Aer Lingus poses a socialist problem

THE news the Aer Lingus has posted a profit of €107 for last year should be good news for socialists as it shows conclusively that state enterprise can compete with private enterprise.

Unfortunately, that isn’t the case because Irish socialism is still wrapped up in trade unionism and in anti-market ideology, which means that it will never provide a real alternative to the present economic order.

Tony Gregory was on Questions and Answers on RTE recently and commented on the fact the Aer Lingus was profitable and therefore should not be privatised. John Bowman put it to him that it wouldn’t be profitable if it hadn’t shed thousands of jobs. So did Tony Gregory now support the job cuts?

“I would never support job cuts” said Tony. And this, in a nutshell, is why socialism is on its knees.

Structural unemployment occurs when technology or the times overtakes the need for a certain type of work. That’s sad but true.

If many of Ireland’s ‘socialists’ had their way, Guinness would still be employing a thousand coopers and a rake of blacksmiths to shod horses. And the customers (mmmmmmm) would be paying €10 a pint in order to keep them employed.

It’s a nonsense. You can’t keep people employed simply to keep them employed. Well, you can for a while and then when the whole charade becomes untenable there is an enormous crash.

Instead of employing people for the sake of it, we should be preparing them for new employment.

I don’t blame trade unions for this. When trade unions oppose job cuts they are doing what they are supposed to do – looking after the interests of their members. That’s fair enough. What’s not sensible is to infer that the interests of a particular set of workers is the same as the interests of the public in general.

Irish socialists have hitched their wagon to the trade union movement without seeing, apparently, that being in a trade union won’t change the world for workers. Owning the company will. (The Communications Workers Union spotted that one all right).

The second problem is that many socialists still reject the market, while everyone else has moved on. Who, for example, would support the idea of a single airline flying between Dublin and London?

The day that the socialist movement rejected the market was a happy day for capitalism. Markets are as natural as the weather or love. They can be good or bad. To reject the market as wholly bad was a dire mistake for social reformers and is obviously a tendency that many socialists are still addicted to. Just like smokers, if they maintain their addiction, it will eventually kill them.

Finally, never forget that every worker is also a consumer. Paying more wages is one way to make a worker better off. But lowering prices is another. It doesn’t make social sense to keep prices artificially high by maintaining workers in employment that has disappeared.

Aer Lingus is now a success because it’s doing its business in a rational way. If only our socialists would follow.