Ireland was the big winner from the fall of the Berlin Wall

Ireland was the big winner from the fall of the Berlin Wall

Thirty years ago today the Berlin Wall fell. At the time it was widely thought that the main economic beneficiaries of the collapse of communism would be the former Soviet satellite states of eastern Europe, suddenly liberated from the stultifying grip of Marxism-Leninism.

This was particularly the case for countries such as Czechoslovakia and Hungary, which had impressive manufacturing bases before the second World War. The theory at the time was that educated and technically able communist workforces would embrace capitalism, attracting western investment due to relatively low wages, thus propelling those countries upwards.

However, the country that benefited most from the end of the cold war was one that had been neutral, poor and peripheral to the major conflict of the 20th century. That country was Ireland.

Burger King, Irish farmers and the end of meat

Burger King, Irish farmers and the end of meat

Are we witnessing the beginning of the end of meat? Will future generations regard our habit of using an animal’s digestive system to turn vegetable protein from grass into living body parts, and ultimately slaughtering that animal in order to ingest what was the original vegetable protein, as not only barbaric but idiotic?

I say idiotic because, already, science can replicate meat using plant-based proteins.

Burger King this week announced it will be selling two plant-based burgers at its burger joints all over Europe. The Rebel Whopper and the Rebel Chicken King are already available in Sweden and are soon to be “rolled out” across Europe. When Burger King – hardly a cutting-edge player in changing dietary tastes – embraces synthetic meat, you know something significant is afoot.

Pessimism is the enemy of entrepreneurial creativity

Pessimism is the enemy of entrepreneurial creativity

This week an American survey ranked Ireland as the eighth most entrepreneurial society in the world. This is an essential characteristic if we are to maintain our relatively high standards of living.

In economics, not enough attention is paid to this cussed, sometimes unreasonable creature, the entrepreneur. Without the relentless pursuit of new business, an economy will stagnate, and without economic growth, tax revenue dries up, resulting in less money to fix social problems. A healthy economy is a risk-taking economy.

Over 70 per cent of Irish people are employed in small domestic companies. This is higher than the EU average. More than half of all Irish people are employed in small or micro companies that employ under 49 people.

The economics I learned are now wrong

The economics I learned are now wrong

What if everything you know is wrong? Imagine what it would be like, had you devoted your professional life to a discipline governed by reasonably predictable rules, only to find out, 25 years later that the rules no longer applied?

Spare a thought for the traditional macroeconomist, who has seen this happen. But the changing economic rules also affect your pay packet, and not in a good way.

For most of the past century, the world’s policymakers have been on the alert for inflation. The 19th century was an era of practically zero inflation, whereas the 20th century, in economic terms, was a period characterised by inflation. This was most notable during the 1920s in Germany and Austria, the 1970s in the United Kingdom, and the late-1960s to early-1980s in the United States.

If Cork can’t succeed economically, Ireland will regress

If Cork can’t succeed economically, Ireland will regress

If you happen to be a Jackeen relation of a large Cork family, we might get together and form a self-help group. Given the amount of inter-cousin abuse I’ve had to endure over the years, it’s tempting.

Being a semi-detached, arms-length Corkonian comes with its burdens but they are but nothing compared with those carried by the Leesiders themselves, who combine fragile victimhood with muscular self-regard. But putting the inter-city rivalry aside, one thing is clear to me: if Cork doesn’t succeed economically in the years ahead, Ireland will also go backwards.

Cork is the litmus test when it comes to Ireland’s ambition to lift the burden of development from Dublin’s shoulders. If Cork can’t do it, nowhere can. The development of Cork won’t come at the expense of other cities such as Limerick or Galway, but will be complementary, and is vital for spatially balanced growth in the country.

Wealth tax for Irish ultra-rich makes sense

Wealth tax for Irish ultra-rich makes sense

Have you ever wondered why the windows of the Bank of Ireland on College Green in Dublin are bricked up? It is because of the imposition of a wealth tax, called the “window tax”.

Ireland, the UK, Holland, parts of northern France – unlike the Mediterranean – are starved of natural light at certain times of year. In the pre-electricity era, light was a luxury in these countries.

The urban poor lived in a dark world of gloomy, window-less hovels, while the rich who wanted to live in the brightest rooms possible, built magnificent ceiling to floor windows to let in the light . Georgian sash windows attest to class difference; the poor lived in the shadows and the rich lived luminously.