Thursday, June 08, 2006

Davitt's disappointment

Michael D. Higgins believes that Michael Davitt would be none too pleased with the Celtic Tiger.
"If he were alive today, Davitt would have been thundering in his condemnations of the grasping people who are making massive profits in the property market, while thousands of young people cannot afford to buy a modest home," he said.
I'm sure he's right. Davitt was a committed socialist and, from what I can remember, not a believer in private property.

I read a biography of Davitt years ago. I can't recall who wrote it, but it was very good. I finished the book really admiring Davitt, although I wouldn't agree with his faith in the possibilities of the utopian socialist society he advocated. He was born dirt poor, left Ireland when his family was evicted, lost an arm in a workplace accident as a boy, took up arms against England, founded the land league and later agitated for greater social justice and even became something of an associate of Henry George.

Higgins is on pretty safe ground when he says that Davitt would be disappointed (disgusted) by modern Ireland. That doesn't mean that Davitt would be right, however. The socialist utopia proved very hard to achieve during the 20th century. It's entirely possible that if Davitt was alive today he'd be more disappointed in the failure of socialism than in Ireland's wealth.