David Farrell (December 20, 2010)
Political systems are very sticky. It takes a lot to uproot and alter them. This is why very few of the world’s established democracies have experienced the sort of radical reform that websites like this are calling for Ireland. The fact is that political systems are hard to change: once established the norm is to prefer the status quo.
There are instances of major change in established democracies, but they’re rare enough: France’s Fifth Republic; Italy’s reforms at the start of the 1990s; New Zealand’s new electoral system also in the early 1990s, and so on. It would be wrong to suggest that political change is common, easy to produce, or, indeed, always successful.
But it can and does happen. And what we know from previous experience is that one vitally important ingredient for change is a major political shock: a large-scale crisis that causes citizens to question the very institutions of state. The more cataclysmic the event the greater the impetus for change.
Could what we are currently going through be more cataclysmic?