"Europeans invented the welfare state, and the Irish until recently have been among the greatest purveyors of terrorism that the world has ever seen. The Islamic throwbacks have certainly taken terrorism to new heights, but we all should also keep in mind the antics of a largely revered faction of Ireland's political circumstances. I am ashamed sometimes to be of that heritage when I consider the terrorists tactics utilized by my distant relatives. I am glad that my remote cousins do not know how lowly I consider some of their countrymen to be.
"There is no way to tell for certain about your residence, but your associate Lifted Spirits seems to want to deflect from the possibility that you are indeed of Irish extraction. That appears to be some method of attributing to you a bit of legitimacy."
You're addressing that to both of us, but it's obviously aimed at tsr_god. I can't speak for him, but I suspect he was somewhat tongue in cheek. I imagine what was meant was in terms of state aid, rather then welfare recipients. However, I know that some red states are among the biggest money producers in the USA, so regardless it has little or no basis in fact.
But the part I'm interested in addressing is your view of Europe and the Irish in particular. First of all, Europe does not consist of socialist states. I know this view arose initially from the hyperbole of political rhetoric and has since, it seems, from reading forum discussions, have taken on the characteristics of a myth. Working for an American company, I know and meet a large number of Americans abroad and they all laugh uproariously at this conception of Europe. All European states have capitalist economies.
Back in the 50's and 60's, Sweden had very high taxes and had a large number of social programs, so it too was often seen as socialist minded - but it was also richer than the USA, proportionately, which caused no end of consternation among Americans. So we all grew up hearing about how high the suicide rates were in Sweden (another myth), almost as if we were to think Swedes were very unhappy.
There's some truth to what you say about Ireland. The first major step to pull Ireland from poverty came from the initiative to provide massive tax breaks to foreign multi-nationals for exported goods, so a lot of American companies came here which apparently did wonders for the economy (I say 'apparently', because the Irish all thought they were suddenly getting good jobs with decent wages, not realizing that they were effectively getting loans). That was probably the biggest influence over ensuing decades that propped up this country.
However, it is also true that over recent years, an immense amount of aid has arrived into the country from the EC, as grants for various things, like building better roads. No argument there. But this country is hardly socialist minded, believe me. It has the highest prices in Europe (something the Tourist board likes to hide or simply deny) and the highest wages of most Western European countries. When I buy a garbage bag for my rubbish to be collected (many people have 'wheely bins', but some still use 'bin bags'), I have to pay 5.80 Euro for one bag, to get it collected by the private company who have a monopoly on garbage collection. Growing up in the USA, I don't remember anyone in my family having to dish out extra cash to get their rubbish collected - presumably you don't view the USA as socialist because the state collects rubbish, paid for by taxes.
As for your comments about the IRA - yes, truthfully, they have been the nastiest, most brutal creatures over the last couple of decades. Believe me, you don't hear the half of it over there. But worse were the extremist spin off groups, who tend to get more publicity. However, this state of affairs has largely been over the last 20 years, give or take. But through most of the history of the North, and of the Republic when you go back far enough, that was not the case. Dare I say that you don't seem to have a very broad knowledge of the history of this country and it's neighbor to the East. Your summation was far, far too simplistic. I'd be happy to discuss this, but it would be very far off topic here.
I'll just add something here about Islamic terrorism, about which I'm sure we can be in complete agreement. The terrible irony there is that back in the 80's, the "fundamental Islamicists" were opposed to violence, intending instead to garner power through democratic means and then maintain it through undemocratic means. But not through violence. The extreme of the extreme, who started coming up with rationalizations for violence, were very fringe and were also very, very unpopular among the Arab populations. Those groups, through assassination, basically took over the fundamentalist Islamic movement, but even then were in danger of heading straight into extinction and as they broadened their "acceptable" targets for violence, became even more unpopular.
When Gorbachov could see the writing on the wall for the USSR and recognized that he could not remain in Afghanistan, he virtually begged Washington to help set up a moderate government in Afghanistan, for the good of BOTH major powers. But the neocons would have none of it and exactly what Gorbachove foresaw in Afghanistan and what all of us now know about is exactly what happened. Also, completely inadvertantly, the neocons gave a much needed boost to the now violent extreme Islamics. Furthermore, much as the neocons developed the concept of the "Evil Empire" (and subsequently, the "Axis of Evil"), the Islamics not long after found a new common enemy, the "Great Satan", which helped them prevent their own self-destruction through the violence they were aiming at one another. And just as the neocons created and fed the myth that they had felled the Evil Empire, the Islamics (not the Mujahadin) also created and fed the myth that THEY had brought down the Evil Empire (as Russia was to them also), even though they actually had hardly done any of the fighting.
Again, having done this twice today, I apologize for drifting so far afield from the topic.
I could only aspire to be as eloquent as you were in your earlier post. It is simply not an attribute which I possess. I certainly am not an expert on Irish political affairs or history but I have done a bit of study. I have relatives of my own who were quite involved in some of the events of the early part of the 20th century. Rumor has it that my grandfather fled Ireland during the 1920's as he was actually sought by the British and was suspected of being an IRA activist. I cannot confirm that because after all he did not speak much of these matters, and he has been dead for a long time now.
I read some years ago certain works by commentators on Irish history and politics including for example Connor Cruise O'Brien. I found his term and treatise on "sacral nationalism," "the volatile fusion of religion and nationalism" to be insightful and informative. The parallels between the Irish use of terrorism and that of fundamental Islamists are striking. They have similar causal roots. Curiously British policies were instrumental in the nascence of these radical organizations which are (were) not prone to compromise. The Zionists also indulged in the use of violence in order to accomplish certain tactical objectives. The Zionists however (despite propaganda) did not invoke terror and assault on civilians as strategic and fundamental tenets.
I also found that historically the most effective representation for the Irish in Parliament had actually been non Irishmen. I may only have a marginal grasp of the facts and history on that, but that is my sense of these things. I simply must dig out my old college papers one of these days.
As to Socialism in Europe I find it difficult to deny. I recently had a dialogue with a relative from Ireland and we discussed such things as taxes and policies. I was unaware of the difference between gasoline (or petrol) and agricultural gasoline and the random "safety" inspections imposed on motorists. I found a bit of the stories to be somewhat amusing. On the whole though, it appears that the tax structures in the end come out to be close to the same thing in Ireland and the USA.
I lived in Europe on the economy myself a few years ago. Perhaps it all comes down to what the meaning of the word "socialism" is. The government programs are definitely huge as well as monolithically bureaucratic and intrusive. Pat Buchanan's recent book "The death of the West" provides a lot of information concerning the problems incurred when governments become too big. In this country the state and local governments have also grown to gargantuan size.
I happen to reside in Massachusetts which is probably the State which has the most bloated of all local governments. The salaries which public employees are receiving now are incredibly disproportionate to what most citizens earn and there is no end in site. The information concerning your trash fees is interesting. Years ago trash collection was included in most Real Estate taxes. Certain communities began to charge separately fees for trash as well as snow removal and other things. They do this because public referendums have limited the amount that can be levied against home owners for taxes. The "fee" trick is really taking off now around this area. Many of the communities now require similar trash bags in addition to the trash fees. None of these fees are tax deductible which has always been the case for Real Estate taxes in the past.
Another tactic which the tax man has been using is to reevaluate the assessments of properties. This allows them to lower tax rates while actually collecting more money in taxes. This sort of practice is largely hurting elderly home owners who are on fixed incomes. Many people are discovering that they are "rich" because of the value of their homes, but they indeed often do not have enough money to pay their regular bills after the tax collector gets his.
I believe that this forum the FR.com was created exactly to help to curb this sort of abuse by politicians, and the last three national elections are indicating that Americans are wising up to the problems. I often tend to digress when I write and also when I speak. I happen to see a lot of connectivity in issues and that usually becomes evident as this post will demonstrate.