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Whitaker, Lynch, and the finance attitude.

Whitaker, Lynch, and the finance attitude.

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An essay for the 2011 Undergraduate Awards Competition by Michael Dwyer. Originally submitted for History at University College Cork, with lecturer Dr. Andrew McCarthy in the category of Historical Studies
An essay for the 2011 Undergraduate Awards Competition by Michael Dwyer. Originally submitted for History at University College Cork, with lecturer Dr. Andrew McCarthy in the category of Historical Studies

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Published by: Undergraduate Awards on Aug 29, 2012
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11/17/2013

 
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Patrick Lynch, T. K. Whitakerand the Finance attitude
 
 2
In the autumn of 1954, T. K. Whitaker, a senior official in the Irish Department of Finance,addressed the Discussion Group of the Association of Higher Civil Servants with a speechentitled
The finance attitude
.
 
Whitakers speech was constructed to respond directly to a 1953article by the economist Patrick Lynch entitled
The economist and public policy
. Whitakeraddressed each point raised by Lynch and rejected them out of hand. However, by 1957, afterwitnessing the adverse affects of three more years of disastrous economic policy, Whitaker,then Secretary to the Department of Finance would be forced to commit a one hundred andeighty degree U turn on the opinions he expressed in 1954.
Patrick Lynch‟s
1953 article
The economist and public policy
discussed three issues; (i) Theeconomic and social functions of a modern government, (ii) The popular misconceptionsconcerning them, and (iii) The role of the public servants in discharging their social andeconomic responsibilities.
1
The basis of Lynch‟s argument
with regard to the functions of government
was „that there was a tendency towards enlarging the power of the state at thecost of individual freedom‟.
2
Lynch referred to the commentary of F. C. King, a Barrister atLaw, on the trend as he observed it in Ireland;
We have noted the growing power of the Executive in relation to Parliament, the Courts and the people.We have noted too a certain intolerance of any restraint on the executive power.
3
 
Lynch observed that there were many contemporary critics who labelled government functionas government intervention or indeed government interference. These critics highlighted thenegative aspects and abuses which had usurped functions from private interests, but failed totake into account the positive functions of a modern government.
4
Lynch highlighted the factthat some contemporary criticisms of state intervention were fully warranted. He stated that;
1
Patrick Lynch, The economist and public policy,
Studies,
Vol. 42, 1953, p.241.
2
Patrick Lynch, The economist and public policy,
Studies,
Vol. 42, 1953, p.241.
3
Patrick Lynch, The economist and public policy,
Studies,
Vol. 42, 1953, p.241.
4
Patrick Lynch, The economist and public policy,
Studies,
Vol. 42, 1953, p.242
 
 3
State activity which is capricious and arbitrary, which adversely effects incentives, risk-taking,business enterprise, is economically stultifying, not because it is state activity, but because it has notbeen properly designed for the conditions in which it operates, conditions that presuppose a favourableenvironment for the mechanisms of private enterprise.
5
 
Whitakers 1954 reply to Lynch,
The finance attitude,
stated that its concern was to;
...try to rationalise its [Department of Finance] behaviour, and to explain why we [the Department of Finance] take the line we do, what views or beliefs inform our actions, and what facts andconsideration lie behind our comments and criticisms.
6
 
Whitaker stated that he was not
concerned with the „wide, important and controversial‟
subject of how the Department of Finance exercised its functions, or about its virtues ordefects.
7
Whitaker acknowledged
that Lynch‟s account of state activity was
how theDepartment of Finance was viewed by other governmental departments. He conceded that his
Parliamentary colleagues regarded the Department of Finance as „the offending class‟. He
continued;
What [am I] going to say about the obstructionism of Finance, its inverted Micawberism, its slownessto see the merits of a case, its maddening questions, its dilatoriness, its blind devotion to precedent, the
“dead hand” with which it stifles every
initiative...?
8
 
Whitakers facetiousness addressed a long held view of the Department of Finance, a viewthat was instituted at the foundation of the Irish Free State. The Cosgrave led Cumann nanGaedheal government of the early Free State had inherited and retained a well organisedBritish model of civil service administration. Cosgrave, influenced by the Civil ServiceCommissioner C. J. Cregg, formerly of the Board of Inland Revenue, London, reorganisedgovernment under the Ministers and Secretaries Act 1924. The Act, defined the ministers anddepartments of Saorstat Eireann, and provided for the appointment of Parliamentarysecretaries.
9
Section two of the Act defined the role of the Department of Finance as follows;
The Department of Finance which shall comprise the administration and business generally of thepublic finance of Saorstát Eireann and all powers, duties and functions connected with the same,
5
Patrick Lynch, The economist and public policy,
Studies,
Vol. 42, 1953, p.245
6
T. K. Whitaker, The finance attitude,
 Administration
, Vol 2, No. 3 (1954), p.61
7
T. K. Whitaker, The finance attitude,
 Administration
, Vol 2, No. 3 (1954), p.61
8
T. K. Whitaker, The finance attitude,
 Administration
, Vol 2, No. 3 (1954), p.61
9
Ministers and Secretaries Act,
 Acts of the Oireachtas, No.16, 1924.
 

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