The political impact of the Great Recession

Dan O’Brien has an optimistic piece in today’s IT on why the political effects of the crisis have not been as noxious as the impact of the Great Depression. He lists three reasons: incomes have declined, but from a much higher base; there are no credible political alternatives, such as were offered by communism and fascism in the 1930s; and we are more tolerant and less nationalistic today.

I am surprised that he doesn’t mention a rather obvious fourth candidate: the size of the economic collapse has been much less this time around (except in a few unimportant countries such as our own). The duration has been shorter, also, and I think that is very important: after 1929 some economies continued to contract until 1932 or 1933. And this crucial difference is due to different policy responses:  much more aggressive monetary policies, fiscal stimuli, and much more important automatic stabilisers.

The extent to which Europeans have become more tolerant can be exaggerated. In 1928, the Nazis only got 2.6% of the German vote. Contrast this to the 13.9% received by the anti-immigration Dansk Folkeparti in 2007, before our crisis started, or the 5.9% achieved by Geert Wilders’ revolting party in 2006. Since 2008, the political extremes have benefitted, just as Hitler did (the Nazis’ share of the vote jumped to 18.3% in 1930).  Wilders’ party received 15.5% of the vote in 2010, while the terrifying Jobbik got 16.7% of the vote in the first round in Hungary. Sarkozy has been actively courting the xenophobic vote in France this summer. There are probably a few other examples around which people could point to.

Severe recessions can still bring out the worst in people, it seeems.

35 thoughts on “The political impact of the Great Recession”

  1. Ye banker dudes really crack me up.
    If De Gaulle was running around today your propoganda would successfully label him a fascist or maybe even a communist -ha ha ha – back to the drawing board I guess.

  2. @ K O’R,

    For me, the worrying part is that without the crash of 2008 imposed on us in Ireland, we would have continued on in some form of denial for at least another decade. That is, until the wheels had come off the wagon completely. I heard many folk in Dublin as recently as 2008, boasting about the fact they knew people who knew Bertie Ahern. That they had the right connections, and that we had our own very efficient way of sorting out matters here in Ireland. It is funny, the same people in late 2008 and 2009, were saying something completely the opposite. The same Dubliners were saying that Bertie Ahern was not well liked amongst natives of the city – and furthermore, they don’t know who voted for him, to even elect him in the first place. You see my point? I shows you something about human nature, and how people can turn on a sixpence, to re-formulate a story which is most convenient for them, at any given time. The only professionals I know, who would be exposed to this facet of human nature on a daily basis, and therefore aware of it, are police personnel and school teachers who have to ask kids for their homework.

    We all sounds so knowledgeable nowadays about who, why, where and when it all went wrong. We all seem to know who to blame, and why to blame. The stark reality for Ireland is, that without an un-expected crash being imposed upon ourselves from externally, we the Irish are not capable of reforming from within. We have become expert at creating excuses to rationalise our own inactivity on any progressive front. We are content to stay in that equilibrium for good. And that is fine. But there is a cost to bear for that, and the international markets aren’t worried about our ability or otherwise to pay for the bank bailouts, or balance the fiscal account book. The international markets don’t care about that. What the international markets have seen through, is the contrivance that Irish is able to change, or wants to change. That cat is out of the bag, and it is going to be a lot more expensive in the long term for Ireland, than any bank bailout or state financial deficit. So we can relax and enjoy the remainder of the great recession in Ireland – because you know what, we have already clocked up a huge tab, which the markets will extract from Ireland over the course of the coming decades – based on our diminished credibility. I think that was the point that Niamh Brennan and others tried to highlight in opinion columns in the newspapers over the last couple of years. BOH.

    http://designcomment.blogspot.com/2010/08/free-will.html

  3. Gary Burtless of the Brookings Instution in an assessment of the Obama stimulus, summed up the contrast in the US:

    The National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER), which is in the business of dating recessions, estimates that after reaching a cyclical peak in August 1929, the US economy shrank for the next 43 months, by far the longest period of uninterrupted economic decline in the twentieth century. In the 10 downturns since World War II, excluding the most recent one, the average recession lasted just 10 months. Even the longest post-war recessions, in 1973–1975 and 1981–1982, lasted only 16 months.

    Burtless says the NBER has dated the onset of the recession (December 2007) but has not yet determined its end date. The recession will not last 43 months, however. The economy began to grow again in the summer of 2009, and the unemployment rate started to decline late in the same year, less than 24 months after the recession began. Real GDP probably fell less than 5% from its previous peak. The number of private payroll jobs began to increase in the first quarter of 2010. The peak unemployment rate will almost certainly be less than 10.5%, far below the peak unemployment rate attained in the 1930s and somewhat below the peak unemployment rate hit during the 1981–1982 recession.

    http://www.finfacts.ie/irishfinancenews/article_1020400.shtml

    It took the Dow until 1954 to reach its 1929 high.

  4. Yes, the demons continue to exist, but their efficacy in this age is much reduced. The ’30s provided the first real test of the relatively recent introduction of universal suffrage and the extreme right proved adept at physchologically moulding underemployed and unemployed young men. Today you’d find it difficult to extract them from their Xboxs, allegiance to football and the wide range of other pursuits that occupy them.

    Throughout most of the EU the centre-right and the centre-left differ little in their adherence to cohesion and solidarity.

    And even if the extremes inveigle themselves into government at the local, regional or national level, constitutional safeguards are sufficiently strong to prevent coups and their incompetence and inability to deal with the hard, boring grind of governance is rapidly revealed and voters quickly evict them.

  5. @Paul
    Come on Paul you can do better then that – the centre left exists to get people comfortable with high debt levels , when this becomes unsustainable the “conservatives” come in to give the population a dose of austerity.
    Of course in a debt based system the wealth can only be transferred – it cannot be destroyed.
    This is the reason why bankers love this stability – it concentrates their wealth.
    In a stagnant pond the scum always rises to the top – blocking the light and starving the ecosystem of oxygen.

  6. Dan O’Brien said,

    In the northeast, the three Baltic states suffered even more severe economic collapses than Ireland, and from a lower base. To make matters worse, they have much shorter democratic traditions and much deeper social divisions, with large, resented ethnic Russian populations, most of whom were planted by the Soviets and who are so unintegrated that in many cases they do not speak the local Baltic languages.

    I can’t resist an expanding on Dan’s paragraph above. Apologises.

    This reminds me of the island of Malta, which I learned a little bit about. It gained its independence in the 1960s from Britain. The island of Malta was apparently the most bombed place on earth during WWII according to psychologist Edward De Bono. Therefore, it must have been a very strategic foothold in the post war years. Half of the population are second generation British, and the island is bilingual. The natives adopted the English language for much everyday use. But visa versa, many of the English decendents on Malta have a good command of the Maltese language. However, the ‘real’ natives of Malta have a habit, when they don’t want the others to understand them, of talking in the deep native tongue, which is still a bit imperceptible to folk who didn’t speak it all the time growing up – I.e. second and third generation British decedents.

    Another interesting facet of that situation, was many native born Maltese emigrated to the UK to find work and train in professions pre-1960s, and when they returned had difficulty obtaining passports to become Maltese passport holders. Which you needed to build a home on the island. BOH.

  7. Also, I might as well add. The above was even further complicated by the fact that movement of finance in the Maltese currency was restricted greatly by the government. It led to a situation, whereby people (both native and second generation) held much of their savings in UK banks, and as little as possible in Maltese currency. I assume this is the same in the Baltic states today, although, having the Euro currency must make things much easier for the newer states. I also assume the reason why the Soviets needed the Baltic states, was the same reason the British held onto Malta for so long. Access to important ports, shipping and trade routes. BOH.

  8. K O’R,

    I agree, the most crucial difference is indeed the workings of the automatic stabilisers, which softened the depth of the downturn and limited its duration.

    So, overwhelmingly, in global terms the Great Recession was the Great Investment Collapse, not the Great Consumption Collapse. In the OECD as a whole, the decline in personal consumption was less than a quarter of the decline of GFCF.

    http://ablog.typepad.com/key_trends_in_the_world_e/2010/06/the-great-recession-is-actually-the-great-investment-collapse—by-john-ross-li-hongke-and-xu-xi-chi.html

    In Keynes’ General Theory he talks about falling employment and falling demand almost as if they are synonomous. Because, absent a welfare state, they were virtually synonymous. In most countries, and in the OECD as a whole consumer demand held up relatively well partly because of the direct effects of automatic transfers as well their indrect effects on confidence.

    However, government plicyin Ireland was not to let the automatic stablisers operate. Welfare payments were cut and pay frozen, and bloodcurdling pronouncements were made about the depth of the crisis and how much pain would be required.

    The upshot is a level of personal consumption which in Q1 was approximately 15% below its peak level, and over €15bn lower (annualised). Of course, this is not so pronounced as the decline in Irish GFCF of 60%, and nearly €32bn. But a €15 decline in personal consumption (slightly larger than all fiscal austerity measures to date) has both an enormous direct and indirect negative impact on the economy.

    So the ratio of declining personal consumption to investment in Ireland was approximately double that of the OECD as a whole, 1:2 versus 1:4. Because the automatic stabilisers were not allowed to operate.

  9. Please consider the following factors that may have contributed to the relative apathy of resident populations vs. the 1930’s experience:
    1. The large size of the government sectors as a % of economies.
    2. The welfare state apparatus.
    3. The access to credit by the private sector.
    This time is different but not likely better. The current tax regime cannot continue to fund 1 and 2 while also funding a stop-loss on 3. And this goes for the US as well.

  10. @KOR

    While the nazis may have had a small share of the vote before 1929 the right wing DNVP had a substantial share.

  11. I do think we should distinguish between far-right politicians and Fascists, though we shouldn’t be complacent. Fascism has a specific ideology (though in practice was serve the will of the leader).

    Though the fall of democracy is linked in our minds with the Great Depression, is there really a causal link?

    Mussolini came to power in the 1920s.
    Romania remained democratic until it was truncated by Hungary and USSR.
    Portugal had its coup in 1926.
    Poland had its coup in 1926.
    Bulgaria authoritarian after WW1.

    Surely the unresolved issues caused by WW1 is a better explanation?

    However, I’m more than happy to leave that question rest with the historians (and perhaps economic historians).

  12. No question that Hitler’s ascent to power was directly caused by the Great Depression, and thus by the catastrophic policies followed after 1929. Loads of empirical evidence by political scientists of various sorts confirms this.

  13. Coming into the downturn, the share of after tax personal income (personal income minus taxes on personal income and wealth) going to expenditure on goods and services was exceptionally high, at about 96% in 2006 and 2007, compared with an average of about 91% between 1970 and 2008. (This is based on National Accounts data.) If the fall in consumer spending had been influenced heavily by confidence, then I think one would expect to have seen a sharp fall in the share of personal after tax income being spent on goods and services, bringing it below the long term average.

    In 2008, there was only a marginal fall in this, to just below 95%. The full data on personal incomes have not yet been released for 2009, but based on the components that have been released it looks to me to be unlikely that any further fall reduced the share of after tax personal income being spent on goods and services sufficiently to bring it close to normal, let alone below the long term average.

    Based on this, it seems to me that the fall in consumer expenditure is overwhelmingly a function of reduced after tax incomes, with just a modest additional contribution from spending moving gradually back in line with long term patterns.

  14. KOR,
    Your point about the scale of the collapse is spot on and in many ways renders the rest O’Brien’s comparison meaningless.

    There is an order of mangitude in the difference between the scale of the collapse now and that of the Great Depression. O’Brien mentions the welfare states which now (especially in Europe) provide a bottom for those worst effected. We have certainly seen our welfare state in Ireland come under strain as a result of the recent slump in output, but in general it seems set to survive – as did say the Finish welfare state after their big slump in the 90s. One wonders however, how different this picture would look if the current collapse were as calamatous as that of 1929 and the early 30s in the US (and Britain and Germany). It seems to me that such a chronic shock might well tear very large holes in the fabric of the welfare state.

    Having said that, government involvement in the economy (as a share of GDP) is now probably four or five times bigger than it was in the first third of last century – in all developed countries. Therefore goverments have more leverage over their economies, or at least heavy government involvement contains a momentum that absorbs shock better than the diverse, and more short-term and nervous private sector.

  15. KOR,
    I would say that the Great Depression was necessary to Hitlers rise – but not sufficient. The terms of the treaty of Versailles where Germany was heavily punished and humiliated were another key factor.

  16. “Such a spectacle appalls mankind; and a knell rang in the ears of the victors, even in their hour of triumph.” – – Winston Churchill, 1927.

    The treaty includes no provisions for the economic rehabilitation of Europe — nothing to make the defeated Central empires into good neighbours, nothing to stabilise the new states of Europe, nothing to reclaim Russia; nor does it promote in any way a compact of economic solidarity amongst the Allies themselves; no arrangement was reached at Paris for restoring the disordered finances of France and Italy, or to adjust the systems of the Old World and the New.

    The Council of Four paid no attention to these issues, being preoccupied with others — Clemenceau to crush the economic life of his enemy, Lloyd George to do a deal and bring home something which would pass muster for a week, the President to do nothing that was not just and right. It is an extraordinary fact that the fundamental economic problem of a Europe starving and disintegrating before their eyes, was the one question in which it was impossible to arouse the interest of the Four. Reparation was their main excursion into the economic field, and they settled it as a problem of theology, of politics, of electoral chicane, from every point of view except that of the economic future of the states whose destiny they were handling. – – J.M. Keynes, Economic Consequences of the Peace, 1919.

    Herbert Hoover’s view that the roots of the Depression were sown in Versailles, appears to be the accepted one today.

    Keynes wrote in his Economic Consequences of the Peace: “Mr Hoover was the only man who emerged from the ordeal of Paris with an enhanced reputation. This complex personality with his habitual air of a weary Titan, his eyes starely fixed on the true and essential facts of the European situation, imported into the councils of Paris, when he took part in them, precisely that atmosphere of reality, knowledge, magnanimity and disinterestedness which, if they had been found in other quarters also, would have given us the Good Peace…. “

    And so the man was was credited with saving Europe from starvation, would be destined to be forever linked to economic failure and assemblages of human misery in his own country.

  17. @Kevin O’Rourke
    “No question that Hitler’s ascent to power was directly caused by the Great Depression, and thus by the catastrophic policies followed after 1929. Loads of empirical evidence by political scientists of various sorts confirms this.”
    Um, beg to differ. There are plenty of questions about this.

    By 1929 many of the elements for a fascist state in Germany were in place. The SA, the Nazi party, anti-communism, anti-semitism, unsatisfied territorial ambitions from WWI etc. What the Great Depression did was permit the Nazi party to assume power by legal rather than illegal means.

  18. Tomaltach says,

    Having said that, government involvement in the economy (as a share of GDP) is now probably four or five times bigger than it was in the first third of last century – in all developed countries. Therefore goverments have more leverage over their economies, or at least heavy government involvement contains a momentum that absorbs shock better than the diverse, and more short-term and nervous private sector.

    Good point, and contrast that to what central banks can do in the middle of a crisis. I read Alan Greenspan writing not so long ago, of the fact, that monetary policy has relatively little influence – in terms of its impact in 2008 during the midst of the collapse. I forget the figures again, but he referred to how small a lever he had to move, in dollar terms, relative to the scale of money involved in the markets. I explanation of this is atrocious I know, but perhaps someone could word this slightly better for me, or grab that paragraph or two where Greenspan talks about how little impact central banks could have. BOH.

  19. hoganmahew says:

    By 1929 many of the elements for a fascist state in Germany were in place. The SA, the Nazi party, anti-communism, anti-semitism, unsatisfied territorial ambitions from WWI etc. What the Great Depression did was permit the Nazi party to assume power by legal rather than illegal means.

    Excellent comment. I think this has relevance to today’s situation also. In other words, you take the event of the second world war out of the picture, and you are still left with a large amount which cannot easily be explained by the crash of ’29. In a similar way, our perception of the crash of 2008 is coloured unfortunately, by the crash of 2008. The most difficult part in attempting to understand the Great Recession, is how to analyse it, without the crash of 2008 over-powering the entire analysis.

    Indeed, I would argue, it is quite convenient today to have the crash of 2008, because it enables us today to go about our business, and not deal with many issues that existed prior to 2008. You tend to hear comments like, lets not rock the boat at the moment. Lets not push things too far now, until we get back to normal. As if, pre-2008 was in some way, the normality we should attempt to regain. I tried to investigate that vein in a blog entry I penned recently, which I entitled House of cards. BOH.

    http://designcomment.blogspot.com/2010/08/house-of-cards.html

  20. The 1934 -1941 economic regression in the US was a consumer problem – people just could not consume beyond their basics. Our economic regression is a debt problem – we have committed our future incomes to paying off our past (and present) consumption. Since there is some questions hovering over our future income levels we have to reduce our current consumption.

    Now the nasty part of this is that we have simultaneously, a slow, creeping, barely visible, subtle, increase in prices. So, an increasing proportion of our incomes are going to be spent on necessaries. Growth, as we understand it, will not resume. We will ‘flatline’.

    When the next energy shock arrives, we will go into a steady economic decline. We have never actually exited from the 2000-2002 downturn. The massive expansion of credit (and accompanying debt) has masked the lack of real economic growth. We have experienced virtual growth instead.

    We need a replacement (economic + political) model.

    B Peter

  21. @ BW,

    We need to get our sequence of arguments correct here. We are facing a difficult task to create growth in Ireland, because the markets simply don’t trust us anymore. One of the best things about Green policies in my view, is that it presents some kind of plan. Any kind of plan. I disagree with this idea, we should pursue green policies to avoid the economic fall out from an energy shock. I believe, if we are to pursue green policies, it will restore some confidence in ourselves, and in how others view us. I down believe the markets are worried because we have a mountain of debt, between banks, personal and fiscal to pay.

    I believe the markets are worried about Ireland, because we have a core deficiency in credibility, ability to plan ahead, and have poor agreement between capital and labour in this country. There is nothing there which suggests a replacement economic or political model. Philip Lane for instance has been a lone voice in the wilderness for some time now, in calling for a new fiscal policy review group for Ireland. I believe if such an organisation was created, the international markets would find evidence to the fact that Ireland is attempting to make a plan. Things such as the fiscal policy council do seem surplus to requirements right now, but I believe they would have a desireable impact if implemented in Ireland. BOH.

    http://designcomment.blogspot.com/2010/08/free-will.html

  22. @hoganmahew

    I largely agree, but I would argue the Nazis used semi-legal means to come to power. Eg the SA beat up opponents, and I’m not sure just how constitutional the actions following the Reichstag fire were (but I’ll leave that one rest with the historians and lawyers).

  23. @Rory
    Aye, semi-legal might describe it as it was an abuse of the rule of law in just about everything bar the absolute minimum of the election process, i.e. the actual vote count. There’s some evidence for this in that the enabling act, while having a majority of the vote, has (from dim memory) only 44% of the eligible vote – Hitler was, apparently, set on getting more than 50% and using bourgeois democracy to vote itself out of existence.

  24. @BP Woods
    “Now the nasty part of this is that we have simultaneously, a slow, creeping, barely visible, subtle, increase in prices. So, an increasing proportion of our incomes are going to be spent on necessaries. Growth, as we understand it, will not resume. ”
    You can add a creeping erosion of take-home pay to that, whether through higher taxes, higher state-controlled charges or stagnant salaries.

  25. For the Nazi speculators … Hitler’s ascent to power was directly caused by Hitler, not the depression nor the V. treaty nor anything else. If the cause and effect theories I’m reading above were true then we would have had extreme (left or right) government around that time in e.g. Ireland, USA and GB too. He was a very bitter and driven little man. Unfortunately he was also a scheming genius who knew how to manipulate the masses too.

  26. @hogan,

    “You can add a creeping erosion of take-home pay to that, whether through higher taxes, higher state-controlled charges or stagnant salaries.”

    You can also add in rationing of, or reductions in, public services and you have a recipe for the nasty, xenophobic extremism that seems to worry Kevin O’R.

    This is the area in Ireland that is crying out for reform, not just to drain the swamp where xenophobic extremism might breed, but in the interests of all citizens and residents.

    But all the focus is on resolving the banks and the scale of the fiscal adjustment (decisions largely determined by Brussels and Frankfurt) and the only serious effort that is being made to address domestic costs and prices (albeit, indirect and partial, as it is focused on the semi-states) is the work of the Asset Review Group headed up by Colm McCarthy.

  27. Paul Hunt says,

    But all the focus is on resolving the banks and the scale of the fiscal adjustment (decisions largely determined by Brussels and Frankfurt)

    The thing that strikes me as most obvious in Ireland – we are not doing the above in the interests of all citizens and residents – or anything that noble. We are doing it singularly, because in late 2008 a scene played out in Kildare street, which must have had similarities to the movie Pulp Fiction. That is, the part where John Travolta’s character has his boss’s wife dying in his arms, and cannot take her to a hospital. Everything we have done in Ireland since that evening, has been more or less dictated by the events of that evening. And if it never happened, we would still be in suspend mode as far as any reforms go. That is what is really shocking. Everything in our current political and economic model requires such a disaster in order to provoke any action at all. And that disaster is in turn used as singular justification (politically speaking) for all subsequent actions.

    We heard a lot of discussion along these lines post 2001, with various invasions of countries etc. We also learned post 2001, how brittle and dysfunctional many of the systems were, which were designed to prevent the events of 2001 occuring. There is a clear indication, that in the modern era, the music needs to reach a certain volume before action is prompted. We are simply lurking our way from one crisis to the next. I don’t know whether that shares parallels with the 1930s or not.

    John Allen Paulos in a chapter in his book, The Mathematician Plays the Stock Market, talked about psychology and investments. He said that many people even if they know they are in a bad investment, will not change it. The fear that if they change their investment and still lose, the feeling of guilt for losing the money will be worse. There might be more intense recriminations from family etc, because your direct intervention resulted in the loss of the money. Even though the two outcomes might be exactly the same – the loss of the investment – people will often choose to leave the money where it is, and avoid the self-loathing, recriminations and the guilt. Clearly this was an aspect involved in regulation in Ireland in the 2000s. I find it strange, that having had the ‘crash’, we suddenly do have a political mandate to embark on all kinds of ambitious new plans. BOH.

  28. Small Addition: What is ominous, is the timing of the crash in Ireland in 2008. A report by Regling and Watson suggests the events globally of 2008 had little impact on Ireland. Ours was a homegrown crisis. The date of 2008 is interesting because it came at the start of the term of the government 2007-2012.

    In other words, the reality had changed shortly after the election of 2007, but there was no going back to the people to decide on a new government in Ireland post the crash of 2008. It is almost as if the timing of the crash in Ireland was perfectly coordinated with the national democratic election timeline. That is very ominous. Of course, NAMA is really about program management too, and kicking a certain can down the road, so as to move it off the critical path of re-adjustments. See comment linked. BOH.

    http://www.irisheconomy.ie/index.php/2010/08/19/money-pit/#comment-66684

  29. @ BOH
    Bertie has not contributed to a single debate in the Dail this year. I know a lot of people will say, “just as well”, what could he offer but that has not stopped him drawing his full benefits package nor is he alone in contributing nothing and living high on the hog paid for with the daily borrowings of the failed economy he has bequeathed.

    You are right about Lenihan’s mistake and that will become another bequest, I believe it was a very deliberate mistake planned for some months in advance. I believe Ireland presently only needs one decent bank and have said so many times. I am not falling for all this competition crap.. where is the competition amongst the “rescued” banks? At the end of the day, what are we are going to be left with? Several different named banks run by the state including the toxic skip bank NAMA, which will have its unwelcome and poisonous tentacles in every aspect of Irish life competing with those who remained solvent by dint of hard work or even luck. Meanwhile, BoI will be nursed and molly coddled, because it would begin to look like the unmitigated disaster it is, if it too, had to be nationalised. But all is not lost, we have one of the top ten leaders being ably assisted by his brave finance minister.

    I don’t agree with professor Kevin O’Rourke. This recession is not over by a long shot. America is still in a very serious recession and their banks have recognised the losses on their books to a far greater degree than their European counterparts. Bnk analyst Meredith Whitney says she would not touch European banks with a barge pole. I wonder why? Does he really believe that Europe will recover by using a strategy of concealment? Consequently, this is far far from over. I know about the language and concept of lagging indicators so please don’t tell me about unemployment being a lagging indicator etc. When you export your jobs they are gone but you also export jots of your aggregate demand and that prevents recovery. There are now severe structural imbalances between East an West. Ireland should be concentrating on its most competitive advantage which is feeding the worlds growing population. One of the worst disasters to befall this country was the relinquishing of our fishing rights so that our farmers could milk the ECC and later the EU. Big mistake. Sorry, Mr. Ryan It is already too late for the smart economy in Ireland. Yes, we can become self sufficient in energy and we can insulate our homes, we can achieve those aims alright, but I am talking about real sustainability. Sustainability of jobs that will last! As things get worse in America they will start to bring the MNC’s and pharma industries back to the states. Or else they will put them where the cost of science degree personel is cheapest. America will begin taxing the difference in the profits these corporations make by being in off shore tax havens such as Ireland. This is a grave threat the government should take very, very seriously. Anyhow, India, Pakistan, China are producing more software engineers and scientists in a year than we will produce in decades. They can flood the market with any Ph’ D of their choosing including economists. This country still has a few advantages that cannot be churned out of super sized universities in China and they are our climate, land, clean water (well should be clean) and our smart, when we are self interested enough, people.

    It is the cultural and religious differences transplanted into the Europe that has already endured WWI and WWII and not the economic ones that will cause the next grave disturbances alluded to. Those forces are still gathering strength, force and critical mass economics does not take place in a vacuum.

  30. @ All,

    I am delighted that Robert has penned such a thoughtful comment above, and I am looking forward to digesting his response at my own leisure. To simplify and summarise what I said above, might be useful. The title of this thread is called The political impact of the Great Recession. The trouble with this title though, is it doesn’t facilitate a great amount of analysis of the Irish situation. Because in the modern era, political action seems to depend on events of one kind or another to get a green light. In other words, without that green light we have in-action, rather than action, in politics. Furthermore, there are suspicions harboured by a lot of people nowadays, that we are witness to events which are orchestrated on purpose for our benefit, so as to justify various political motives. Doesn’t it seem strange that in Ireland for instance, the light touch regulation ended up as no regulation. It is similar to an instance, where the night guard purposefully goes off for a tea break at the exact moment at which the robbers tip-toe down the road in order to break in. I am sure in years to come, there will be many dramatisations of this kind of plot for the small and larger screens. But we would do well in Ireland to realise this statement – the political impact of the great recession – could be inverted, to say, the recessional impact of the great politics. From my observation of things, the latter makes a little more sense than the former. BOH.

  31. @ Joseph

    There was of course a wipeout of the savings of many people in the German 1923 super-inflation which fed into a deep vein of anti-semitism and the perception that Jews misused the banking system for their own ends.

  32. An Irish expat. friend just told me about this site as he and I frequently exchange emails on political and economic issues. I am Canadian and not knowledgeable about contemporary Irish politics. Still, I find the quality of the writing and commentaries to be insightful, cogent, almost scholarly, and respectful even when disagreements occur. It is very refreshing in comparison to some of the other UK and US blogs/newspapers where the commentary and civility has been in decline for sometime.

    Thank you all very much for a wonderful site.

    Sean (in Toronto)

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