Conor McCabe – The Irish Bourgeoisie as Middleman — a case study of the IFSC

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This paper will explore the idea that the Irish bourgeoisie are best described as a comprador
class – that is, their power within the Irish State is drawn from their ability to act as
intermediaries between the resources of the State and the needs of foreign capital. It will
outline the historical development of the Irish bourgeoisie, the consolidation of middleman
capitalism as the dominant business strategy within the Irish State, and will take the IFSC as
a case study in the investment and profit-producing strategies of that comprador class.
The type of business activities which dominated the Irish economy in the twentieth century —
cattle exports to Britain and financial investment in London; the development of green-field
sites and the construction of factories and office buildings to facilitate foreign industrial and
commercial investment; the birth of the suburbs and subsequent housing booms predicated on
expanding urban workforce — saw the development of an indigenous moneyed class based
around cattle, construction and banking. These sectional interests were able to control
successive government policy, much to the detriment of the rest of the economy, which had
to rely on whatever scraps it could pick up from quasi-committed multinationals and
government-funded grants and tax breaks. In 2008 the construction and banking sectors of
that class closed ranks in order to protect themselves from oblivion, resulting in the bank
guarantee and the creation of the National Assets Management Agency.
Today, the IFSC and Ireland’s Corporation Tax rate are put forward as the best hope Ireland
has of removing itself from recession. In fact, both the IFSC and the corporation tax rate are
simply a continuation of the Irish bourgeoisie’s role as middlemen capitalists. The
continuation of Ireland’s tax haven status serves their interests alone. It stifles genuine growth
and investment, and offers short-term contracts, unemployment, poverty and emigration as
the future for the wider population. In other words, given Ireland’s history, it is business as
usual.

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