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So, what's the economic view in Dublin?

By Brendan Keenan

Published 17/05/2016

The winter of our discontent. The torrent of Shakespeare to commemorate his 400th anniversary is full of reminders of how many of his phrases have come down the centuries into everyday use .

But Richard wasn't talking about the season; he was talking about the mood. Present global discontents are casting a chill indeed; unwarmed as yet by any son of York. Instead, we have Donald Trump.

And Marine le Pen, Alternative fur Deutschland and, some would say, Jeremy Corbyn. As for ourselves, what about Mick Wallace, Pearse Doherty or, as they are becoming known, the Healys-Rae? Well, maybe not.

That's the trouble with the discontent. There is no doubt that it exists and is widespread. But "discontents" might be a better word. There are many different kinds. The key question is whether they all have the same causes.

You may have seen recent analysis by Wolfgang Munchau in the Financial Times about the troubles besetting Europe's grand coalitions - a subject bound to catch any passing Irish eye.

There are several of these arrangements where the two largest parties, with or without others, coalesce to secure a majority in parliament. In Austria, they have done it for decades.

Germany's is more recent, although not the first of its kind. Mr Munchau notes that the loss of popularity for these grand coalitions means that the total vote of the largest parties is falling. In some cases, they risk not being able to command a majority in future, even together. It is also the case that the smaller of the two parties tends to lose the most.

All very relevant to our own situation. There was something glib about the common assumption that a grand coalition between the two major parties was the best option. The combination of a large Dail majority and the parties' terror of losing popularity might well have threatened weaker, less responsible government than even the new arrangements.

The situation in the USA, where a two-party system seems to be set in the stone of Mount Rushmore, is different again. Americans have the best political language and I liked the comment of a Trump supporter that the country needed 'a junkyard dog'. More alarming perhaps is the evidence that the discontents are causing whites to move to the right, as represented by Mr Trump, and non-whites to the left, whether Clinton or Sanders.

Belfast Telegraph

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