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Postcards from the Economic Abyss: What Ireland and Iceland Can Teach Us About Tea Parties, Big Societies and Small Government

Eoin Carolan

This paper considers whether there are lessons for advocates of the Tea Party or Big Society from the governance failures that occurred in recent years in Ireland and Iceland. Both of these movements call for the removal of power from central government to lower local- or state-level units. The basic premise of this strategy appears to be that shifting power from the centre to units that are closer to 'the people' will make government better or more responsive. Ireland and Iceland both have systems with unusually high degrees of proximity between the electorate and government. Yet they have also suffered serious governance failures. This paper considers whether the Irish and Icelandic experiences suggest that proximate systems of government may be prone to particular forms of policy dysfunction. This paper was presented at the Harvard-Stanford Junior International Faculty Forum in November 2011.

UCD Working Papers in Law, Criminology & Socio-Legal Studies Research Paper No. 03/2012

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