July 23, 2008

Crisis is an opportunity too valuable to squander

Posted in Banks · 35 comments ·
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This is the opportunity to push through reforms and market the entire programme as a necessary exercise in ‘tough love’

A crisis is a great opportunity that is far too valuable to be wasted. Some political genius must have said this — or words to that effect — at some stage. It appears like sound advice for our political top brass at the moment because, if we start with this basic proposition, we can begin to feel confident about the prospects for the country.

A crisis legitimises drastic moves. A crisis allows a leadership to move swiftly and ruthlessly. A crisis reveals where the problems lie. When our back is against the wall, initiatives can be executed on the basis that we have no alternative. This is, therefore, a rare political opportunity, and one that is not presented regularly.

A crisis should be embraced by our political leaders as a carte blanche to make concrete their vision for the economy and, by extension, the country.

The first lesson of political savvy must be to admit the crisis, tell the people it could get worse and crystallise what you are going to do about it.

However, this idea presupposes that our top politicians possess two, sometimes conflicting, attributes: vision and doubt.

Let’s deal with the vision thing first. Employing a crisis to re-engineer the economy assumes our public representatives know where they want to go and how to get there. This presumes that in all their years of fixing windows, running local elections on local issues, climbing their way to the top, making alliances and elbowing out competitors, our political leaders have also thought about what kind of country they would like to create. They have examined what is going on in the rest of the world, where best practice is evident and what we might be good at.

The second attribute is the ability to doubt, to dissent and to think past the slogans of recent years. Once politicians have the ability to doubt, they can question advice and explore new ideas. Arguably, you can’t have vision if you don’t have the capacity to doubt in the first place.

Right now, while there are many reasons, despite the bad news, to be confident about the world economy, we haven’t heard anything from Kildare Street that suggests our top brass know where to position Ireland for a global upswing. Granted, they have been fire-fighting and are probably exhausted. However, by continuing to accuse people of talking us into recession or suggesting malicious rumours have derailed the economy or, worse still, by mouthing platitudes like “Ireland’s fundamentals are strong”, our politicians are exposing themselves as headless chickens.

Quite apart from the fact that the rest of us realise all is not well and can’t have the wool pulled over our eyes economically, the idea that they can’t see a crisis as a political opportunity implies that even from the Machiavellian perspective of power, they are foundering.

The triumvirate of Brian Cowen, Brian Lenihan and Mary Coughlan don’t seem to realise how powerful their position is at the moment. This is the opportunity to push through reforms, obliterate their enemies and market the entire programme as a necessary exercise in ‘tough love’. If they were to come up with a long-term plan, we would go with them. If they decided that they needed to forge ahead with a radical agenda — based on sound economics and the national good — we’d all be relieved.

On every major issue, from taxation, government spending, immigration, relations with Europe, the US and the diaspora, and direct foreign investment, the triumvirate should be advised to seize the chance the downturn has given them.

When viewed from a bit of altitude, they have a political choice: either they can try to dictate events on their own terms or be carried along and, ultimately, drowned by them.

Unfortunately, instead of going it alone with muscular intent, they seem to be singing to someone else’s tune.

For example, in recent days they have trooped out the “fundamentals are sound” slogan again. As tax revenue collapses, unemployment rises and house prices, lending and retail sales slump, it is clear that the fundamentals — whatever they may be, because they change from day to day — are obviously not sound.

Listening to this blather is like hearing the chief executive of a company complain that his share price is falling because of malicious market rumours or the reckless use of short- selling by traders. Complaining won’t solve anything, but results will. The best way to defeat the cynics is by generating profits which is, in the long-term, the only outcome investors are interested in. To do this, the chief executive has to identify the company’s problems and sort them out.

The triumvirate needs to do the same thing and should realise that it is not in their political interest to underplay the crisis or in any way soften the message. At the moment, the group has been seduced by the fundamentalist school of economics.

Like the fundamentalist approach to Islam, the fundamentalist school of economics has always detested dissent. It functions via shibboleths.

The fundamentalist message and its mantra is a smokescreen for the banks, auctioneers and developers. Remember, these people are still trying to sell their outdated concoction of debt and houses. This is the “tent at the Galway races” brigade. They are not the vested interest that the triumvirate should be supporting because they represent yesterday’s tarnished status quo.

It’s time for the triumvirate to cut them loose. It’s time they accepted what the data are telling them: we are on the skids and a new plan has to be formulated based on export-led growth. But, most importantly, it’s time they revealed their political smarts and understand that we are behind them — we all want to see the country back on its feet.

No one expects the triumvirate — a pair of lawyers and a teacher — to have the economic savvy of John Maynard Keynes or Milton Freidman. However, we do expect them to realise that this crisis is far too valuable an opportunity to be wasted.


  1. paddy cullen

    i think ger should be credited with a lot of this article …

  2. Jim Hanly

    David,

    From your most recent article it sounds to me like you’ve either been reading
    “The Shock Doctrine” by Naomi Klein or that you’ve been a long time observer of
    the (neo) conservatives who see in peoples difficulty an opportunity for huge political and
    economic change for the advantage of the super-rich. I’m not sure however whether you’re proposing an Adam Smith “Markets are perfect”
    type approach or what. In many ways you’ve still to put your own views on what is required in terms of policy
    into the public arena. What exactly do you see as the critical steps that our politicians should be taking?

  3. Johnny Waldron

    You’re dead right Maccer. The tragedy is that FF don’t do the vision thing. This is the consequence of having too many TDs for our population. When compared to other democracies we top the league in elected officials, which anchors their focus on local issues. Our system guarantees that they can’t see the wood for the trees!

    It would be enormously difficult for our politicians to push through cuts in their own numbers. Just as turkeys will never vote for Christmas I do not expect such bravery from them, but it would be a very positive development if they at least capped current national numbers until our electoral population increased significantly.

  4. The housing bubble crisis is set to continue for many reasons.
    The refusal to reform stamp duty for purchasers of lower end houses- who are not first time buyers- is one reason.
    A young couple whom I know are living in an apartment in Dublin for some years and would dearly love to exchange it for a house where they would have the space and opportunity to rear a family.
    They could muster the second mortgage borrowings to purchase a 3 bedroom S/d (provided of course they found a market for their own property)
    However, on top of the additional mortgage (150,000 Euros) they would need to purchase a modestly priced house in on the northside of the city (525,000 Euros) the serious whammy for this couple people trying to survive on the average income (40,000 Euros P/A), is the extra borrowings they would need to pay the stamp duty.
    This would amount to a whopping 30,000 Euros.!!
    However if a well heeled first time buyer buys a house for 1 million Euros he pays no stamp duty.!
    With people like the current crop of politicos running the country-I see no end to this recession.
    For decades they have pursued inflationary policies as this led to increased taxes for the state. Mugabe-like they buy their way back into power with the citizens own ‘about to be devalued’ currency.
    They never learned that joining the Euro currency was an entirely new game- such was their fixation with the old tired policies that always worked (with a dash of devaluation now and then) before.
    I am just back from a holiday in Bavaria.The state are now urging not only the poor -but the middle classes to tighten their belts and shop in Lidl or Aldi.
    The same basket of groceries in the Irish Lidl will cost you about 40% less in their continental stores.!!
    This is not about a Lidl ‘rip-off’ in Ireland. It is about the cost of running an irish branch of their international operation.
    what hope is there.?

  5. Shane

    I would love to see proper reform of the public sector, but i don’t see it as a possibility. its a vicious circle created by a reckless group of politicians, the size of the public service is too large and politically powerful to be tackled by the very same groups that created them. also a huge number of politicians in this country (as opposed to USA etc…) have backgrounds in teaching etc and I’m sure they are loyal to their origins. Champions of the business world are rarely patriotic enough to enter the political arena and worryingly if they do we look on them with suspicion/jealously etc, something not quite right with ‘Irish Psyche’

  6. MK

    Hi David,

    > This is the opportunity to push through reforms and market the entire programme as a necessary exercise in ‘tough love’

    Tough Love wont be accepted by the people nor offerred to them until the vast majority of people are affected by the downturn. It is much too early days in the cycle for that. We are just past the tipping point so it will take some years before things drop off and become tangible for most people. The last place it will become tangible will be the public service as well.

    Changing the direction of an economy is a bit like turning an oil tanker which is going at 25 knots. Most economists would agree that our economy is one of the quickest turnings of an oil tanker/economy they have seen! Getting it back on track will be hard.

    You mention Vision and Politicians in the same sentience, an oxymoron if ever there was one! Alas, you know and I know that neither the triumvirate nor the club of 166 have any vision (as a collective). The system we have allowed to happen for politics in this country does not lead itself to visionaries, nor people that can implement them. A Ghandi here would have probably starved to death. Having said that, our politicians are not completely useless, but on a rainbow scale of brilliance to useless they are closer to the useless hue, and in our typical Irish level of quality, they are at the “ah sure, they will do” level. We get who we vote for. Blame the people, not the politicians.

    You mentioned the fundamentalist aspect and the “fundamentals are sound” tagline, which one of the posters here proferred. However, you shyed away from what the fundamentals of an economy should be. I think that is a worthwhile article. There is no doubting that our government debt at 20-25% (or whatever it is) is low and in good shape. That parameter at least is “sound”.

    Your article raises the good point that crisis is an opportunity – however, I dont expect the ‘vision’ challenge you have set will be taken up by the ‘political class’ with any vigour, not when there are potholes to be fixed and local issues to be dealt with. If only our Local Government representives (councillors) had powers in these areas rather than the tsars known as County Managers who have a job for life (they can self-appoint themselves, did you know that??). Then the local issues could be funnelled to councillors and only national issues dealt with at TD’s clinics. Okay, we will have to get rid of constituencies as well …. and no Minsters will be allowed to locate projects in their own back yard – even handedness is required. Will this happen? I aint holding my breath. Yes, I would like world poverty to be history too but I aint seen that moving much in the last 40 years or so.

    By the way, I have a question for you. Each year at budget time your thesis is that the government is (was?) a reducing part of the Irish economy and becoming less and less important and that it was a charade. Have you ever reconsidered how much the government CAN influence the economy at large? My thesis is that government is a big ‘control knob’ on the economy, huge in fact, and much more than what we could leverage with our own currency or whether we are in the euro project or not.

    Like them or loathe them, we have a political system and it is the major factor (whether by design or accident) that sets out what is happening in this country. Yes, sometimes/usually the country does well in spite of them, but we cant ignore them.

    Maybe some new party has a position as spokesman for Economics for you. Fancy the role? (I did say new party – this country needs another political revolution and a weeding out of the fathers/mothers/son/daughteres hereditary system which we take for granted with FF/FG and indeed Labour).

    MK

  7. David,

    You are absolutely right – and I hope the triumvirate make the most of this opportunity.

    I feel however you have ignored some important facts:

    The government has been investing heavily in our knowledge economy throughout the celtic tiger years. Look at the SFI investment in basic research, look at the work of Enterprise Ireland and the IDA all over the world on our behalf.

  8. John

    “Tough love” David and crisis intervention the experts know best etc. You mention Milton Freedman the king of the Chicago fundamentalist school of economics. He worked hand in glove with Pinochet to decimate the economy of Chile in their failed attempts to impose a pure free-market ideology. Unfortunately it took a dictatorial regime to implement it and countless dead bodies to fuel it. Jeffrey Sachs, that darling of the liberals camp did a similar hatchet job in Russia in the nineties leading to a collapse of the economy and the rise of the oligarchs, and Putin to boot. The current vogue in economics has gotten the international community into the mess it is in at present and I do not see how more of the same flawed paradigm can get us out. Ireland has to see itself as more than an economy or we really have lost our soul as a nation. We need to think smart and a system similar to Lichtenstein, Switzerland or Luxembourg is probably the way to go. We cannot compete with that bastion of free-market?? manufacturing China. History suggests that the policies of the Chicago school, Tathcerite, Regonomics are only truly sustainable in a dictatorship. They have a habit of creating dangerous levels of exuberance in a democracy which continually threaten to collapse the system unless extra helpings of corporate socialism are administered. A little bit of inflation goes a long way too to bail out the speculators. Nothing like disapearing debt and devaluing your purchasing power, a hidden tax perhaps?.
    So David what medicine are you talking about. There are many types but very few cure the vast majority of the populace. They tend to work very nicely for that genetically unique species, the “High Net Worth Individual”.

  9. Ciaran

    I think you’ve hit the hail on the head, Cowen et al don’t actually know what to do. Cowen has appointed a UCD economist to advise him but I suspect that’s more about long-term economic thinking.

    The Taoiseach should appoint you to the Seanad so that he can appoint someone qualified to be Minister for Finance and start tackling this country’s lack of competitiveness, first up the public sector and it’s waste and high wages.

  10. I wont deny his savvy, but I think Friedman’s vision was flawed.

  11. b

    The cost of running the Irish branch is part of it. The other part is the shipping element which wastes a lot of food before it gets to the shops and the cost of the ships and trucks plus unnecessarily wastage is passed on to the customer.

  12. Philip

    I think we are wasting time talking about vision. And not to be hard on Cowen and the lads, I think the rest of the world is no different. All countries in the developed world have in one way or the other the same rubbish to deal with in perhaps slightly different guises and there’s the David Macs there is throw the lens where it’s needed. As someone said above – Vision and Politics is oxymoronic and grasping the nettle from the current manure pile of the public sector sector, banks, developers is not something the triumvirate will be doing any time soon. The lowering price of oil will reinforce that.

    Those of you talking about fundamentals only need to look at the OECD and the humungous mountain of stats it has. There’s a million ways of looking at it. You can draw what you want from it. And while not denying the disaster of the HSE or our dodgy infrastructure etc. I do not think we can rely on the state to fix things. It’s everyone for him/herself – never rely on the state and take necessary evasive action now that you have most of the facts. Guess what? It’s the same in most other parts of the world.

    In the end, the best vision is your own. And perhaps, the best action from Government is no action. I have yet to see where government ever did anything without employing a mountain of expensive quangos to recommend the blatently obvious.

  13. Ger Kennedy

    Thanks Paddy. I eagerly await the royalty checks. :-)

    Now why do all the Irish builders go on holiday at the same time and clog up all the transportation systems? (Could one call Dublin Airport a “transportation system” I wonder?) Is this “Builders Holiday” some “fundamentalist” issue as well? Or is it just “mental”. Personally I think it is just mental.

    I agree with David that the “triumvirate” (great word by the way) just dont get it. They have been thinking that things are a bit bad but by the end of the year or at the latest middle of next year that it will be all “grand” again and everything will be rocking and rolling because the fundamentals (whatever they are) are so “sound”. Thats why they have had no vision. It has been very easy to govern for the past 10 or so years. Making money in Ireland was as easy as falling off a log. All you had to do was buy property and lets face it, it wasnt hard for just about anyone to get the money to do that. So it was easy to keep the masses and the public sector happy. Now comes the hard part but the current bunch cant see and dont want to see it coming. Its human nature I guess. They are probably sitting there on vacation saying “who moved the cheese?” It is probably beginning to dawn on them that we are not in Kansas any more. Kansas is a distant memory.

    Anyway, seeing as we have a construction industry (which was a major component of the Irish economy, 15% by some measures) falling off a cliff (along with related tax receipts and employment) a bloated over-priced public sector, no oil or gas in vast abundance, no great mineral wealth (ok a goldmine in Monaghan but it is hardly the Klondike), uncompetitive manufacturing (pharmaceuticals excuded), no great indigenous industries (besides agriculture anf food which has been made totally uncompetitive by handouts and babysitting from europe), infrastructure that many third-world countries would consider below par and one of the most expensive places in the world to live in and do business in, what are the fundamentals of the Irish economy? Not to mention the weather. Did I mention the weather?

    Have a nice day everyone

    Ger

  14. I find the use of a slogan remedy ‘tough love’ as a substitute for any solution which may come out of any economic analysis very disturbing. The idea of doing something, anything, as long as it is drastic is really not a good idea. Proposing such an idea is at best irresponsible and at worst dangerous and is reminiscent of the good old “hang’em, ban’em” culture.

  15. Johnny Dunne

    “fundamentals are sound” – if you have ‘doubt’ could you help work this out ?

    For starteres, where is the Irish economy getting the ‘cash’ to pay 2 million workers approx. €70 billion in pay ?

    GDP (€180 bn) = consumption (€50 bn) + investment (€50 bn) + government spending (€50 bn) + exports (€90 bn) − imports (€60 bn)

    These numbers are indicative – I’m sure someone can fill in the ‘right stats’?

    Why don’t the “triumvirate” call it as it is and focus all efforts on ‘sustainable’ exports? If not, the alternative is a lot more borrowings…..

  16. shtove

    Uuh, global upswing?

    How? Where? When?

  17. b

    The fundamentals they speak of are the small to medium sector.

    This sector the government piss all over at each and every opportunity.

    They could not find the fundamentals with a map and a neon sign pointing at them.

  18. “The triumvirate of Brian Cowen, Brian Lenihan and Mary Coughlan … – a pair of lawyers and a teacher”

    That would be a pair of lawyers and a social worker. The other Mary (Hanafin) is the teacher.

  19. Garry

    Is there anyone in the cabinet or even the dail who is not a public servant or from the closed shop professions?

  20. Biffo and Dermot Ahern were solicitors.
    Micheál Martin, Mary Harney, Mary Hanafin and Noel Dempsey were secondary school teachers.
    Mary Coughlan was a social worker.
    Brian Lenihan is a qualified barrister.
    Willie O’Dea is a qualified barrister and accountant.
    Bat O’Keeffe was a lecturer in Cork IT
    Brendan Smith was a handler for John Wilson before succeeding him as TD.
    Eamon O Cuiv was a manager of a local Co-op in the Galway Gaeltacht before entering politics.
    Martin Cullen was a wine salesman.

    According to Wiki, John Gormley “ran an academy of European languages”, presumably TEFL courses.
    Eamon Ryan’s departmental website says he “set up and ran two businesses, Irish Cycling Safaris and Belfield Bike shop.”

    That means only the Greens have actual entrepreneurial experience (though O Cuiv and Cullen at least worked in the private sector).

    Note that many of the above became TDs very early in life, and so only worked as teachers.lawyers/etc for a year or three before entering politics fulltime.

    I’ll leave it to someone else to go through the junior ministers.

  21. Philip

    Reality is that many MNCs and big companies globally are run by an upper echelon which have people of a similar profile. Law, Accountancy etc.

    Is it any wonder the whole world is in deep doo doo. The “grunt” of an economy are actually too busy running or working in real businesses. The “grunt” of public service are the ignored low to middle management doing most of the work. Makes you wonder why we have a government. As I said, you can forget about vision and woe betide us if these guys actually do anything drastic.

    Let events take their course and stick to your knitting. We are dealing with complete egotistical loonies – with no project management skills, no integrity. Just ignore them. Keep smiling at them and when out of sight, run!

  22. b

    I think that they are pretty good at getting their own pet projects done though.

    Hanifin spent 40k sending a revised biography of Dev to every school. Hopefully the paper will light well and get the school fires going because the government certainly aren’t going to help the schools in any meaningful way.

    Speaking of meaningless the Greens abandoned any principles they had on entering the Dail. Gormless has decreed that everything is non toxic.

  23. Garry

    Thanks Gerald, I’m sure they are all bright enough but their background is in working within boundaries given to them from on high (laws, school curriculum’s etc), not in actually creating anything; the exception being Eamon Ryan. That mix explains a lot of the petty bureaucracy thats been created in the last 10 years, none of them actually have to deal with it.

    I don’t think you have to be an entrepreneur or even a senior manager to be a minister but there really should be more of a mix there; someone with experience in exports; in the multinational sector; the agricultural sector; even the army etc.

  24. Philip

    Ruari Quinn was an architect , Prof James Dooge was a civil engineer, Garrett was an economist (and they are completely useless :)). Any more? To be fair, not a bad bunch.

  25. greg

    As ever the disaffected half of the nation will be forced to emigrate and this will reduce the amount of money spent on social welfare and allow taxes and consequently the standard of living of the remainder of the population to be highly agreeable.FF Off the hook again.Normal service resumed!.

  26. b

    I don’t think that installing “senior” managers anywhere achieves very much. Most can’t dress themselves in the morning and it is a national emergency when they get a paper jam. I find that managers tend to mess up things more than they solve things. They are great at looking good but any deviation from their little plans knocks them offline. They are also as likely as a unicorn to be in or have ever been where the work happens.

    How I get things done when I have the misfortune to come up against management incompetence/interference is to find a smart, clued in employee who works at the coal face to help me out and bypass management as much as possible.

    Next step is to try and steal that person away to work with me.

    I think that the shower of politicians and “visionaries” are depriving quite a number of our towns and villages of their idiots. Glad to see that Drumcondra got theirs back.

    Yes I am cynical after shouting “Iceberg” and having been driven squarely into the said lump of ice. By friends of people in high places.

  27. shtove

    Let’s broaden the sample – Hank Paulson was a master of the universe, now US treasury secretary.

    Please look at this and say what you think of him (2:09):

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BFDlOzJGriI&feature=related

    OMG!

  28. Paul

    “I don’t think that installing “senior” managers anywhere achieves very much. Most can’t dress themselves in the morning and it is a national emergency when they get a paper jam. I find that managers tend to mess up things more than they solve things. They are great at looking good but any deviation from their little plans knocks them offline. They are also as likely as a unicorn to be in or have ever been where the work happens.”

    Hahaha it is funny because its true, I know managers who were put in top positions (I wont name the company), to keep them from messing things up, to keep them out of the way, and in some office where they can’t break anything. (the reason they were not sacked is because thet know the right people).

    I am afraid if you are all waiting for things to change in this country, you are wasting your time. We are like Africa, Tribal politics, everyone looking out for their own, no one looking at the big picture, or looking out for the future of the whole nation. It is only now nearly 20 years later, that I finally understand what that guy in the Commitments was talking about, he should have said “we are the Africans of Europe”.

  29. MK

    Hi again David,

    Here’s more food for thought. One of the ideas that you regularly put out is that Ireland should replicate to some degree what they do in Silicon Valley. However, even if we had a succesful economy with export sectors doing well, etc, it still wouldnt prevent property/asset bubbles from occuring. Indeed, Silicon Valley is not immune to the human-fraility that is the tulip bubble, the south sea shares bubble, US Market 1930′s bubble and the litany of property bubbles from Japan 1989 to Ireland 2007. There are a high number of foreclosures in the San Fran area where many Silcon Valleyers live, as seen here: http://money.cnn.com/2008/07/25/real_estate/foreclosure_figures_up_again/
    So they may be earning on the one hand yet they may be losing their properties if they have over-extended themselves in terms of property. It happens.

    The challenge for us as a country is to learn from our crisis, and other crises, learn how to mitigate against future bubbles of any kind, whether shares, property, or whatever ponzi-like system that is happening. To prevent “Paddy Lasts” from occuring, to prevent people from damaging themselves. As mentioned, the TD’s of this country wont be putting forward any visions very soon. That needs to come from commentators like yourself. So more than just playing with an idea, such as the potential to leave the euro, but a concrete set of steps. Perhaps if a clear set of tangible steps is set out, if a vision is laid out and is made ‘obvious to the plain people of Ireland’, our leaders will be able to take it up as if they thought of it themselves. Of course many will suggest getting a group of experts together and producing a blueprint, but we already have many of those with competitive councils, etc.

    There are no easy answers, and indeed there are many vested interests that would be against any vision being implemented even if it just hints at giving them a potentially scintilla of potential pain or indeed effort! A potential ‘exercise/homework’ for your readers! I think that it is possible to write out what we need to do, but getting there and getting the people to implement it is another story. Turkeys do not vote for Xmas is a very valid analogy.

    MK

  30. Malcolm McClure

    The ‘Democracy’ model is now tarnished throughout the world. Even George W Bush, in one of the few sensible statements he ever made, said something to the effect that ‘Democracy only works for ‘white, Anglo-Saxon Methodists’. This bears thinking about, as that species is as scarce as hen’s teeth in this country.
    In actuality Ireland has always been a tribal society with its thoughts centered on local issues. Thus the politicians we get reflect those concerns.
    As Jim Henley said, David tends to shy away from offering his own solutions. He says that something radical is required, then leaves it to his worthy respondents to make their suggestions, so here’s my 2 cents worth:
    Ireland should reform as a federation of counties or cantons, with a small central government to liaise with the EC, which (EC) would be responsible for external affairs, defense, and communications. Health and education would be handled at the county level, paid for by county income tax and county VAT. The County manager would become an elected Governor responsible for delivering all local services.
    Radical suggestion, I know, but at least people would know where their taxes were being spent.

  31. Philip

    We should recognise that anarchy is at play here – that in my opinion is good for a society in general. As a culture (and this probably applies to a lot of the developed world as well) we really do not need governmental structures running our day to day lives. Nanny societies/ PC/ Totalitarianism etc are to be avoided along with all their Visions (aka Delusions). The Dail’s purpose is to put dangerous people in high office under the straitjacket of the public service. Recognise that and stand back. It may be that what we have actually does work. The last thing we want is an overly efficient governmental system that would have you filling out forms for every aspect of you life and for the rest of it.

    I think we need to loose this idea that Ireland is uniquely bad in terms of how it is approaching economic development. Pick any country and the issues there are just as insurmountable. The facts: we are small and an island. Leveraging/ mitigating issues surrounding this is the purpose of a reasonably sane society (note: I did not say ordered society). Stay sane everyone.

  32. b

    The absolute, number one, fundamental thing here is that we NEVER learn.

    We do the same thing over and over and expect to get a new answer.

    We tolerate politicians and graft like lambs are resigned to the slaughter. If you are enslaved by debt you can say jack shit about anything. We believe we can do nothing (try not voting for the loser) and we just do what we always do by going around it.

    If you want better service in a shop you walk out and find somewhere else. Tesco have had many an abandoned basket from me at their automatic tills when they accuse me of having unauthorised items. We need to be willing to stand up and take our business elsewhere when we need better service and not just sit there like mugs and take whatever we are given. Be it managers, politicians or supermarkets.

    These people take our time and waste it. We don’t have to stand for it. Unless we have enslaved ourselves to them through debt which I think many people have.

  33. bryan

    “However, on top of the additional mortgage (150,000 Euros) they would need to purchase a modestly priced house in on the northside of the city (525,000 Euros) the serious whammy for this couple people trying to survive on the average income (40,000 Euros P/A), is the extra borrowings they would need to pay the stamp duty.
    This would amount to a whopping 30,000 Euros.!!”

    Not sure why it is considered sensible, or possible, for a couple on 40K to buy a house for 525K, or why the (supposed) 30K makes any difference. That is crazy money, and boom type talk. And of course, a house that can be sold for 525K with stamp dutyis worth 555K id stamp duty is removed.

    The thing I notice about this board is the nonsense about the gubmint, from supposed free marketeers too. The problem with the economy, now, was caused by the population – not the gubmint. If you bought an overpriced house I would have told you you were an idiot two-three years ago ( and I earn far more than this couple). And because of idiots who dont understand economics ( like the illiterate nonsense about stamp duty where cowen was right to resist pressure to reform) I will have to wait another two years to buy, not because I cant now, but because I dont want negative equity of the sort I anticipate in the next two years.

    The problem is not with gubmint, or Irish tribalism, but Irish people ( who are no different in this to other peoples – like San Franciscans etc.)

  34. Ah Tough Love policies , we are all getting worked up over nothing ( I blame the weather !). If there was a crisis and folk having to take pay cuts while other un knowledgeable workers ( builders ) are been laid off , would our elected representative’s have taken their eleven week Holiday ? . .. Of Course they wouldn’t , Biffo and his merry gang will be back at their seats , when our Indian Summer lands here !
    And sure aren’t lidl doing great deals on power tools too, so if you have no job next week , you can put up those shelves your self , instead of been rode by the Galway Brigade who have left the tent this wet July

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