

Not dwell too much on the vote, but it’s troubling. I wavered a fair bit in deciding and in the end abstained. I  now  put this down to lack of conviction and/ or courage. Needless to say I’m already ruing the decision by both myself and the two thirds who said YES. Dr. Zappone [ the American born Minister of Children and Youth Affairs ] was on the TV the other night telling us that we need to legislate for abortion as soon as possible, and  that we should  start looking at introducing  robust sex education in schools. Mr. Varadkar and Mr. Harris have been slapping on another on the back congratulating themselves  on a job well done. Now they are eyeing up other mad cap leftist notions such as gender equality because they know that these are kind of things that the electorate will want. Anything goes now. The conservatives- the so called “Middle Ireland”- are very small in numbers now- with no credible political representatives. The Church is in free fall. Interesting times.

Karl Barth on the need for dissent.

“The theology of every age must be sufficiently strong and free to hear, calmly, attentively, and openly, not only the voices of the favourites, not only the voices of classical antiquity, but all the voices of the past in its entirety. We cannot prescribe who among the collaborators of the past will be welcomed in our own work, and who will not be. For there is always the possibility that in one sense or another we may be in need of wholly unexpected voices, and among them there may be voices which are at first entirely unwelcome.”

I found this in Stephen Neil’s wonderful book ( and I do mean that ) “The Interpretation of The New Testament, 1861- 1961” ( Revised ed. London, 1966 ) p. 133. Interestingly the passage was drawn to Neil’s attention by the fact that it was quoted by Rudolf Bultmann in his treatment of Harnack.  Bultmann and Barth may not have agreed, but the former must certainly have appreciated the latter’s contribution. R.M

The Royal Wedding.

There is nothing more traditional or more romantic than the marriage of a prince to a beautiful woman. This was certainly a day of romance. But look closer at what happened.

This was a celebration not just of Harry’s love for Meghan and hers for him. It was also a striking testimony to the way that institutions evolve. Forty, even twenty years ago, the marriage of a mixed race woman into the House of Windsor would have been unimaginable. Radicals may dismiss the whole royalist charade. Reactionaries may sniff about American actresses with ideas above their station. But human being, and conservatives, know that families and nations move on, at their own pace and in their own way. The new Duchess of Sussex has already shown that  she has already extended the “reach” of the Royal family. By her very presence she will do more. Prince George now has a mixed race aunt, and will soon have mixed race cousins. Change is a constant, but so too are the values enshrined in today’s ceremony:

“Open now the crystal fountain / Whence the healing stream doth flow;/ Let the fire and cloudy pillar/ Lead me all my journey through:/ Strong deliverer,/ Be thou my strength and shield.”




Chesterton’s Gender Neutral Fence

By Stephen Kessler, Ed.D.

The issue of transgenderism and its various forms is polarizing. The left wants to empower transgendered people and endow them with their ( supposed ) rights  to use whichever toilet they want. Those on the political right see them as either suffering from mental illness or as a potential threat to the safety of girls and women in various changing and locker rooms.

The moral foundations of these two positions reveal the deep divisions between liberals and conservatives. Liberals, in the vein of their patron saint, Jean Rousseau, believe that human beings are born pure, benevolent, and naturally good, but society corrupts us. By fixing society, we can therefore fix the world and create an equitable and happy civilization.

Conservatives believe that we were born neither purely good nor evil, but with a dualism. We are all capable of doing great good and great evil; there’s an angel on our right shoulders, and a devil on the left. The conservative believes that the devil on our shoulders is in charge of our unruly passions and appetites. These passions and appetites necessitate restraints on them to prevent them from running amok.

Let’s compare and contrast Rousseau ( 1712-1778 ) and Burke’s ( 1729-1797 )  thoughts on this issue. Rousseau believed that:

“The fundamental principle of all morality, upon which I have reasoned in all my writings and which I developed with all the clarity of which I am capable is that man is a being who is naturally good, loving justice and order; that there is no original perversity in the human heart, and the first movements of nature are always good.” (Rousseau, as quoted by Blum, 1986, p. 103)

The natural goodness of men means that we are devoid of an evil inclination. This natural goodness makes all of our actions benevolent, so long as we mean well. As Rousseau said later, “I give myself to the impression of the moment without resistance and [even] without scruple; for I am perfectly sure that my heart loves only that which is good” (as quoted by Ryn, 1978). Here, we understand what Rousseau believes: that our natural goodness made all our actions moral and just. All one needs to do is, “listen to his heart and yield effortlessly to its pleasant command” (Ryn, 1978, p. 145). What this amounts to is all that matters is that we feel good about what we’re doing and that our intentions are pure. The result of our feelings and actions? Not so important to Rousseau and his disciples.

Unlike Rousseau, Edmund Burke was concerned with the results as well as the intentions. He said, “They who truly mean well must be fearful of acting ill” (Burke, as quoted by Kirk, 1990, p. 96). Burke understood that meaning well and actually doing well are two different things. At the trial of Warren Hastings, he said we, “Will not judge of his intentions by the acts, but . . . will qualify his acts by the presumed intentions.” It is on this preposterous mode of judging that he has built . . .his conduct ” (Burke, as quoted by Stanlis, 1986, p. 179)-  which is to say that meaning well is irrelevant if your actions cause harm.

Burke did not believe in the natural goodness of men either. Burke believed in the dualism of the Judeo-Christian religion. For him, he was always concerned with our evil inclinations and the restraints they necessitated. He said:

“Men are qualified for civil liberty, in exact proportion to their disposition to put moral chains upon their own appetites. . . . Society cannot exist unless a controlling power upon will and appetite be placed somewhere, and the less of it there is within, the more there must be without. It is ordained in the eternal constitution of things, that men of intemperate minds cannot be free. Their passions forge their fetters.” (Burke, 1791)

Burke always knew that when the restraints on our passion and appetites are removed, “a life of absolute licence tends to turn men into savages” (Burke, as quoted by Stanlis, 1986, p. 134). He further felt that when you, “Leave a man to his passions . . . you leave a wild beast to his wild and capricious nature” (Burke, as quoted by Stanlis, 1986, p. 168). Burke, ever fearful of our unruly passions and appetites, believed restraint was of the utmost importance in life because hard-wired in human nature is our evil inclination that cannot be eradicated.

As Melzer (1990) said of Rousseau

“The political system is the source of all evil and therefore, through revolution, men can aspire not only to change rules but to transform the human condition itself. Such political messianism, at the heart of most modern revolutions, grows directly out of the thought of Rousseau.” (p. 262)

Essentially, with positive legislation and social engineering, the contemporary liberals, who are the disciples of Rousseau, feel they are able to change human nature. Because society is the evil which corrupts our natural goodness, by simply adjusting society, we’ll be a step closer to perfection. Rousseau said, “the first of all goods. . . is freedom” (as quoted by Melzer, 1990, p. 91). Melzer further said that, “In short, Rousseau attempts here to bestow on virtue the splendor of self-creation, absolute freedom, or what later came to be called ‘autonomy’” (1990, p. 105).  Autonomy and freedom are the hallmark of human action for Rousseau and his disciples, believing it is the first and most important step towards transforming human nature for the better.

Case in point, the segregation of genders in restrooms / toilets and locker rooms. To the disciples of Rousseau, these are restraints imposed on us by society that prohibit the natural goodness of men and women from shining through. These restraints imposed on us are corrupting and immoral. By allowing transgendered people to choose their own restrooms, they are achieving the highest level of human action, freedom, and autonomy.

To the conservatives of today, who also believe in the evil inclination that lurks inside us all, removing both the legal and moral prohibitions and stigmas against entering a changing room of the other gender, is to invite disaster. Such conservatives believe that the issue of whether to alter one of our oldest and most axiomatic institutions, namely separating men and women while undressing, in order to satisfy a tiny percentage of our population, is one that should be resolved by common sense, and above all should not be difficult. The absurdity of doing so is clear. But as Burke said

“Because half a dozen grasshoppers under a fern make the field ring with their importunate chink, whilst thousands of great cattle, reposed beneath the shadow of the British oak, chew the cud and are silent, pray do not imagine that those who make the noise are the only inhabitants of the field; that, of course, they are many in number; or that, after all, they are other than the little, shrivelled, meagre, hopping, though loud and troublesome, insects of the hour.” (Burke, 1790)

The conservatives are concerned with opening the floodgates to impropriety for the convenience of only a tiny number of people. If these floodgates are opened, they believe, the passions and appetites people have for sex, especially men, will run amok and lead to the worst of places.

It should be axiomatic that allowing a person to pick and choose his or her restroom of choice will help only a small few, yet open many to danger. In their zeal to show how virtuous and kind they are, the left thinks they are, as Burke said, “combating prejudice, but you are at war with nature” (1790, p. 47). The left, ever in denial about human nature, willfully pretends it does not know the nature of men. By this intentional ostrich-like burying of its head in the sand, it is enabling actual predatory behavior and encouraging real rape-culture.

Perhaps it has less to do with right and wrong, and more to do with beating your opponent. Burke once said that there are those “who are more angry with those who differ from them in their particular plans and systems, than displeased with those who attack our common hope” (1790, p. 150). This underutilized quote articulates the idea that we are often more concerned with winning and defeating the opposition than in doing what is right.

G.K. Chesterton ( 1874-1936 ) once said,

“In the matter of reforming things, as distinct from deforming them, there is one plain and simple principle; a principle which will probably be called a paradox. There exists in such a case a certain institution or law; let us say, for the sake of simplicity, a fence or gate erected across a road. The more modern type of reformer goes gaily up to it and says, “I don’t see the use of this; let us clear it away.” To which the more intelligent type of reformer will do well to answer: “If you don’t see the use of it, I certainly won’t let you clear it away. Go away and think. Then, when you can come back and tell me that you do see the use of it, I may allow you to destroy it.” (1929)

This idea is known as “Chesterton’s Fence.” The liberals are in a hurry to tear down Chesterton’s fence, believing in the natural goodness of men. They believe that the restraints imposed on about which restroom we can enter is a fence which must come down. They do not recognize the possible function performed by our laws and mores in this instance. By allowing the transgendered community to pick and choose their facilities of choice, they believe they are helping the downtrodden. To the conservatives, they are helping a few, but enabling the evil inclinations of many. The conservatives know that these rules serve a purpose- a purpose the liberals will soon learn only through agony.

We are ultimately left asking ourselves one particular question: is it more valuable to enable the good while also enabling the bad, or is it more valuable to prevent the harm while preventing the perfect?

According to psychologists Kahneman and Tversky’s “Loss Aversion” theory (Lehrer, 2010), the answer is clear. “Loss Aversion” is the idea that the sting of a loss is stronger than the elation of a victory. Winning is less powerful than losing. The application here is quite simple: allowing the Caitlyn Jenner’s ( see, NOTE below ) of the world to freely change and relieve themselves wherever they want to, is a lesser good than protecting women, and more importantly young girls from sexual assault in non segregated environments.

To conclude, in Think Like a Freak (2014), Levitt and Dubner, the authors of the Freakonomics book series, list off well intending policies that had dismal consequences. In India, a British imperial colonist wanted to eradicate the deadly and poisonous cobra snakes in the area. He offered money for every dead cobra snake brought to him. This would surely incentivize people to kill the snakes and make the area safer, right? How could it do anything but?

What happened was the exact opposite. The local Indians began breeding the snakes specifically for the cash prize offered by the British. Once the British got wise to the hustle, they ended the program. The Indians then asked themselves what they needed with all of these deadly and poisonous snakes? The answer was they didn’t need them. They then released them into the wild. In their effort to eradicate the cobra problem, they actually made the problem even worse!

In a few years from now, this issue of multi-sex bathrooms and changing rooms will no doubt be seen in the same way as the British attempt to eradicate cobras in India. We may have corrected a minor ill- the inability of people to change exactly where they want, only to create a more obvious and graver ill- a much reduced security for women. We must reestablish the sense  that struggle between good and evil is something that ultimately takes within the individual. We must not ignore the hard wiring that is deep in human nature. We must stop blaming society for our personal problems. We must, as Burke warned us years ago, voluntarily accept restraints on our passions and appetite’s. If we continue to blame society for all our ills and live without restraint, our society will fall like all the other societies before it.

NOTE: Caitlyn Jenner is an American athlete who was born Bruce Jenner in 1949, but who announced that she had transitioned into Caitlyn Jenner in July 2015. 


Blum, C. (1986). Rousseau and the republic of Virtue: The language of politics in the French Revolution. Ithaca, NY: Cornel University.

Burke, E. (1791). Letter to a member of the national assembly.

Burke, E. (1790). Reflections on the revolution in France.

Chesteron, G.K. (1930). The thing: Or why I am a Catholic. New York, NY: Dodd, Mead, and CO.

Kirk, R. (1990). Our conservative constitution. Washington, DC: Regnery Gateway Publishing.

Lehrer, J. (2014). How we decide. New York, NY: Marine Books.

Levit, S. & Dubner, S. (20143). Think like a freak. New York, NY: Harper Collins.

Melzer, A. (1990). The natural goodness of man: On the system of Rousseau’s thought. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago.

Ryn, C. (1978). Democracy and the ethical life. Baton Rogue, LI: Louisiana State University.

Stanlis, P. (1986). Edmund Burke and the natural law. Shreveport, LI.

Stephen Kessler, Ed. D. is the Edmund Burke Society Fellow at the Russel Kirk Center for Cultural Renewal ( among our American links ). He recently completed his doctorate in Higher Education Administration from the University of Rochester, N.Y.

The British local elections results.

It isn’t often that the results of British local elections have implications for Ireland. But this year was an exception. If Mrs May and her Tories had done badly then everyone would have said that Britain was heading for a soft and easily managed Brexit. But in fact she did quite well, although not among minority voters. Certainly the Tories lost seats and control of some councils. However overall their result was much better than anyone expected.                                                                                                                      More specifically from the Irish point of view Leave voters outside of London seem to have been determined to reiterate their support for Brexit. The French conservative news magazine Le Point puts it this way: “Today the Prime Minister has extracted benefits from her brutal but clear slogan: “Brexit is Brexit.”  The Tories did well in pro Leave areas. According to Sir John Curtice, the polling expert, these Leave voters will expect Mrs May to get Britain out of Europe, and not just in name only. The hand of the pro- Brexit Tories has to some extent been strengthened. This means that the negotiations over the Irish border will be all the more challenging. A deep responsibility therefore devolves on all the parties involved in those discussions to find a satisfactory answer to the difficult conundrums involved on the border. Adjusting the differences between British and Irish nationalism has never been more important or more demanding. Both sides are going to have to compromise. Mr. Barnier, Mrs May, and Mr. Varadkar are really going to have to start earning their salaries!

Now they need MORE planners

“The Irish Planning Institute has said more planners are needed in order for the Government’s National Planning Framework to be achieved…The I.P.I President Joe Corr said that the number of planners at local authority level reduced during the recession and have never really recovered.”

Samantha Liberi writing on the RTE web site 15/4/’18


More Brexit links.

Since the first murmurings about the Schuman Plan reached London in the early fifties Europe has been a bitterly contentious issue in British politics. Even then Ted Heath took one view  and Enoch Powell another. And it still makes the sparks fly in all sorts of places – right across British society. Over Christmas my nephew announced that he had “obviously” voted Remain. I replied smartly that there was nothing obvious about it. All this may be divisive- although I seem to remember a convivial lunch following our exchange. But division and argument are, of course, the very stuff from which democracy is made. Indeed one could say that without such divisions that democracy is pointless.

And certainly Europe and now Brexit raises a whole mass of issues- and not just for Britain. It raises questions about how to preserve peace in Europe.  It raises issues about immigration. It raises issues about free trade, and about the regulation of business. It raises issues about whether parliamentary sovereignty is more important than influence exerted through the political process in Brussels. It also raises questions about Britain’s responsibilities in Europe and elsewhere and, of course, about the border between Northern Ireland and The Republic.

Another illiterate conservative!

How are we to get a handle on all this? In my experience the best way of understanding a controversial issue is not to immerse oneself in a text book which gives a allegedly impartial account of the question. This is essentially an exercise in self- anaesthetism. It is far better, and much more fun,  to seek out conflicting views the more vigorously expressed the better. In this way the debate comes alive, and the confusing issues have a way of clarifying themselves.

This, at least is the thought which lies behind our Brexit links- to which we are adding adding the following links: Lindsay Jenkins, an anti- EU writer The Centre for European Reform which is pro Europe but not uncritical, infacts a pro Remain site. and Briefings for Brexit which is run pro Leave Academics. They are all also to be found among our Brexit lin

Now Wexford has a plan!

By Richard Miller.

“I hope that nothing I have said will be taken as personal criticisms of individuals- it is certainly not intended as such. I look upon the present supreme human agents of planning…as [ the ] victims, in common with all of us, of a system, all innocently introduced, which threatens to become our master- an evil genie released from a bottle.” John Jewkes, “Ordeal by Planning” ( London, 1948 ) p.ix


County Wexford is the dark green area.

Those of us fortunate enough to live in County Wexford received an added benefit some weeks ago, when a publication entitled “Wexford County Council Economic & Community Investment Programme 2018-2022” unexpectedly tumbled through our letter boxes. This handsome full colour publication of some twenty one pages, complete with a large map of the county, refers to a series of proposals for spending the taxpayer’s money all over the county. It also has a page devoted to small, flattering photographs of all the current county councilors. There are two prefaces written by Chairman of the County Council ( John Hegarty ) and by its newly appointed chief executive officer ( Tom Enright ), which explain the project, and the thinking which underlies it.

The more important and longer of these prefaces is provided by the County Manager. Mr. Enright provides important insight into the etiology of the publication and the plans it describes when he reminds us in his concluding lines that Wexford County Council has recently increased both local property taxes and rates on businesses in order to pay for “this ambitious investment programme” which he is “confident” will create a better future for everybody in Wexford.

The questions that immediately present themselves to the inquisitive reader of course, revolve around the criteria which Mr. Enright, and Mr.Hegarty ( and the other councillors who we are assured have worked with them ) have used to decide which proposals to underwrite, which to reject, and how much to spend on those that they do support. Given the ambitious nature of the plans and the large sums required to pay for them, it seems worthwhile asking whether we can share Mr. Hegarty’s confidence that the money will be well spent.

About this Mr. Hegarty is reassuring. He tells us that the “ Wexford County Council has carried out detailed research on the social and economic profile of the county.” And certainly the council has been busy in this respect. A little browsing on the Wexford County Council web site reveals that experts at Maynooth were commissioned by the council to examine the census data for the county, and to come up with indications of what the Council should be doing. This they did: and their fascinating report runs to more than four hundred pages packed with bar graphs, maps, and statistics, culled from a wide variety of sources most notably census data. The basis of the report is the idea that the council should be worried about developments in parts of Wexford which are atypical of the county, and features in Wexford which are atypical of Ireland as a whole. The thrust of the report is thus managerial and controlling in that it sees difference from the statistical norm as being potentially problematic.

Nevertheless there is much good sense in the proposals which the council has come up in their responses to the concerns raised in the Maynooth report. But how could there not be? Eric Voegelin once observed that the American Supreme Court was such an interesting institution that, however bad the book about it was, it was certain to contain something of value. The same is to some extent true of Co. Wexford. It is impossible to scatter government ( i.e. our )  money across it without doing some good to somebody. But can such “targeted” spending really qualify as investment? For example the Maynooth study points out that Bunclody- a small town in North Wexford on the boundary with Carlow- contains a large number of travellers ( Ireland’s unsettled community ). But how will the three-quarter of a million Euros that the Council proposes to spend in Bunclody improve matters? Put more broadly the plan makes lots of well-intentioned proposals, but leaves a host of hanging questions. Will the proposed “investments” provide an economic return? And if not how will their success or failure be evaluated?

The reader will perhaps think that this is harsh- that I have gone too far. Well, as I say, and would want to stress –that some of the proposals will almost certainly prove successful. It isn’t so much the individual proposals that I have doubts about. I am however troubled by the thought, or rather the lack of it, that underlies the whole exercise. Above all, as I have hinted above, targeting is only sensible when we have some criteria for aiming at one point rather than another. Or in this instance, deciding to do one thing rather than another. It is precisely in making this sort of choice that politicians and officials have a poor record in Ireland and elsewhere.

This bad record has not come about by accident. Partly the failure of government comes about because unlike entrepreneurs, politicians ( like Mr.Hegarty ) and their officials ( like Mr. Enright ) are insulated from the risk of failure. It is not their money which is at risk. More importantly it is because they don’t, and can’t really know, what they are doing- because the criteria they employ for making such “investments” not being economic  are always to some extent subjective and may well be irrational. What criteria are there for deciding whether to spend the taxpayers money in Coolgraney- in the far North of the county, or Campile- in the South? In practice the decision boils down to political pull or personal preference- neither are good guides for rational behaviour.

As an example, let’s explore in more detail one of the concerns which was identified by the Maynooth report and which trouble Mr. Hegarty and Mr. Enright. They both say that the county should not be exporting its young people. Neither are referring to Emigration from Ireland to say England or Australia- but to commuting within Ireland. Their publication views the fact 18.4% of the people in Wexford work outside the county as a challenge which needs to overcome. But why on earth is this seen as a problem that needs to be addressed by the county council when the Maynooth report tells that Co. Wexford has fewer long distance commuters than all but five of Ireland’s twenty seven counties?

The authors seem unnecessarily troubled by the fact that North Wexford ( the area in which I live ) is now in fairly easy commuting distance of Dublin- thanks to the new Motorway- and numerous people now do so as is evidenced by the demographic data in the Maynooth report,  and by the rush of cars past my gate early in the morning. These, however are not the only commuters in Co. Wexford. Messrs Hegarty and Enright also seem to be committed to the proposition that someone living New Ross and working in Waterford has somehow been “exported” from Co. Wexford, and must in some way be recovered by Wexford County Council as if they had fallen off a pier. I find this view largely delusional. But, whether I am right about this or not, it certainly isn’t so serious a problem that government money needs be used to be address it. And yet this is what our two champions imply.

The trouble really is that like all economic planners our authors both overestimate their capacity for making economic judgements, and underestimate the ability that other people have for organising their own lives- not just for themselves but for their communities also. ( We should not assume that social responsibility is limited to government actors. ) The danger is that the Council will be led on from its conviction for the need for balanced development into an attempt to guide the economy of the county as a whole in particular directions- thus substituting their own attitudes for the subtle, ever changing, and far more accurate signals, sent by the market. To put it bluntly, why do politicians and bureaucrats like Messrs Hegarty and Enright think that they have greater insight into where people should live than the individuals in the property market themselves? Why shouldn’t somebody sell a house in Dublin, buy one in North Wexford where the quality of life is  higher, pocket the difference, and then start putting up with inconvenience of a longer journey to work- if that is what makes sense to him or her? These are exactly the sort of decisions that responsible individuals are best placed to make for their families. ( See, the Disclosure below )

More troublingly yet, by seeking to identify solutions to problems that barely exist, our planners have failed to focus sufficiently on the things that local government alone can do. Instead worrying about the evils of “long” distance commuting, our public representatives and their officials should increase the level of local policing, both in the towns and countryside- as there is too much yobbery in the one, and too much robbery in the other-if only because the high cost of security and insurance are an unofficial tax on entrepreneurial activity. The Council should also do much more to improve and maintain local roads in the county. While Co. Wexford has a flourishing micro- business sector, the council needs to start exploring the anecdotal evidence that barriers to entry are much too high. Street trading should be encouraged.  Radical solutions such as enterprise zones need to be examined. Above all the Council needs to look into the manner in which excessive regulation prevents small businesses from growing in the way that they should. In such ways as these the Council could materially contribute to the prosperity of the “model county”. Worrying the supposed dangers of commuting , and distributing expensive leaflets, isn’t going to do it for Wexford for Ireland!


As a resident of a rural part of North Wexford I would of course benefit from better roads and more policing in the area. The value of my house is also increased by the fact that it is in reasonable commuting distance of Dublin.


John Jewkes ( 1902-1988 ) was a professor of economics at the University of Manchester. “Ordeal by Planning” was his most famous book. He was also an expert on innovation.

The full title of the document I have called “The Maynooth Report” is the “Wexford Socio-Economic Base Line Report.” As indicated above it is available on the Wexford Count Council web site.

My recollection is that the passage from Eric Voegelin I refer to is in “The New Science of Politics ” ( Chicago, 1952 ).

The record of economic planners is poor. But, of course, government money is not always wasted. In under developed economies some of the needs are so obvious, i.e. those for roads, telephones, and other basic pieces of infrastructure that it is relatively easy for the government to identify them. However as the economy gets more complicated  this becomes increasingly impossible. For more on planning see Jewkes, and Op cit, F.A. Hayek, “The Road to Serfdom” ( London, 1944 ) and, of course, almost everything by Von Mises. For Hayek elaborate government communication strategies were a troubling part of planning. For Mises and his followers planning is inherently chaotic because for them there can be no economic rationality without a price system.

The changes that have recently taken place in North Wexford are not freakish developments. As long ago as the late nineteen seventies it was obvious that all that prevented the area North of Gorey from being part of the Dublin commuter belt  was the appalling state of the old Wexford road as it was then called, and the poor train service. Now that the road has become a motorway ( the N.11 ), and commuter trains introduced, there is nothing to stop people commuting to Dublin from Co. Wexford, and many do. I see nothing surprising or alarming in this. The same phenomena is to be seen all over the world- for example the way in which in The United States Inter state 95 South from Washington D.C. has created a commuter corridor which extends as far as Fredericksburg fifty odd miles into Virginia.

The economics behind all this are not difficult. As the division of labour becomes more pronounced certain areas become the focus of certain economic activities, because of the specialized supply chains that they need, and the fact that expertise is a localised phenomena. “Birds of a feather flock together” which is the reason that we talk about Cheddar Cheese and Champagne. ( See, Ludwig Von Mises, “Human Action” ( Auburn, 1988 ) p.157. ) Like all advanced economies the Irish is become increasingly dominated by service industries. For a variety of cultural and economic reasons these tend to be conducted in urban areas, and consequently areas at the fringes of such cities become sought after places in which to live. Is it really very surprising that someone developing a piece of software in Dublin might want to unwind on the beach at Courtown? ( Perhaps another way of making this point is to say that the more specialised the skills a person has the more likely they are to find work only in a city.)

Hayek is interesting about the appeal of the city in “The Constitution of Liberty” ( Chicago, 1960 ) p.340  where he points out that “when we speak of “urbanity” “civility” or “politeness” we refer to the manner of life in cities.” I love the Irish countryside. But is it any great wonder then that many people want to work where there is more urbanity civility, and politeness? There is also the point that innovation seem to come about more naturally in an urban rather than a rural setting, perhaps because the greater the number of people the greater the number of human interactions. Both urban and rural life have their appeal. But getting the “right” balance between the them is surely something that should be left to the individual. For some people long distance commuting can be an attractive solution.