Towards a Flourishing Society
As Ireland struggles to emerge from recession, much of the debate on the way forward is narrowly focused on a speedy return to economic growth while the broader societal implications of economic developments (positive and negative) are largely ignored. TASC contends that the debate on our economic future must take place in tandem with a debate on the kind of society we want to live in during the coming decades: do we aspire to live in a society where all can flourish equally, or are we content to live in a society driven by the needs of the economy, where a few flourish, some stand still and far too many are left behind? And if we do aspire to a Flourishing Society – what are its elements and how do we turn aspiration into reality?
TASC is preparing to answer these questions. For too long, policy making, together with the values which should underpin it, has been constrained by a dominant economic and social narrative.
Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.
George Santayana’s famous aphorism is particularly relevant to Ireland today. Any discussion about what kind of society we want is brushed aside as irrelevant to the task of re-building our shattered economy. The predominantly neo-liberal, infinite growth model of the recent past has let us down. Economic liberalisation has not delivered on its promise of rapid growth on a consistent basis, but has been characterised by booms and crashes. Fewer and fewer have benefited from the booms as wealth and incomes have become increasingly concentrated, while those who experience the most negative effects of crashes have seen few if any benefits in the good times. The time is ripe to develop a new vision for the economy that is informed by a different set of values which creates the conditions for a flourishing society.
However, a new vision for the economy must be informed by a rethink of our societal priorities. The absence of a debate on the type of society we want means that, by default, economic growth becomes the sole societal objective. Embedded in this way of thinking is the assumption that economic growth is inherently neutral, which it is not. What happens here is that society becomes a slave to economic growth and we have seen during the last two decades that this produces a number of undesirable outcomes:
-increasing inequality—without an active commitment to reducing inequality, the rich
automatically become richer and the poor-poorer; precisely what happened in
-endangered environment—unfettered economic growth is clearly
-societal pressures—the single-minded emphasis on economic growth weakens
a sense of community, civic responsibility and a willingness to participate in
-personal fulfilment—there is increasing evidence that, no matter how much wealth
is generated, the resulting rise in expectations creates a persistent dissatisfaction of
never having enough.
A critical part of the process of developing our vision is to draw on the perspectives and experiences of as wide a group of contributors as is possible.
TASC is hosting this space as one way of doing this. Some of the essays available here have been written by members of a group of TASC associates, established to examine different elements of what can loosely be termed an ‘alternative vision’. Other papers have been commissioned by TASC, and still others will, we hope, be submitted by members of the public.
We hope that this vision will be used to inform public perspectives on policy choices and practices that we observe every day. We in TASC intend to use it to guide our own work programme.
We are inviting anyone who wishes to to contribute a paper and/ or to comment on those that are already there.
We also intend to use this website to provide links to some of the most valuable contributions being generated through similar activities here and abroad.