Exit, voice, loyalty and Ireland

I don’t agree with everything in this article, by any means, but it is thought-provoking and topical. And I definitely agree with the authors about the brilliance of Albert Hirschman.

Besides, it gives me an excuse to post a link to this piece from April.

31 replies on “Exit, voice, loyalty and Ireland”

One thing missing from protest movements today, or rather a missing enabling factor, is a Leninist vanguard party. These people were cynical, ruthless and, by definition, untrustworthy but also energetic, selfless, single-minded and, in the early years, often brilliant.

Their effect on the politics of the era can be explained by analogy to dark matter in modern physics: a poorly understood and invisible force that nonetheless exerted tremendous influence on everything. Unrelated and entirely hostile political forces were induced into reacting to their existence and fire was drawn away from the moderate left which benefitted further by partly defining itself as “not them”.

Crudely adopting Hirschman’s framework (with which I’ve no familiarity), Voice has a direct and indirect effect. The indirect effect of the vanguard party deeply influenced everything from the welfare state to McCarthyism.

@Kevin O’Rourke

Must reread him ….

Certainly deserves ‘the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economics’ as in [2].

Think [1] is a little harsh on Marx – but the central institution within which to address ‘exit, voice and loyalty’ is the Irish family and its agrarian roots, the land[property fetish again], primogeniture, authoritarian fathers and church fathers, hence ‘no voice’, and younger male siblings ‘forced out’ or imprisioned as unpaid eunuch-labourer in the corner; ditto for the daughters if local ‘match’ unvailable …… as for the landless serfs from early 19thC onwards – peasant voice (up to the present) crushed by the landed, the professional, and the church with big sticks .. exit only smart move……. all this of course must filter into political culture ………… right to the present day [won’t mention the board of the children’s hospital where ‘voice’ a bit of an issue at the mo ….]

[you know far more about this than most here …..]

East German and Irish – would need some time to try and get one’s head around any parallels ….. but where is the Voice from the Irish 1980s exodus?_and what impact did it have on those left here? Suspect not that diff from the family left in the 19ThC silence and silenced Big issue – those who leave are DISENFRANCHISED …… democracy how are ya! dis-voiced twice as it were …

Is Hirschman still alive? – bring him over for a while ……… re-read Joyce and ‘exile, silence, and cunning’ [Patricia the Sovereign in exile is tuned at the mo]

Ta for lead on his second book …… Rugby calls ……….

@Adrian Kelleher

[1] try the PDs

[2] The present GP as Lenny_nist FF’s ‘ruthless idiots’

[3] IRB

Read him … well worth it

@David O’Donnell

I see no relationship between the Greens and the vanguard party. The purpose of the vanguard party was not social justice or specific political reforms, it wasn’t even the purpose of the broader communist party — it was radicalism for the sake of radicalism, that’s to say radicalism to influence political dynamics as much by its very existence as by its actions.

Any comment from the usual suspects on IE about Guido Fawkes’ leaking of a list of foreign bondholders? The establishing that GS is on the list should be asked of Suds the next time that he pops up on RTÉ, at least.

Exit: A strategy? Have my doubts. Other English speaking destinations have problems a bad as ours. Plenty of poorly paid jobs though – we only have a few!

Voice: Yep, them Special Interest Groups. All in good voice – “Please Minister, may we have some more (of the taxpayers money)!

Loyalty: Legislators to themselves and those peanut chewing financiers*. Also the aforementioned SIGs.

Good try though! Needs to improve- as they say!

* “Pay obscene salaries, stock options and bonuses and you get monkeys” We sure got a zoo full!

Brian P

Brilliant choice, Kevin!

Thrilling article too. I miss Trinity.

Clearly it will be dismissed by TPTB in Ireland. An exassociate of mine, another liar to the PAC, said that he was surprised by my choice of Australia, he clearly had a low opinion of the intellectual landscape. It is open here. So long as no one in power suggests getting Americans to leave their bases here, anything can be said. Otherwise, not even Prime Ministers are safe. The recent deposition of Kevin Rudd was an example of conflict in public life.

Adrian Kelleher
Suppose that the extreme was just that. Designed to warn all reasonable folk away from the left? Not really a brilliant plan but a sound one. Those most concerned about badly adjusted society want it to be properly adjusted and extremism is clearly not a good idea. I recall David Vipond! He could have been Tony Benn’s nephew. Probably a plant, and why not? Gatekeeper theory is important and neglected. Ultimately, much is controlled even if it appears as protest.

Again, the example of the article and of concern on this blog is understandably highly insular. Consider the Treaty of Waitangi! Where do Maori exit to? The takeover of England, exemplified by the journey from Catholicism to Protestantism and secualrism may also be instructive. Both involve active invasions of ferengi. Both invaders succeed in taking over. The so called Ab-Origine in Australia are interbred and welfared to isolation, substance abuse and death.

A cause like the Civil War or Rebellion inspires a movement, but it quickly degenerates into rentiers, who support the offspring of the “cause” who hang around like a bad smell, of no relevance except as Gombeen to facilitate selling out the resources to ferengi for as much as the traffic will bear.

The usurpation of power by the boastful, blockhead, greedy, younger brother is assisted by the Civil Service in Ireland. They continue in power once it is achieved. There exists a symbiotic relationship. No changes are possible, else the whole may fall. To further burrow into the fabric they act as patrons for construction projects exerting a dead hand over the grateful land owners who make massive profits. All this requires economic distortions. Land becomes massively over valued as in Japan. Access to politicians is a route to business success. Those inside are part of the Golden circle. All else are outside, exited without their knowledge as secrets and secretive associations are the heart of such a gang.

Adrian Kelleher Says:
October 16th, 2010 at 1:02 pm


The GP are however an interesting group internationally, and owe loyalty to the WWF, Audubon Society and others. Access is key!

Any attempt at voice, that will change a sytem, is correctly called sedition and if it involves armed conflict, then “treason” is also correct.

Civil disobedience is very possible when the alternative is unemployment. When fully employed this is unlikely. Exit is therefore a safety valve in Ireland and is established as such, for the last 170 years, if not before. It is inb fact institutionialized. Germany invaded countries, they did not emigrate unless religious conflict was involved. Irish receptions abroad exist widely. Voice is therefore an attack. I know as I openly alleged official conspiracy with banking. As no one was found to have written the instruction to ignore tax obligations of banks, and as the Revenue Commissioners, Chairmen, denied all knowledge of such instructions, I was lucky not to have been flogged and accused of forgery!

If there is a lone voice, and it alleges wrongdoing, but all present pretend not to hear, does the voice make a sound?

So, I gave voice, it took 8 years after the officially blocked investigation, and then exited.

Banking is successful when people all have the loans they require to make their investments for the future…. except when no one wants more borrowing, what happens?

Easy answer if you have been living in Ireland over the last 5 years!

The Irish government are to be congratulated as they have realized their dream of credit for everyone who wanted it and a booming economy where prices zoomed up!

Rejoice! Give voice! Last one out, switch off the lights?


Suppose the first general lesson from Hirschman is that THE VOTE needs to be slipped in to the birth certificates, digital signatures, and passports of all who are born here.

The only cure for dysfunctional Irish politics is to give emigrants the vote. More than half the countries of Europe have done that and it has served them well. The root of the problem is that the country is up to its eyebrows in fraud and corruption and the whole country thinks that it is normal.

Hi Pat,

“Banking is successful when people all have the loans they require to make their investments for the future…. except when no one wants more borrowing, what happens?”

Or, when the incomes of the debtors will no longer sustain the existing debt, let alone more debt? Boom! Boom! Which is where we are now.

Exit is not a realistic strategy. I reckon that 2 out of 3 grads will not find whole-time employment here, and unfortunately their prospects in the other English speaking developed economies is probably no better.

Political reform, in all its varieties will not occur, the legislators are immensely loss averse (of power), whilst the individual citizens have only a small gain to contemplate. The legislators will have to be FORCED into reform by a very angry electorate as they (the citizens) attempt to accomodate their steady irrevocable loss of wealth and standard of living.

‘Interesting Times’ ahead, as they say.

Brian P

Comparing emigration from Ireland with the collapse of a vast prison system, ruled by a foreign power and where a citizen who tried to leave without official permission, risked summary execution, is stretching things a little.

Crossing into West Germany where there presumably was a system of supports in place is different to the challenges for individual emigrants trying to make a start in a new country.

A common phenomenon in the West is that unless there is an anti-US angle to fire up people, they just cry into their beer.

It’s also well to keep in mind that the people who dominate the media are generally well-off; the main culprits in this terrible human tragedy have meal tickets for life and the trade unions represent privilege as do the other vested interests, which rely wholly or in part on the public treasury.

We hear about the Croke Park agreement but it’s strange that the equivalent of more than 4 full Croke Parks are unemployed and they are effectively invisible.

@ Mickey Hickey

The only cure for dysfunctional Irish politics is to give emigrants the vote.

As Americans are taxed on their world income, I can see why they should have a vote.

Besides, unless the Irish at home wake up to what they have created, nothing will change.

If Eamonn Gilmore becomes Taoiseach on the basis of wooly aspirations and with the help of broadcast journalists who haven’t the relevant facts to forensically challenge him, then there will be little to hop for in the unprotected sector of the economy.

Scattergun notes based on my half-informed understanding of Hirschman’s framework. Will follow up about separate issue of significance of vanguard parties later.

Exit: Ireland -> England reduces reform pressures. Ireland v. conservative so theory works! But why not so for Scotland, Wales, N England?

Other area where Exit idea works: ‘Flyover country’ in USA — Midwest, South etc. has towns with mega-churches with massive loudspeakers. Gays, radicals etc. go to NY, LA etc., pious flee horrors of coasts. Theory back working!

19th C Germany: Entire US Army corps speaks German, all officers are Liberal, Progressive (courageously anti-racist, anti-nationalist in a prototypical way) and terrible, terrible soldiers with no training. Officers mostly emigrants after failed 1848 liberal uprising. To WWI, strong flow of Germans to USA, incl many socialists, communists, anarchists; also Hutterites etc. Core of anarchist movement in USA is German — Christian and Jewish united in internationalist atheism.

Germany itself has Junkers and outstanding soldiers, all utterly bereft of political nous. Neat symmetry vs. emigrants.

Exit useful narrative for Germany–>USA.

UK->Australia, Canada etc. 1940s-, but reform pronounced in UK until 1967 or so (devaluation + stagnation after)

Loyalty: Um… Heavily affected by cultural factors. Obviously lionization of state power dangerous. Are Wales, Scotland more ‘Loyal’ than Ireland? Would argue deeper reasons needed to explain historic absence of orthodox left-right divide in Ireland, nation’s defining historic quirk.

Voice: Well, autocracies decay so good evidence.

Giving Irish emigrants the vote would change things dramatically. I don’t the BS that Irish politicians present as policy would pass muster with emigrants that have literally pulled themselves up by their bootstraps. Politicians would need to show real ability to capture the emigrant vote with country first policies and politics and help move things away from what it has been in Ireland, special interests and politicians first policies and politics.

The central point of their IT article, namely that it is only a ‘massive exit’ of people from Ireland that is currently preventing some sort of revolution, is bonkers. Very noticeable that, although the authors of the IT article gave detailed figures for emigration from Commieland over 20 years ago, they don’t give any for Ireland recently, even though these are readily available. They simply claim that there is now a ‘massive emigration’ from Ireland and credit/blame the ‘massive exit’ for there not being, to their obvious bafflement and disappointment, a mass uprising of the proletariat in Ireland to sweep away the political and economic systems.

Their view that there is a ‘mass exit’ appears to bae based on now-discredited ESRI forecasts, rather than hard cold statistics. The fact is: net emigration of Irish nationals between April 2008 and April 2010 amounted to 14,000, or 1 in 300. So, its hardly that that is keeping the lid from blowing off the kettle. Around 28,000 Poles have also left, but they aren’t ‘exit’, but ‘entry’ back to their own countries and hardly relevant to whether or not there is a revolution of some sort in Ireland.


Note that GSAMI is up there on the list. Sutherland playing a blinder for the eighty or so banks. They all need him to keep the gun in the governments ear.

There’s never a guard around when you need one.


The little people will wreak vengeance on FF. This wont solve the problem however and emigration to 50’s levels looks a dist.pos.

Also JTO. Does anyone truly expect unbiased advice from tenured civil servants such as the DF or ESRI?

Call me cynical! The “Loyalists” will eventually inherit the (scorched) earth.

@ Mokabaybob,

The ESRI are “tenured civil servants”? They will be surprised to hear it…

The comparison is silly.

“Instead of giving space and allowing for voice to be heard, the current political elite in Ireland is hanging on to an outdated post-civil war consensus that automatically assumes that all voice is potentially disloyal and civil war latently waiting to happen.”

The ‘current political elite’ isn’t hanging onto anything. They’ve been elected – as recently as 2007. I keep saying – we get the government we deserve.

As for voting emigrants – no way. No representation without taxation.

Why not more discussion on the Anglo Irish bondholders?

No representation without taxation?

What about non-irish living and working in Ireland who are paying taxes but not allowed to be voting for the Dail?

If Irish living abroad are not entitled to vote based on: no-taxation -> no representation, then it might be possible to argue: paying taxes -> entitled to representation


A British citizen living in Ireland gets to vote, but not an Irish emigrant?

Emigrants should be allowed to vote.

Non-Irish are entitled to vote on a graduated level

(see here for more) http://www.citizensinformation.ie/categories/moving-country/moving-to-ireland/introduction-to-the-irish-system/right_to_vote

The point is that you should have to endure the consequences of your vote. If you don’t live in the country you don’t have to live with the consequences of it.

The emigrants could vote for parties that increased taxation or public spending but don’t have to participate in that process.

Thanks for posting the same link as I did 🙂

Not quite sure I’d agree with that reasoning. Voters can move and escape the effects of their choice. Or is the suggestion to outlaw emigration for people that do vote?

Maybe it is reasonable to believe that Irish living abroad care nothing for their family and friends that do have to live with the consequences of their vote? I don’t know, my assumption would be the opposite that if they care enough to vote then they care enough of the ones they left behind to vote responsibly.

One citizen, one vote should be the rule. Let the emigrants vote.

Kevin, jag kan inte se annat än att du har rätt. Om man tvivlar på att ens landsmän accepterar ansvar för sina val så är det rimligt att argumentera för att begränsa deras rättigheter (till valmöjligheter). Personligt ansvar & solidaritet verkar ha en annan betydelse bland gemene man i Irland jämfört med i skandinavien & baserat på det så kan man nog tycka att det är oansvarigt att låta vissa rösta…

Emigrants voting

As an emigrant who left Ireland for Canada in 1989 and who still has family and friends in Ireland and who owns property there, I have to agree with Sarah Carey that giving emigrants would be a mistake. As she says it allows voting without responsibility because you are insulated from the consequences of your vote. It also presents practical problems because of Ireland’s system of parliamentary representation. Why should I be allowed to vote in a constituency I last lived in almost 22 years ago? I suspect one reason that there is no fuss in the US about overseas voting (besides taxation) is that the numbers involved are small, 4 million as I understand it or 1.3% of the population. Native born Irish non-residents are at least 500,000 probably closer to 800,000. That’s close to 20% of the resident population. 1 vote in 6 could potentially be from a non-resident. Would a government party that got fewer home votes than another party but won because it got more overseas votes have a legitimacy problem? I think so.

@John Kehoe
One solution would be to allow votes for a set of senators from the diaspora? They couldn’t pick any worse people than the council-jobbers currently there…

Re. voting rights for emigrants:

The narrative of dissenters emigrating purely due to social pressures is an enduring feature of the country’s history from Wolfe Tone to James Joyce to Breakfast on Pluto. It’s a fundamental cause of the difference between Irish politics and that in other similar countries. We aspire to be a nation but act like a reactionary province. It would be healthy if emigrants were not only allowed a vote but were granted every assistance in doing so.

Re the vanguard party:

I should have said a vanguard party organised along Leninist lines instead of a Leninist vanguard party. I referred not to communism, but a particular form of political organisation.

Beyond noting this, I’ll just add a few crude notes:

* Al Qaeda is a typical vanguard party but it lacks the insights to make the programme work. For example it preferred action to the establishment of an organisation in the case of 9/11.
* An islamist vanguard succeeded in seizing control of the Iranian revolution of 1979 which was much more broad-based than the regime which eventually emerged.
* The existence of the INLA benefitted the IRA
* Organisations like the GWPF or the Heritage Foundation behave as vanguard parties did. Producing travesties of proper scholarship, they make respectable positions barely less extreme, pressurise moderates and distract opponents.
* Even when discrediting themselves, vanguard parties can add credibility to their political neighbours
* The entire Leninist cookbook and organisational manual need not always be used. In fact Lenin himself said the entire repertoire should seldom be employed.
* The entire programme of organisation, entryism, elitism, secrecy, professionalism, propaganda, fronting and agitation remains powerful if unwholesome.
* Practitioners claim the ends justify the means.

I can’t say I understand this fear of the emigrants.

What would be the worst possible outcome of emigrated Irish voting?

Jesper, that’s a great question – there’s some notion that emigrants are scary creatures who have cut all ties to Ireland and whose interest in maintaining the most basic right of citizenship can only be nefarious… Until, of course, they become sanitised as “the diaspora” (preferably a generation or two removed, and definitely rich), and then they are the “huge and willing resource” referred to by our Taoiseach at the launch of the Smart Economy document.

Sarah, the notion of “no representation without taxation” does not have at its heart a democratic impulse. Just because it ‘sounds like’ a genuinely democratic rallying cry, does not mean it is. Do you really believe that we should be brought back to pre-Enlightenment days, when only men of property could vote? Because that’s the logical conclusion: if you can’t pay, you get no say. Even if you look at how the slogan is used in an international context, it’s beloved by libertarians in the US and the UK who believe that net recipients of taxation should be disenfranchised; welfare recipients, politicians, and public servants should all lose their vote. Great company there.

And of course emigrants are affected by government policies: the most obvious example is the case of the reluctant emigrant who wants to come home, and will only be able to do so if the economy improves. Why should that person have no voice to determine his or her own future?

Also look at the Habitual Residence Condition – many emigrants have been adversely affected by this when they move home, even though the government had specifically stated that emigrants would not be affected by this when it was introduced back in 2005. A broken promise and those most affected by it – people who would like to come home but might need the carer’s allowance, for example – have no say.

Broadcasting policy is another example – the government promised that it would start transmitting tv to Irish emigrants in the UK by St Patrick’s Day 2009, after years of requests from the Irish community there. Another broken promise – no recourse. RTE also shut down its medium wave radio service in 2008, which adversely affected many elderly Irish in the UK – again, there was no effective means of protest.

Even on taxation, there are Irish people living abroad who are paying the non-primary residence tax on their homes in Ireland – some of these people would be on small incomes and have inherited the family home, so it’s not insignificant. Paying this tax doesn’t buy them any right to representation, neatly breaking that link you’re trying to establish.

There are also issues like diaspora funding, pensions, foreign policy, etc that affect the daily lives of the Irish abroad. But the Irish abroad are supposed to keep their mouths shut and their wallets open – because the new form of emigrant remittances are things like FDI, philanthropy, tourism, access to new markets. We’ve no end to the demands we put on our “huge and willing resource” – but god forbid any of them might actually like a say.

Nearly every developed country in the world lets its emigrants vote – and lots of the developing ones, too. Just about every country in Europe as well – Greece was the other holdout, and they’ve just lost a court case in the European Court of Human Rights. Emigrant voting rights has become a global democratic norm in the last few decades, and there’s no way Ireland can hold out forever. It’s shameful that we’re trying to.

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