Frank Convery on ‘The Irish Economy’

Over at Comhar, Frank Convery has posted a detailed analysis of this Blog.

35 replies on “Frank Convery on ‘The Irish Economy’”

The link is mis-directed, unless there’s something in DHR communications site that I didn’t spot.

no its not misdirected. Its the word doc you must open. I was a bit fearful about the format but its a word doc alright.

I refuse to comment on the content.

I think that the most telling information Frank Convery gives is that: “All but two of the (28) contributors are in jobs paid for by the Irish tax-payer”. I think that this probably accounts for the overall bias and negativity of the site. The site organisers should make an active effort to get some people involved in industry, services, tourism, agriculture and property development involved as contributors. After all, they are The Irish Economy.

@ JtO

Private sector economists have their hands tied and thus cannot be relied upon to provide honest analysis and opinions. The advantage of having lecturers and professors is that they do not have to protect any private interests and are thus free to give honest opinions. One need only remember the private sector bank economists cheering Nama on last year, while the acadamics almost unanimously rejected it….

@ jto
It is more a reflection of the landscape of this country than the state employees individual choices. Academics research and publish, therefore become known to others. This may explain the particular constellation of stars here.
My main criticism here is that the posters like ciaran o hagan, and others on the markets weren’t referenced.
They bring experience and real time information to the blog.
Does it strike you as a lazy analysis based on a recon of the site rather than blogging experience of it.
The points made are statements of superficial quantities
akin to a description of your clothing as a statement of your purpose.
And would you consider it discourteous a proposition to send students on here as blog meat?

Frank has completely missed the point. No disrespect but he tas TOTALLY missed the point.

In 2007 and 2008 the only critical mass of commentary and actualité on matters economic in Ireland was to be found on ThePropertyPin ..which is a coruscating and trenchant website and no less the better for it.

Academics were ( as ever) publishing their dreary and turgid papers long after the fact.

Newspapers were incapable of analysing the issues correctly, relying on Op-Ed (much of from the founders of the Irish Economy blog) to fill the knowledge gap.

RTE was equally incapable of analysis and in thrall to foul tempered late night rants from the government Press Office on ‘lack of balance’.

Finally, Morgan Kelly had proven that Economists could be great writers. Morgan singlehandedly wrote most of the best economic commentary published in the media in 2008. I dare anyone point to any other Op-Ed writer who had a greater impact at that time although I do recall a spiffing article from a chap in UL around that time.

In late 2008, therefore, a requirement existed for a ‘structured’ version of the ThePropertyPin and where commentary and analysis or dare I say Academic Papereens could be ‘published’ while they were immediately relevant. As the blog is simply a collection of these Academic Papereens the peer review is in the comments thereafter.

The odd article is wrongheaded indulgent irrelevant or fatous. But who cares. Another article will be along shortly to fix that.

The Irisheconomy Blog has suceeded remarkably in what it has tried to do and has inspired copycat efforts like Irelandafternama by the Geographer community. trueeconomics by Gurdiev is the other blog. namawinelake came late to the party but is running a good bend right now. also proves that economists can comment in real time on real issues. And that shall be its lasting legacy. Any academic community that cannot blog and communicate with the Hoi Polloi as well as each other is, I fear, doomed.

i think that the wiki format could potentially work well for discussion of public policy. could you imagine having a page dedicated to say, options for dealing with the banking crisis, with links to articles, reports, references. The issue of mediation would be critical – would there be enough of a dedicated community to self regulate the information? Blogging technology has allowed the creation of this The Irish Economy and this new public forum for economic commentary. I think that wiki technology could in time provide even more benefits for information management, education and transparency.


Academic “Your Momma” treatise time???

RT: Your Momma’s so fat she actually leaves carbon footprints!
FC: Your Momma’s so fat she actually is a government levy!


Well done to all the contributors and respondents on I read it regularly and respond to posts from time to time.
It seems to be open to a wide variety of viewpoints with some lively debates at times. Some respondents seem to have a view of the situation that is set in stone and see all contrary opinions as just negativity!
It is not surprising that there are competing perspectives on the present debacle in Ireland . Some few people have benefitted more from the unsustainable boom and seem to be getting a bailout from the present government while the many Irish citizens are being made to pay over a long time frame for a financially driven fiasco they believe speculators (including some bondholders of Anglo ) caused.

Convery’s piece gives rise to the idea of getting a few new contibributors on board. How about it?
Prof Ferdinand von Prondzynski to write the odd piece on the university sector / knowledge economy? I have mentioned Edward Hugh before too (Spanish based economist who writes on European economics).

Following on from JTO

Some private enterprise individuals

And please none of those over polished grantrepreneurs type going around the country and on the media like preachers, with faux virility.

Ronan Lyons is a particularly good practitioner and writer. I particularlyadmire his abaility to hunt for data.

Well I’m sorry – I think Convery’s piece is hilarious! Perhaps a pinch more humility and humour among contributors and commentators alike would be in order. Most of us on here are are concerned with truth, meaning and the general good. Yet, if I may say so, present reality and how this will evolve is too rich to be adequately described and predicted by anyone here, most especially purebred economists!

One of the strengths of this blog to me at least is the interplay between informed private sector economic ‘worker bees’ and public sector/academic worker bees. This greatly boosts the quality of analysis, reporting, questioning and summary. However, I also believe the proportionate volume of commentary from those who constitute the ‘productive economy’ is the best measure of the value and relevance of this blog.

Following that thought, perhaps also a more holistic outlook on the issues discussed here would improve the quality and relevance of discussion, i.e. a more balanced and authoritative fusion of legal, economic, financial, political, technological and ethical viewpoints. If so, the contributing constituency may indeed need to be broadened.

Excuse my ignorance but I am not familiar with whatever passes for a subtext here. The link to the Convery piece goes to a PR website called DHR something or other. What is Comhar? Is it s PR company as well?

There may be argument about whether the authors of this blog have other things to be doing other than writing here. If Prof Convery did this on work time, he definitely has better things to be doing. If he did it on spare time, someone needs to recommend him a hobby or a good book.

The use of a .doc file is the most unforgivable part of the matter.

@ Karl Whelan

As no comments were allowed on the Comment on Comments thread, here is a comment:

Apart from the issue of personal abuse, I would query some of the other concerns.

The Irish Times allows robust comments and if contributors criticise politicians and journalists, they should take some brickbats themselves.

Groupthink is the bane of every sector and during the boom, there was a reluctance to challenge the then Gods directly, sometimes because of self-interest in the small crony-dominant society.

Academics shouldn’t of course be singled out as piñatas but you do have a sheltered existence, which is not saying, as also applies in other areas of education, that there is no stress involved.

Insights and scepticism from other areas of society and the economy should be welcome.

The people with a grip of the public megaphone and policymakers are generally well-off but their world is very different to the typical SME trying to meet a monthly payroll, dealing with the unexpected bad debt and then the fear of collapse.

It’s for example not surprising that the struggles of the unemployed get limited attention in the media because journalists can also live in a cocoon.

Against the backdrop of an accelerating crisis in mid-2008, almost all the top-earning journalists advocated rejection of the Lisbon Treaty for petty reasons.

Prof. Convery’s piece is timely, at least to me. The question he is raising, at least implicitly, is what this blog should be. Philip writes in his ‘about’ section that “The aim of this website is to provide commentary and information about the Irish economy.” Well, it does that. Brian Lucey’s recent IT article is approaching 400 comments on this site, while the IT comments section totalled only 40. Clearly this site is where people are coming to discuss the economic issues of the day, even though as you read down through the comments on that post, it is mostly the same 5 or 6 regulars having at it.

But how could it be made better? More data analysis along the lines of Lyons or Gurdgiev’s blogs? Perhaps some of that would be very useful, even though they are for people with more specialised interests. More guest posts would be great on occasion. An expanded active contributor list certainly makes sense. More engagement from the contributors in the comments? I think that’s fine as it is. It’s going to be uneven, because as Karl says somewhere else, this is a voluntary gig, and people are busy.

The blog is grand the way it is.
Any improvements will require resources from people already busy.
Perhaps a paywall or toll?
For those with a neck like a jockeys saddle, perhaps lobbying Govt for funds to maintain and develop the blog.
It could be translated into Irish
There could be a govt juncket with the blog as an example of innovation
We could build an interpretative centre
Lord knows more has been spent on lesser things

Prof. Convery may have some valid points, but Philip Lane and the principal contributors deserve enormous gratitude. They are bringing academic (in the best and proper meaning of the word) insights and informed commentary to a much wider audience. The problem, as I see it, is that, given the severity of the current crisis, there is a demand for solutions that far out-weighs and exceeds anything this blog might be able to supply – or even attempt to supply.

The proper forum in which these solutions should be advanced, scrutinised, tested, amended, enacted and reviewed – the Oireachtas – is proving itself to be entirely incapable of performing this function. The inevitable public frustration with this incapability – irrespective of the extent to which it is being articulated – is destined to surface in any forum where informed views are presented and a critique of government spin is offered.

Indeed this blog may be providing a valuable service for the Government in that it provides a location where steam is left off that, otherwise, might be directed more forcefully at it.

@Michael H

I agree with your comment that there might be some say for SMEs and the Unemployed in making contributions here. Both of the groups know full well what life is like out there in the real world of the private sector. SMEs and most of the people now unemployed who previously worked in SMEs have something to contribute on what is going wrong in the economy. The Academic Economist’s view is that there can be no stimulus. That is alright to say if you have guaranteed tenure in your job at a high salary.

Some of the commentators like John The Optimist would provide interesting contributions. There is the makings of a book in John’s knowledge of the statistics of the Irish Economy and it could be peer reviewed by Brian Lucey. Regardless keep it up John as your contributions give me some heart as a SME owner.


“The Academic Economist’s view is that there can be no stimulus.”
Which economist or is it all economists? Do all economists agree with each other? If so, then what?
A tad simplistic.

But in regards to the stimulus, the potential stimulus there is being used to pay current expenditure: public services and wages.

If we had cut our cloth to measure then there would be great potential for some serious stimulus.
But we are where we are.

@ AL

The Academic Economist that counts most Alan Ahearne Economic Advisor to the Government obviously does not favour a stimulus.

Stimulus can come in many forms particularly in the way money is spent and in the manner in which Government deals with the business community. This Government has no understanding or feel for the Self Employed/SME sector because there is not one person in Government apart from Mr Ryan, who runs a bicycle shop, that have any experience of business. We are where we are when thousands of businesses are ceasing each year during this recession which does not give this Government and it’s Advisers much concern at present.

I find Frank Convery’s piece extraordinary.
Given this analysis of blog as means for communicating analysis and as a forum for discussion, I trust he will continue his analysis of other similar blogs eg.

IMO, economists in this republic cannot be accused of a “trahaison des clercs” – whether one agrees with them or not.

During the 1950s crisis, economists like Louden Ryan, Patrick Lynch and Carles Carter led in trying to re-shape Irish public policy. The issue then was the impending collapse of irish society due to emigration arising from a protectionist economic policy. The “public” forum then was the Social and Statistical Inquiry Society of Ireland and groups like Tuairisc. The resulting change was the move to free trade in manufactured goods etc leading utlimately to joining what is now the EU.

Inter alia this led to the setting up of the Economic Research Institute, now ESRI.

During the late 1970s and 1980s, economists again led on reshaping policy to cope ever increasing public sector debt arising from a failure to respond to the oil-price shocks. The fora then were newspapers and broadcast media. At the risk of offending many, I will just mention Brendan Walsh, Colm McCarthy and Sean Barrett, the latter for his public effort on finishing the protection then being offered to Aer Lingus against upstarts like Ryanair. The resulting change wasd a more export oriented economy capped by joining the €uro.

Now, yet another generation of economists have led in trying to inform public opinion and policy makers on the current self-induced crisis. Using a web-based forum is just a means of communication to supplement the more formal papers written to normal academic standards (which are not normal fare for most of us), the 750-word opinion pieces acceptable to print media, the 3-minute news slot on radio and the odd TV appearance.

Whatever its faults, blogs offers a medium for making those of us who chose to read them a means of informing ourselves of views from specialists that we do not normally come into contact with, on issues of the day/the times we live in, in addition to enabling us to contribute our twopence worth!

We need the analysis and discussion offered here (including Frank Convery’s piece) and elsewhere to develop and refine options we need to overcome the loss of independence that this Republic is now undergoing. Web-based fora are not the only places where people will take action to get us out of this particular tar sand.

As Patrick Lynch once put it, “From the clash of ideas, minds ignite”
I suggest that economists here have shown the “Skill of Relevance and the Relevance of Skill” as the educationalist Bruner once put it

@Michael Hennigan
“Academics … do have a sheltered existence….”
IMO, societies (particularly smallish ones like ours) need places where thinkers and doers are free from the normal stresses. When those who occupy positions in such shelters use their freedom to do things other than be self-indulgent, the rest of us benefit in the short, medium and long terms. This is as true of those occupying academic positions as it is for people in places like Bell Labs, PARC, other research labs public and private, third level institutes.

I look forward to Frank Convery’s analysis of the contribution of other “professions”, most of whose members occupy sheltered positions in this Republic
1) town planners
2) engineers
3) medics.

As most of these are employed in the public sector or heavily dependent on the public sector for income, I am not holding my breadth.
They will be only too well aware of the cast of mind that led a Dept of Finance official to phone the boss of some private sector economist when that person had commented unfavourably on some matter of public policy.
In other areas of life here (eg. abuse in too many church run institutions) we are living with the results a corporate statist approach

Long may the economists and others continue to comment on public affairs here lest we fall into the kind of society that Rosa Luxembourg described as follows
“The only way to a rebirth is the school of public life itself, the most unlimited, the broadest democracy and public opinion. It is rule by terror which demoralizes.
When all this is eliminated, what really remains? In place of the representative bodies created by general, popular elections, Lenin and Trotsky have laid down the soviets as the only true representation of political life in the land as a whole, life in the soviets must also become more and more crippled. Without general elections, without unrestricted freedom of press and assembly, without a free struggle of opinion, life dies out in every public institution, becomes a mere semblance of life, in which only the bureaucracy remains as the active element. Public life gradually falls asleep, a few dozen party leaders of inexhaustible energy and boundless experience direct and rule. Among them, in reality only a dozen outstanding heads do the leading and an elite of the working class is invited from time to time to meetings where they are to applaud the speeches of the leaders, and to approve proposed resolutions unanimously – at bottom, then, a clique affair – a dictatorship, to be sure, not the dictatorship of the proletariat but only the dictatorship of a handful of politicians, that is a dictatorship in the bourgeois sense, in the sense of the rule of the Jacobins (the postponement of the Soviet Congress from three-month periods to six-month periods!) Yes, we can go even further: such conditions must inevitably cause a brutalization of public life: attempted assassinations, shooting of hostages, etc. (Lenin’s speech on discipline and corruption.)”

I find Frank Convery’s piece extraordin

This blog is extremely valuable as it is built upon the reputation of the economists who started it, internationally respected as they are. I have a jaundiced view of the agenda of those in economics and I value the freedom to post here.

Thanks Lads and Lasses!

But do not expect me to respect falsehood, especially in the “authority” vein. I saw what transpired in the public sector. Most individuals there are great, but those placed in command are usually not. Picture four Chairmen of the Revenue saying they had never read nor were aware of written official instructions that the banks were not to be inspected for DIRT.

In a kleptocracy, the rot is at the head. I notice they couldn’t dump Michael Somers fast enough!

Perhaps Prof. Convery should have started with an analysis of his own blog – the big difference is that IrishEconomy has lots of contributors and lots of contributions (no need to boast about bi-weekly updating). The other other major distinction is that by allowing posts to be published directly IrishEconomy allows for real-time debate (in contrast to the slow vetting of comments on the Comhar blog). Very intersting that his latest piece is not on his Comhar blog (as of 13:46) and insted appears on a PR website – am I missing something? Finally, I wonder whether this piece is the result of the ‘debate’ beween himself and Richard Tol recently.

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