Richard Tol leaves the ESRI

Tol go bye bye. Why?

And he’s not gone quietly. Richard is leaving to take up a position at the University of Sussex, and I wish him well. Moving country when one has young kids is no joke. One doesn’t do these things lightly. Richard has made some important points in relation to Irish public policy on Twitter, in relation to the ESRI and the Irish economy in the Irish Times, and a bit of both today on the News at One (link is to .mp3, about 3:40 in). These are worth highlighting for three reasons.

1. Richard has criticized the independence of the ESRI with respect to its funding sources and the conclusions of its research, especially in areas away from their sometimes trenchant criticism of the Department of Finance. This is a serious matter which deserves some comment by the ESRI in my opinion.

2. Richard now joins 6 or 7 senior academic economists, including world leaders in their fields like Profs Kevin O’Rourke and Liam Delaney, leaving Ireland for more or less the same reason–they see a decade of austerity ahead for Ireland, they feel Irish academia has less to offer them as a result, and because they are research active and employable elsewhere, they are going. This is a problem for Irish academic economics going forward.

3. Most importantly, I think, Richard is a dissenter in many areas of Irish public policy and public life. He has his opinions which, while we don’t have to agree with them all (I certainly don’t), should be respected and given an airing. The fact that he didn’t find a home to adequately voice these opinions is a shame, and something I think we are poorer for as a result.

By Stephen Kinsella

Senior Lecturer in Economics at the University of Limerick.

135 replies on “Richard Tol leaves the ESRI”

Colma Keena’s piece says that staff are discouraged from expressing personal views to journalists or on social media sites. If so, is this research institute unique?

I wish Richard Tol a long and prosperous career in Sussex.

I too see hard times looming in Irish post secondary education institutions.

Damn sorry to see him leave,

He was one of very few people to question the (in)sanity of Irish Energy and Environmental policies.

policies that are not based on facts, research or data but pandering the usual interest groups who run/influence this country for their own benefit, I have myself experienced this madness first hand at ESB during my day 🙁

I wish Richard well. Ireland’s loss is Blighty’s gain and I look forward to him being in an adjoining parish. Richard can speak for himself but I would not view him as “a dissenter in many areas of Irish public policy and public life”. The views he expresses are solidly based on research and analysis. That does not mean he is always right – nobody ever can be – but his views reflect the common sense and economic sense evident in public policy in other better-governed countries which Ireland would do well to emulate.

The fact that he is viewed as a dissenter is simply a measure of how deviant Ireland is – and Ireland is becoming more deviant as austerity bites. One can sense that grey, constricting, sinking feeling that I felt as a child growing up in the late ’50s and again in the ’80s.

Richard’s departure and that of the other academic economists is simply evidance of a further closing of the Irish mind. However those that exercise (and abuse) economic and political power will be relieved as another thorn has been removed from their side. And I’m sure there are many, even if they wouldn’t have the courage to express it here, who say good riddance to ‘that Dutchman’ who had the gall to lecture the denizens of this island of saints and scholars.

I wish you luck Richard although I disagree with some of your more extreme Maltusian Musings although listening to your interview I am not sure who was the ESRI and who was Tol.

Anyhow the best research in Ireland will be in the field of observational primate dynamics as we begin to tear each other apart with the more detached from the Pack individuals now sadly beginning to top themselves so as to free up resourses.

Perhaps a good book is in you – maybe entitled “The Selfish Green”

There used to be a joke back in the 60’s (or was it the 70’s?), during one of the busts that follows inevitably every boom, when the “last person to leave Seattle was invited to turn out the lights!”.

I think Richard Tol has done the country a considerable service by holding up a mirror to our inability to face reality. The problem is not the incapacity to take decisions but to be inability to even imagine a scenario sufficiently “outside the box” to bring about acceptance of the degree of change required. This lack of imagination infects the generality of politicians, public servants, academics and the public they serve alike.

But we are not unique in this respect. Every country is a product, and a victim, of its history. A recent excellent piece by John Pender in the FT illustrates the point.

The Dutch simply learned their lesson centuries ago. (Something to do with tulips!). We are in the process of learning ours.

For an accurate take on the situation confronting the country in 2012, I recommend Colm McCarthy.

I would have one slight quibble. European leaders did not actually set out to establish a supranational institution. They agreed international arrangements for adopting legislation together. When the European Court of Justice drew the obvious conclusion that this made no sense unless said legislation had primacy over national legislation, the European Economic Community could be said to have acquired supranational characteristics. We seem to be in a similar situation now with regard to the euro.

Good luck in England, Richard, I’m sure their energy policy will keep you busy for many a year!


Let’s not give the Dutch too much credit. Housing prices trebled there from ’95 to Q3 ’08. Since down 6%. I wish them well in their soft landing.

What I most appreciated about Richard Tol’s posts was that he articulated the unspoken, and often unspeakable, viz. no amount of empirical evidence and can overturn government policy once various accretions of vested interests gather around it. Be it energy policy, university rankings, Smart Economy fantasies, etc, if enough ‘big names’ latch onto an initiative, the government would throw money at squaring the circle.

I am not based in Ireland myself, I wouldn’t presume to comment on his own leaving.

However, there are nearly 500K unemployed and the numbers entering the category of long term likely to be fruitlessly unemployed are growing. Throw in the pensioners, students in third level and further education, the unemployed in training schemes, and the ship begins to look distinctly unseaworthy. And for good good measure fill up the cargo holds with bushels of unsustainable personal debt. The ship is headed nowhere but down.

I was speaking to a medical consultant before leaving Ireland recently who told me that frequently the clinic he works in has no secretarial or admin staff to process patients even though he is meant to be providing a service during certain hours under his new contract. This is Croke Park in action – a total farce when drilled into. But apparently, the CPA is ‘delivering’, somewhere, in some distant land.

As a footnote to the above and in a manner which may seem off topic, herewith two links, the first to a recent speech by the President of the European Court of Justice and the second to an interview in the English language edition of Der Spiegel with the departing author of the much disputed and idiosyncratic judgement of the German Constitutional Court in relation to the Lisbon Treaty.

N.B. Paragraph 5,1518,805873,00.html

The one conclusion that can be drawn – in the context of a more realistic debate about Ireland, the country’s future and its place in Europe – is that the need to change the way things are done in Ireland is only part of the picture. Constructing Europe also still remains very much a work in progress.

To be a player, Ireland has to get its irons out of the fire by rapidly getting control itself of public expenditure. (As has been pointed out, the banking debt represents only about one quarter of our problem!). If the country drifts into the ESM, we will remain at the fire’s hottest point (as discussed on this blog by Ciarán O’Hagan and others some months ago).

@ Richard Tol,

May you live long and Prosper.

Unfortunately however you will not be the last person to leave this island for better prospects abroad, better salary and less taxes!! The Brain Drain is only starting.

I cannot see any future for those of us remaining in this God forsaken island.

Best of luck old Chap!!.

@PH: “Richard’s departure and that of the other academic economists is simply evidance of a further closing of the Irish mind.”

Its not the Irish mind that is a problem Paul, its the behaviour of those who get power, and do not have to answer (not much anyhow) for their decisions and actions. We need a new set of ‘gate keeper’s’ – who will scatter the vested interests. These have to be picked off the tree, not sampled from the barrel.

“However those that exercise (and abuse) economic and political power will be relieved as another thorn has been removed from their side.”

If’n you KNOW that someone IS a crank, why just ignore them! They do go away – if’n they ARE a crank! Otherwise they hang aroung and make a nuisance of themselves. However, to be a successful nuisance you have to be wealthy, of independent means and have no compunction about digging the dirt on your ‘courageous leaders’. There’s a lot of it about! If’n you lack the necessary and sufficient resources, then you do ‘distance yourself’! 8)

@ EIS: We have no ‘energy policy’ in this state – its a shambolic mess. Having spoken to some folk who seem to have some influence in the energy area, I came away with the distinct impression that although they where technically competent fellows, they were totally clueless about the symbiotic relationship between energy and economic activity, and our utter dependence on liquid fuels. Its weird. I hope I only spoke to a ‘bad’ sample and that saner energy policies will eventuall surface and be implemented. Otherwise we really have problems.

I would respectfully suggest to anyone, who is really interested in ‘Irish energy policy’, to study what the deValera administration had to invoke in autumn of 1939 (The Emergency). Not funny!


I wish Richard Tol the very best in his new position.

I must say I’m surprised to see Paul Hunt deplore this as evidence of the closing of the Irish mind. Surely, Paul, the departure of one of the class you characterised as “subsidy-grabbers, regulator-capturers, market-riggers, rent-seekers and consumer gougers” is something we’d logically expect you to applaud. No?

Really, Ernie, you must stop standing on your head when you view the world. You’ll do yourself an injury. In so far as they might be aware of him, it is precisely the “subsidy-grabbers, regulator-capturers, market-riggers, rent-seekers and consumer gougers” – and their fellow travellers – who are rejoicing at Richard’s departure. Another voice of sanity that might disturb their gouging at the trough has been silenced.

But, perhaps, I am over-estimating you. Maybe you really don’t have a clue who these gougers are?

The very best of luck Richard. I’ve found every single one of your posts informative and thought-provoking. Do keep them up.

Richard expresses issues that are uncomfortable and confrontational and often in that fashion! But that as Dr Kinsella said doesn’t in one way detract from his intellect and the need to have a mirror held up. More to the point, the notion that the ESRI would , as a poster on says disallow a research professor from expressing their views, as well as he other allegations, is profoundly disturbing. The more one sees the institute the more one wonders as to it’s role. Director Ruane, no shrinking violet, needs to come out strongly and honestly in response. Was there a policy of silencing dissent? Of kowtowing to the finder? Why was no banking specialist hired? Which GP minister threatened Tol? Etc etc.
If she doesn’t come out then a oireachtas committee will have to look


So farewell then Richard Tol,
The parapet has one fewer head,
The number of shots still the same.

Happy now Stephen?

From previous on Regulatory Reforms thread/Paul Hunt/CB et al

Can we please lay off the ESRI staff?

Afraid not, they’ve proved to be absolutely useless in our meltdown. But I’d rather that this view not be based on my opinion alone.

What I would like is for the ESRI growth forecasts over the past 3 years to be empirically analysed in a paper charting on a quarterly basis a) their actual growth forecast for the economy going forward 12 months b) the actual results achieved.

Apart from the above it would be interesting to look at the indices used for these growth forecasts. Interesting to see how the ESRI has been culling its own growth forecasts over recent times for the Irish economy.

When many were issuing dire warnings over NAMA and the impossibility of 3% growth forecasts over the next decade for the Irish economy; when Lehmans told the rest of the world of a coming global recession, how were the ESRI growth forecast figures used to buttress NAMA. ITS my impression ESRI have consistently buttressed the over inflated views of successive Ministers of Finance in Ireland as to our ability to grow our way out of recession.

Even more interesting would be to look at the criticism of public policy by the ESRI going back over the past 10 years.

Apart from Sean’s link, I suspect you would find it very sparse indeed.

I wonder why…….hmmmmmmmm?

Perhaps because the ESRI is a privately funded organisation whose main financial support would come from government projects ?

Perhaps the ESRI is influenced by that symptom whereby the subject won’t bite the hand that feeds it? ESRI Pravda more like it.

I should add the following re Dr Kinsella “especially in areas away from their sometimes trenchant criticism of the Department of Finance”

You know what, that one passed over my head 🙂 And I suspect lots of others in the Irish population so used to the ESRI gleams of growth extracted out of nothing over the past decade as the doomsayers were ignored by the ESRI Polyannas always relied upon to extract a notch of hope for growth by politicians on the stroke!


Your (removed) initial effort was perfect. It’s becoming worse than being in school here. One always has to bear in mind the freedom of expression-restricting libel laws, but now we’re getting prudishness and evidence of the warped mindset that would label some one like Richard as a dissenter – without even a hint of irony.

Unfortunately I can’t see us avoiding the ESM. People are tied into 35 year mortgages paying 1,800 per month and needing to pay rising utilities, fuel and insurance etc. then you have the upward only rent reviews.
We need to be able to tackle all of that synchronously.

@Paul Hunt
I fear you are reading my initial effort backwards. The flood of ignorance is what has threatened and continues to threaten us. It was a rather poor initial effort after all then.

A google for “esri warns” between jan 03 and dec 06 gives plenty of hits. I’m sure a more focused and complet one would give more.

Prof Tol was highly qualified and invited to review/supervise/author vital parts of the next IPCC report(as with previous ones). The IPCC relies on the host nation of the academic to pay expenses – John Gormley said no. Gormley didn’t say no because he found fault with Prof Tol’s research – Gormley said no because of the outcomes of his research. Gormley’s petty minded prejudice was widely supported by highly influential Luddites in the Green Party.

The Green Party must not be allowed near executive power for at least a generation – for they are a menace to the truth.

John Gormley had nothing to do with that decision. It was a civil servant in his department. Appealing to Gormley or Cowen would have been pointless, so we did not.

But on , a Green Party adviser defended the decision on political grounds, saying Gormely was entitled not to fund people he disagreed with….and Irish civil servants are famously pliant to their political masters.

However, if you are sure the civil servant in question wasn’t doing his master’s bidding – then I accept that.

Sad loss to see Prof Tol leaving Ireland, however I do fully support his reasons and I wish him well in UK. Irelands loss and UKs gain.
Another one who stands against the system here which is rotten to the core… best option is abandon ship.

Best of luck to you and your family Richard


Would a senior civil servant take such a politically charged decision without checking for political cover?
And, why would you feel appealing would have been useless unless you felt that the minister would have approved it? Curious…

As far as I know, the civil servant in question acted without consulting Gormley. I don’t think the decision would have been different had she consulted the minister.

I think it’s very sad to see Richard move, this country was richer for his presence, his intellect, his character, his generosity and willingness to engage. I hope he finds a rewarding life for himself and his family in Sussex.

Having said that, I would take issue with Richard’s reported comments

“Ireland is facing 10 years of austerity. Leaving Ireland is the best thing you can do at the moment if you are responsible for a young family.”

It’s not personal to Richard and when politicians have suggested emigration might relieve the stress on the dole queue, I have the same reaction. This country should inherently be a terrific place to live, work and raise a family – great land, decent people, okay education and infrastructure, twixt Boston and Berlin, No 1 for European FDI, IT hub for 9 out of the 10 top technology companies, terrific demographics by EU standards, community and basic quality of life.

With respect to Richard, the UK’s gain is Ireland’s loss (as it was Holland’s and the US’s loss when Richard and family moved here) but I hope as a nation we can develop better solutions to our crisis than mass emigration.

Richard, bet of luck! It is a measure of your unassuming honest approach, that your departure has put the proverbial cat among the pigeons. You have held a mirror up to ESRI and the image coming back is not very edifying. In any event, I believe the ESRI is holed below the waterline. Your observation, that people with kids should consider their priorities, as they face “another 10 years of austerity” surrounded by gloom, is spot-on.

“It is likely that Ireland’s standard of living, which is already one of the highest in the EU and indeed the world, will show some further relative improvement in the coming decade. As the very substantial investment in infrastructure currently under way begins to come on stream, this too will enhance the quality of life for many residents. With the prospect of a return to full employment after the current difficulties, a gradual improvement in the quality of public services, and a substantial rise in the resources available for household consumption, the next decade should see relatively steady economic progress in terms of living standards.”

“Ireland is facing 10 years of austerity. Leaving Ireland is the best thing you can do at the moment if you are responsible for a young family.”

Which statement has Richard’s name attached to it? Oh, wait, they both do.

I wish Richard well in his new position in Sussex.

While a move like this involves a lot of personal adjustment it is fortunate that , thanks to social media, it is becoming increasingly easier to contribute to and comment on current economic issues regardless of physical location.

Hopefully those of us who follow this site will still be able to benefit (and occasionally disagree with) from Richardś opinions analysis and intellect.:)

@ Stephen,

tks for link!

Okay, point taken re John Fitzgerald in year 2000, I maintain we heard precious little from ESRI since then, maybe the drubbing got to them, but you have collected other examples as well…
In the light of the calamity now befalling the economy, a full audit would be interesting.

I still maintain their growth forecasting gave the upswing credo to subsequent Mins of Finance to talk up their idiotic economic policies, fair dues to Fitzgerald ….”Strategy is all wrong and could end in tears…”

I recall especially over the past two years the gimlet reference to abstruse growth forecasting by the ESRI using dodgy indices such as Corporation Tax receipts always difficult to plot when it comes to sourcing in the IFSC ; and exports results I have my doubts about though I acknowledge the agri sector is doing great under CAP and rising food commodity prices…where the difference between .008% and -.0008% in GDP was constantly wheeled out to support government policy…that they were turning the ship around.

From your link….Mary Harney, ” people are entitled to expect low tax rates when times are good ”

Oh no, the opposite, Mary. THE OPPOSITE! Amazing to realise the same economic policies are as bad from this government, as the ones followed by the Bertie Harney McGravy years! If not worse!

Off topic, was going to leave a post back on that thread you pulled so censoriously before I got there. Freedom of speech is very important especially in these interesting times! Speaking of which Colm McCarthy’s
Sindo Jan 1 hasn’t made an appearance to allow the likes of me criticise his view that we should continue with the euro, as infantile in the extreme 🙂

@Ernie Ball

Re ““It is likely that Ireland’s standard of living,…..”

Yep, that’s along the lines of the rubbish economic commentary I was alluding to re ESRI

I am very sorry to see Richard leaving. We will miss his robust and intellectually vigorous contributions.

It is odd to suggest that the ESRI “saw it coming”, as Stephen does, when:

(a) Richard’s views are quoted by The Irish Times as follows … “He said the institute did not have a banking expert even though during the bubble years banking was one of the economy’s largest sectors. “So the whole thing of the bank crisis caught the ESRI from left field.” ”

(b) in its flagship “Medium-Term Review, 2005 – 2012” published in December 2005, the ESRI concluded that “The fundamental factors driving the Irish economy remain quite favourable.” Emphasising this point, the lowest annual rate of GNP growth in that review’s “Low Growth Scenario” was +2.7% (2009). GNP (current market prices) actually fell in 2009 by nearly 15%.

ESRI warnings about an overheating economy or an economy overly dependent on the construction sector do not equate to warnings of a debt bubble or warnings of an insolvent banking system. I think it is a mistake to suggest that they do or, therefore, that the ESRI “saw it coming”.

There is a danger – especially large in small and intimate countries like Ireland – that people are reluctant to publicly criticise people they know personally. That’s another reason to regret Richard Tol’s departure. Coming from outside the country he proved himself far less susceptible to that danger in the short time that he was here.

No one disputes that the ESRI got it wrong, and badly wrong. Richard himself says this, as do the ESRI folks I’m sure. Richard also says they didn’t have a banking expert who could look into Ireland’s emerging debt crisis to issue warnings. Another failing I’m sure the ESRI would have to acknowledge. (I should say don’t know them personally at all, being from the schticks and all that).

The piece I linked to (there are others, check the site) shows that there were quite a few warnings, none of which were heeded.

I can distinctly remember the first DEW crisis conference in 2009, 18 months into the actual crisis, when Morgan Kelly spoke ( Even then lots of people were shaking their heads in disbelief at the guy, and a few sitting near me were even laughing at him. So it’s not just the ESRI that were wrong footed.

It’s also wrong to suggest that I suggested the ESRI saw it coming. The blogpost is entitled ‘no-one saw it coming’. Indeed, quite a few people did, and some of them were from the ESRI. But that didn’t get translated into strongly worded official statements, as you rightly show.

Farewell then, Richard Tol
Climate change sceptic and celebrity economist
At least by Irish standards.
“waste levies should reflect the externalities of waste disposal”
Yes, that was one of your catchphrases.
Understandably, it didn’t catch on.
At least you avoided any “deposit-selling moments”
I hope you like Brighton & Hove Albion.

Thanks Cormac

The fundamentals of the Irish economy are still sound: well-educated work force, low dependency ratio, flexible labour market, welcoming business environment.

Unfortunately, the economy is so far out of kilter that fundamentals do not matter much.

As to available expertise, no one at the ESRI kept a close eye on the banks.

Our models of the public finances are not sufficiently detailed to reflect the shift from structural (income, profit, consumption, property) to incidental (capital gains, stamp duty) taxes; or the shift from incidental spending (investment) to structural spending (number and wage of civil servants). Therefore, we did not foresee that the government had to act procyclically, deepening the crisis.

Of course, the start of the Great Irish Depression coincided with the Credit Crunch and now we’re in Great Eurozone Fuckup. The leading characters in either case are non-Irish.

@ Jagdip Singh

Very well put – I agree with your sentiments: including the good wishes.

But I find it a bit tricky to square this from the IT:

“He [Richard Tol] said the institute’s independence was compromised by the fact it got so much of its funding from government. He said this could manifest itself in the way the research it conducts is put into the public domain.”

With this comment by Richard Tol from December 21st on the blog:

“The ESRI is a private company already. It gets a small subsidy from the government, less than half of what goes into the Horse and Greyhound Racing Fund. I think that the ESRI provides a public good.”

I wish Richard Tol and him family well. It was refreshing to hear an economist call it as it is going to be for the next 10 years, even if he has probably underestimated the length of the ‘recovery’.
Many would argue (or I certainly would) that we have not even started to arrest the decline let alone start the recovery process. He is also spot on in his observation that what we have got so far is a selective austerity with little reform.

That said it is important to remember that Richard Tol is one of the more fortunate emigrants. In many cases families are divided and people are leaving from a situation of unemployment with little if any fall back resources and with the uncertainty of temporary or insecure positions awaiting them.


To be a player, Ireland has to get its irons out of the fire by rapidly getting control itself of public expenditure. (As has been pointed out, the banking debt represents only about one quarter of our problem!).

While I agree with you re the imperative to get our situation under control, I must comment on one point.

The banking debt will account for almost 1/3 of total debt by 2014 not 1/4. I do appreciate that the 1/4 figure has been used by Seamus Coffey in his Irish Independent article but allow me to disagree with his interpretation for the following reason.

Seamus Coffey appears to be making a distinction between the amount borrowed to put into the banks of ~45 billion and the amount actually put in ~64billion, the difference being accounted for by cash resources in the NPRF and elsewhere.
But if the banks had received just ~45 billion, then these cash resources of ~19 billion could have been used to avoid borrowing that amount to fund the State deficit.
So while the distinction is chronologically correct in the disposition of cash resources it understates the full extent of the impact of the banking ‘bailout’ on State borrowing which is ~64 billion or close to 1/3 of total State borrowing by 2014.

[With apologies to Seamus Coffey if I have misinterpreted his analysis]

Three minutes into the RTE interview Richard was asked to give an example of the selective use of research results for which he criticized the ESRI. He replied by saying “oh there’s many examples” but when pressed to give one he admitted “I don’t have a telling one right away”.

In the RTE interview he stressed that a reason for moving from Ireland to Britain was that he was not confident that the Irish government would appropriately fund his children’s education. I hope his confidence in the British government on this front is not misplaced.

Apropos of his reference to the University of Timbuktu, I don’t see the University of Sussex listed in the top 250 economics departments in the world, but perhaps that will change now.

Thanks Ben for redressing the balance of what was otherwise becoming a very Irish keen.

@ irisheconomy.

Now that Richards departure and subsequent ’10 years’ comment has caused as much ruckus as a Morgan Kelly irishtimes article, can we have a thread on Ireland over the next ten years. I think a lot of laymen read this site and would be interested in hearing the views of the contributors on this. I personally am noticing a big attitude shift among my colleagues/friends (30 something professionals) from ‘Forced to go’ vs. ‘Happy to have a job’ to ‘Forced to go’ vs. ‘unhappy/disillusioned with Ireland and want to follow’. IMO It’s the economic/political uncertainty and resultant misery industry that’s killing people.

@ Eureka and Joseph Ryan

In the FT article I linked to above, John Plender states;

“Germany was the first in the European monetary union to break the stability and growth pact rules on deficits and debt.

But in the real world creditors will always have the whip hand with debtors”.

That’s about it!

It is amazing that your average Irishman (and woman) knows and accepts this fact in everyday business dealings but is unwilling to accept it when it comes to borrowings between states. If we are to get any leverage with our creditors, we have to put ourselves in the situation where we we can say we do not need to increase further our level of indebtedness to them. Whether the bank element is a quarter or a third does not really alter the argument. The bulk of the borrowing is going to support a level of expenditure, and an associated standard of living, which we can no longer afford. How to reduce it in a fair manner is the crux of the present Irish political dilemma.

As I also said above, the benefit of the public utterances by Richard Tol is the slow news week impact they appear to have had at least on this blog, the Irish Times and RTE. Of course, that may not mean very much.

In coming to grips with the situation, people would be better off reading what Varadkar had to say. He, after all, is in a position to do something about it. As to the internecine squabbles and finger-pointing that goes on as a compensation for real debate, who cares!


The bulk of the borrowing is going to support a level of expenditure, and an associated standard of living, which we can no longer afford. How to reduce it in a fair manner is the crux of the present Irish political dilemma.

I am 100% in agreement with you on this even though fully conscious of the negative effect of austerity.
In fact one wonders if the country should be put on an economic war footing for a period of two years and get the damn thing over with. The standard of living has to come down by approx 10% of GDP ~16 billion. Why not accept defeat and get it done by hitting those that can afford it. And there are still plenty of them.
The latest on my list from today’s paper is a former taoiseach, John Bruton, who railed against burning the bondholders saying that:
‘Ireland was still a rich country’.
Well despite all his pensions from the State, EU etc he still claimed and received €16000 for ‘secretarial services’ in 2011.
Meanwhile one of first tasks of his brother Richard was to reduce the minimum wage to 7.65 per hr or under €16,000 for a full year’s work based on a 39 hour week.

@joseph ryan

“Many would argue (or I certainly would) that we have not even started to arrest the decline let alone start the recovery process. He is also spot on in his observation that what we have got so far is a selective austerity with little reform.”

Indeed. The most recent budget was noticeably quiet on the matter of rent subsidy reduction. What are the figures on this item?

I wonder how many councillors have Rental Agreement Contracts with their own councils? Handy when the council picks up the tab for the old investment mortgage(s).

As Michael Hennigan put it in a different post, ‘Conflict of interest, my a**e’. You could add ‘Reform’ to it.

If the next two budgets are intended to take around eight billion out of the economy, ten years in financial A&E doesn’t seem exaggerated.


I was also beginning to get carried away at this very Irish keen. Richard Tol had the ability to be dismissive and condescending of other people’s work especially in the area of environmental economics.

At a Comhar presentation on August 27th 2008 of research undertaken by AEA Energy & Environment together with Cambridge Econometrics in analyzing the Feasta promoted “Cap & Share” concept, Richard rounded off his critique by stating “this solution is like the Irish at the Olympics (Beijing having just finished) – you come 6th in the final and you think you are world-beaters” –

Rigourous academic rebuttal we can all take but cheap shots like that – one would have expected more from someone so highly thought of in his adopted home.

“He has his opinions which, while we don’t have to agree with them all (I certainly don’t), should be respected and given an airing. The fact that he didn’t find a home to adequately voice these opinions is a shame, and something I think we are poorer for as a result.”

I don’t agree with this one point. People’s views and opinions live and die by how persuasive they are. The fact that a person’s opinions do not get an airing is sometimes indicative that they do not deserve an airing.

Also, people have stressed that they do not agree with everything Prof Tol has said (K. Denny on twitter and S. Kinsella above). If an academic or professional make a number of statements or posit a number of theories which people consider to be wrong or wrong-headed (i.e., stronger disagreement than Kinsella or Denny mentioned) then such people will stop paying attention to that academic/professional.

Apart from that, I think Prof. Tol made a valuable contribution to the debate about flood response and flood risk management in Ireland. I share others’ sentiments in wishing him well in his future career.

@ Jagdip

Here, here!

Let’s hope Richard’s forecast of 10 years of austerity are as accurate as those of his erstwhile employer.

Nothing became him like his exit he really put flest on all the theories about why the ESRI have been so complicit in propping up our MOU no bondholder will be left behind obsessed government. Their contaminated work no worse of course than the DoF or CBI but bad nonetheless. There are plenty of grounds for saying that much of thier work was economic sophistry. Cormac Lucey has alluded to it, time and time again, especially growth GDP, GNP figures which are routinely exaggeraged and then revised back down again as target dates loom and they cannot humanly be stood over any longer. It has become same old same old.

The fact that we are getting this information from people who are petrified of loosing their jobs, afraid of not being funded, afraid of political masters, beholden to unions, whose macro-econometric (HERMES) model was not sensitive or accurate enough leads one to the inescapable conclusion of unreliability. Not to mention, being instructed to talk to media at your peril.

It appears, contamination was at many levels. Internal, political, union to name but three. They are completely compromised on the Croke Park deal. We are a year and nine months into the “agreement” and all we are getting is god bless the Croke Park deal. How much money has been saved net of golden goodbyes and pensions we know the redundancy is scatter gun approach and that even with all the flexibility in the world it will not be possible to redesign systems on the fly. The hand that rocks the cradle rules the world and in this case we all knew who was taking it in turns to rock the cradle at ESRI.

As for people saying Richard Tol said this and that, “then”! I trust someone who has nothing to loose, who cannot have rank pulled on him as he finally loads up his furniture and decides I cannot live this lie any longer. How serious must it be for a research professor, who honestly believes, that no amount of research changes Irish political heads, once they the bit has been put between their teeth? “Only game in town, has to be blanket guarantee, this is manageable etc. It must be a devastating realisation.

@ Richard Browne

Who, pray, in the ESRI is “beholden to unions”? This is the outfit that helpfully put out a rather snarky little document on pay, helpful to the government, just before one of the rounds of paycuts.

And Richard Tol has explicitly stated that he’s leaving because his economic prospects here aren’t so good. “Cannot live this lie any longer”? Really?

@ Frank Galton

Along with contorted reasoning as to why competition wasn’t good in the waste disposal business.

A classic.

Good Luck in your move, Richard. i won’t view your relocation as emigration since you have moved around in the past and will, no doubt, move again in future. on that basis alone, you are licky to have the choices that education provide.

On a more general note, I think it understandable for Richard to criticize ESRI but a little unfair for commentators to do that. An economic think tank is just that, a think tank. There are many instances where they warned of doom and every time their warnings were ignored. Today, the very politicians that ignored the warnings are busy passing the blame to anyone who will bear it and ESRI is a perfect patsy for thay. Also, I imagine that MOST of the economists there are professional and genuinely concerned for the future of Ireland. In today’s febrile atmosphere where confidence is essential to prevent collapse, I imagine that the pressure to be circumspect on negative reports is enormous.

The reality is that all of this is political at its core. France is busy pressuring the rating agencies because its fooked and deserves a downgrade. if it were healthy it would not care one whit about moody’s or S&P’s opinions. That’s the point of it all, and it is completely undertsandable.

IMHO, economists and those that want real change have to pick their targets. bashing on PS employees and think tanks when the banksters walk away with bonuses and the politicians sit idle – waiting for something to come along so they can cloak whatever their existing insider agenda is with a sense of inevitability- is morally reprehensible. but most depressing of all is that it is working. we are being left out in the cold to be picked off by wolves because the insiders won’t give up their priveliges, nothing more!

I really wish a real economist (anyone on here) would look at the social consequences of neo liberal economics theories and the Chicago school on Latin America’s health, education, infrastructure investment. I am convinced that we are entering a 20year plus period of Friedman-esque hell where everything, and I mean everything, will be sacrificed to pay debt, support the banks and buttress existing elites. The fact that this is Never discussed is frightening.

I wish Richard well and as regards the exit of academics, it would be good to hire more foreign dissenters who would not be reluctant to shakeup the cosy consensus that is inevitable in a small country.

General de Gaulle reputedly said that the graveyards are full of indispensable men. Staff turnover is good and certainly preferable to people vegetating in the same location for decades. Besides, travel may broaden the mind!

To paraphrase President Lyndon Johnson, I also wish that Richard had chosen his perch inside pissin’ out rather than “outside the tent, pissin’ in.”

It’s unheard of in Ireland for even people with state guaranteed positions to publicly dissent even at a time of massive political strokery (decentralisation) and egregious examples of economic mismanagement.

The stable is empty when some of the superannuated develop their back teeth.

The Tol v ESRI issue maybe more complicated than presented. It would however be shameful if it’s the policy at the ESRI to avoid controversy.

It was interesting that it was another foreigner, Paul Gorecki, who stood his ground on the shambolic waste management policy against ministerial, business and googlist critics.

The institute should be more proactive on current issues such as jobs policy and the euro – – not to take political positions but to put forward the facts at its sees them.

Of course bitter truths would be met with howls of protest. It should welcome that.

On jobs, given that the science budget has consumed up to €20bn in the past decade and no other institution of the State has investigated the performance, wouldn’t that area be a good place to start?

Government spending on research and higher education is one of those areas where the ESRI is not allowed to go. We’ve done a few small projects, in our spare time, but our attempts to raise a few hundred thousand euro for a more thorough and comprehensive assessment came to nothing. Some of the review comments were peculiar, like the assertion that the ESRI has no track record in assessment public investment.

via twitter:

RichardTol 1 Jan
….Nepotism, xenophobia, paper tiger strategies, evidence-free policy, antiquated use of technology: It can be found at the ESRI….

Hahaha, I can not wait to hear the official counter statement coming soon to this theater, if any.

Best wishes for the new endeavor.

Best of Luck to Richard in his new post.

Ive no idea if the money spent by the taxpayer that went towards Richards employment here was well spent or not… I suspect not and in fairness to Richard, not due to him…. Thats the way of the super industry, full of bright individuals but collectively…

Would it really matter if 90% of the ‘super industry’ of economists, policy ‘experts’, regulators etc. were just decommissioned….. Just shut the lot down….. I know it would matter to the individuals directly employed.
It’s practically impossible to measure if they provide sufficent value to justify their cost, and impossible to believe any figures coming from this industry which justify themselves

One example to consider on this is the Irish plumbing standards… For many decades the UK and Ireland shared standards (anyone who has used the old 1/2″ 3/4″ compression fittings will know)
Thanks to Ireland adopting metric, our super industry created an Irish standard (15 or 22 mm) to conform to best practice (as the ‘experts’ like to say)
The UK stayed on imperial and the Europeans were using metric but not UK style fittings which we use. As ye probably know 15mm is not exactly 1/2″ nor 22mm is not exactly 3/4 inch so if you dont want leaks you need to be aware of how to join them..

This adds considerable cost to the public manufacturers have to make Irish versions of 1/2″ fittings etc., it results in increased prices as the economies of scale arent there…. though it is possible to join irish and UK fittings, its not ideal so it stops irish plumbers and householders bringing in cheaper stuff from the UK and so on…… it stops competition…

In this case, the super industry has created a profitable niche for some but at the expense of the general good….

However, Im sure this standard is viewed as a success by the super industry as it is adopted, in widespread use etc etc etc….

For the above example, it would make sense to just drop the irish standards and adopt the british ones (which ours were copied from but converted to mm)…. open up the market, reduce costs for everybody…

How many more examples like that are out there? How much of this stuff is simply copying what the British or EU have done but instead of a smart copy it imposing costs and staffing that simply is not justifable given our size?

Regarding Richard’s move to the UK, it is reported in today’s FT that, despite the threat of a double dip recession in the UK, economists are urging the Chancellor not to abandon ‘his seven-year austerity plan’ !!!

Tol’s comments about the ESRI struck a chord with me. I’ve often wondered if it is entirely healthy for so much Govt work to go to one institute for so many years. Surely there is something to be said for the Govt to deflect some of its work to another institute thus creating two (fairly) significant reources and increasing thc chances of new intellectual approaches. The Govt certainly ought to give some thought to offering the macro economic forecasting activity to open contract every 3/5 years. One or more of our universities might be a tenderer for either of these possibilities. Or indeed the contract might go abroad.

Speaking at a more abstract level I believe it generally true a large part of the cohort who emigrate belong to the more resourceful and opportunistic and gifted. Recent times have seen the bleeding of the universities of highly qualified graduates turning universities into pre emigration induction courses not only in nursing, medicine but across all disciplines.

Iceland’s Olafur Grimsson must smile wryly at our 14.7% increasing with their ability to employ with only 8% unemployment.

The problem is our country is anchored uselessly to corrupt bad and incompetent leadership. For example, on Radio One this morning we were gifted with the one and only, Peter Bacon. Peter was one of those chief proponents/advisors to NAMA, indeed he still is an advisor to NAMA.

This morning he was bleating on about the dry up of credit and lending in Ireland that is making it impossible for those seeking mortgages to be successful against new stringent rules.

The solution for this bright artist of the meltdown is the government should intervene to take on the risk posed by negative equity.

The tragedy is, folks, Peter is not playing at being a stand up comedian, he’s jaw dropping serious! No doubt he wants to end the deflationary meltdown of the commercial/residential property market by getting a bunch of his cronies, buffered with upward only rent reviews and no risk of negative equity.

I guess the way it would work is this:

If his cronies put up €5 bn and made a nice rentier profit over five years, but then wanted to shift the portfoolIO, but prices dropped meanwhile by 20%, the Government/us taxpayers, would guarantee/fork up the difference, a cool €1 bn.

The gombeen was blathering about the need to protect the wealth of the country that is bound up in property, a catchphrase used to catch out taxpayers stuck with the bill for NAMA we heard some years ago.

The FIRE gombeens hold this country to ransom bleeding it with emigration and falling standards in health care and education in the hope the EMU through the EFSF will fork out and somehow relieve the debt burden so their NAMA and upward only rent review policies can continue.

I suspect within the bowels of the EMU, they are onto them and know that any money/debt relief will instead of being put to productive use, will instead be poured down useless holes made for it by the Bacons of this world.

The only solution is to leave the EMU, firesale Bacon and his cronies, through debt for equity in the banking sector or straight up default, renegotiate to float this ship currently dry docked by our lenders as its made ready for the scrap heap by them.

This would accelerate our return to market and immediately find support from eg China/Canada with the issue of government bonds to attract inward investment.

By taking this course we might even manage to save the euro for others who wish to remain within it.

Perhaps the ESRI might help with this project to show how much of our failed vassal state can benefit through a return to an economic model based on commerce and free capitalism; if the economy escapes the death clutches of lenders who’ve destroyed it in tandem with useless leadership.

They would be required to stand up to the present cohort who are prepared to destroy the economy, encourage emigration and unemployment and destruction of business, GNP, to pay back their paymasters who keep them asleep on pensionable, rip off salaries.

I don’t know about that.
I remember a Toll appearance on the VB show – with a man next to him a expert on pipes.
With water always refer to experts on pipes & drainage
The pipe man could not understand why you would want to attach meters and thus spend resourses while the water was leaking away from pipes with a structual / metallurgy flaw.
Always fix the actual problem and not the ideology first.
No matter what the Malthusians say water is not anything like Diesel in this country – it is not a scarce resourse.
Perhaps I am reading too much Robert Harris but the Romans did not build their cities by metering water.
They developed their cities by carrying water vast distances through sometimes extremely dry & difficult terrain.
This is a engineering and resourse allocation problem , its not a classic scarcity problem.
We have bigger rivers then the River Jordan the last time I looked anyhow.
Once you build it right the water will flow for 100s years of years -( see Victorian engineering.)
This is not anything like North Sea fossil fuel depletion – it is a entirely different dynamic of course.
But people use a almost identical narrative.

Rentier activities simply divert even more resourses away from actually fixing the problem.
Meanwhile roughly 2 MTOE is burned in Private vehicles in this country……………………..
Go figure ?
Think of what you could achieve with that energy ?

The waters will close very quickly over this minor disturbance Richard has caused in the fetid pond that produces formal, but censored, remit-constrained and punch-pulling, assessments of policy and murmered policy advice – as opposed to the informal disputation of policy that goes on here. The ‘powers-that-be’ will see to that.

The key point people should note is that the formally produced policy assessements and murmered policy advice have no more impact on policy decisions than the stuff we might present and discuss here. They are expected to be supportive of, and to validate, policy decisions already made behind closed doors. And, in most cases, there is no possibility to anything else – though some researchers will stretch the English language to its limits to insert some subtle critique or insert the occasional non-sequiter that might highlight an aspect of the reality the rest of the report is obliged to conceal (and might escape the attention of the censors).

In any event, most of the policy assessment takes place after a policy decision has been taken in principle – with the lead-up to this decision subject to the influence of who knows what narrow sectional interests. Any formal assessment of policy option prior to a decision being made is curtailed in every way possible.

So again, many thanks to Richard for causing ripples on the surface of this fetid pond. If only we had more like him. But it was only a temporary source of pleasure for, at least, some of us. The waters will close over in this fetid pond and it will continue to vomit up the usual mostly useless, but government-pleasing, fare.

Best Wishes to Richard. I enjoyed reading his posts and appreciated his replies to what were probably some dumb questions.

It seems a sensible choice to leave Ireland. In this context, it is fairly honourable to take a parting shot. It’s not the easy option and shows some integrity.

I prefer to see academics leave Ireland rather than being appointed to state boards for saying the ‘right’ things.


Good luck in the UK Richard – you’re going to need it!

You seem to have viewed Ireland, and the ESRI, from afar as some Elysian Field and upon arrival discovered it’s Sausage Factoriness.

Hope the UK, and Sussex, are more Homeric.

For my part, I’ve always believed the ESRI to be government shills – and the Irish government to be incompetent buffoons.

I guess Richard didn’t like the CV – shill to buffoons.

Having seen the UK sausage factory up close, I fear he’s in for a disappointment.


I really wish a real economist (anyone on here) would look at the social consequences of neo liberal economics theories and the Chicago school on Latin America’s health, education, infrastructure investment. I am convinced that we are entering a 20year plus period of Friedman-esque hell where everything, and I mean everything, will be sacrificed to pay debt, support the banks and buttress existing elites. The fact that this is Never discussed is frightening.


It even looks like we have already entered that Friedman-esque / Hayek-esque period. This mornings Irish Times article by Harry McGee is chilling in respect of what is on the agenda.
From the article:
“The EU Commission, in an implicit criticism, stressed that “financial sanctions for unco-operative unemployed” was still very rare in Ireland.”

Ireland would be better off away from these ECB/ EC fundamentalists.

@colm B

that interveiw with Peter Bacon made my stomach turn

on RTE radio one about restarting the property market this is the same Peter Bacon that came up with the Bacon report in the nineties that restricted land use when we entered the property boom that help create the huge property bubble through a huge increase in the land prices

the same Peter Bacon that helped create NAMA

same Peter Bacon that is an adviser to NAMA

in the introduction it said he also a director of some development companies

you just could not make this up now he is telling us how to restart the property market

@What Goes Up,

I’m sure Richard has no illusions about energy, environmental or climate change policy-making in the UK. In some respects it is even more dysfunctional that that in Ireland – I know that seems almost incredible, but it is.

Governments – and the government machines behind – everywhere will try to manage and close down public disputation of policy options prior to decisions being made. And once decisions are made will spin furiously, try to square any parties disaffected and manage any public debate. They will also do their damnedst to close down any possibility of review or accountability – unless, of course, it might damn the pervious government it has ousted.

It’s just that successive Irish governments, and this one is no expection, have been more successful – and disastrously successful – at this game than governments in most other EU member-states. That is why Ireland is in the mess it’s in – and other better-governed countries are not.

Richard simply had the integrity and guts to highlight this, but, unfortunately, could only do so in a parting (Partyhian?) shot. And already the offical calumny is beginning to be poured on his head.

One could find no better evidence of the warped official and establsihment mindset that a person who, briefly, spoke some truth to power is seen as a dissenter and a trouble and mischief-maker.

Unfortunately, instead of ensouraging others to speak their truth to power and influence it will have a chilling effect.

Same as it ever was.

Best of luck to Richard. I wish his family well and a quick settling in thall i Sasana . Perhaps in future one of the Tol jnrs will write a book about climate change and differences of opinion with pops.

We will always need dissenters. They’re great for any country. Richard will be missed.
I hope that he can keep pressing for reform internationally.
For anybody who thought France wasn’t in need of a kick up the derrière for example have a look at this.
Sarkozy is a statesman we can all look up to (oops sorry…poor choice of words!!)
Anyway hope R Toll doesn’t join the ranks of the “superior” English commentariat

@Paul Hunt

I agree completely. I admire his forthrightness and “speaking truth to power” approach.

The “criticisms” he directs at his ex-employer he seems to think are revelatory – only for him I fear.

Saying the ESRI is compromised by it’s funding model is like saying RTE is predisposed to it’s advertisers concerns more so than it’s public service role – or that The Irish Times buying gave it skin in the game on the reporting of the property crash.

Richard will discover that the UK has it’s own flat earth policies which no scientist/researcher/employee must challenge:

What Richard has experienced is regulatory and governmental capture. The US is the same, as is France, Germany and a host of others.

Ireland is no more predisposed to an incompetent political class than the Icelandic, the Italians, the Greeks or the Americans – we’re just rubbish at covering it and covering it up.

Go abroad for the schools, the lifestyle, to escape the gombeenism, etc. – just don’t expect the professional experience to differ too greatly.

@ Richard,

I imagine that a discussion with Mr. Van Eden a fellow dutchman and banking executive who resigned from Anglo in February would be interesting. His views on that organisation.
“Apart from the recklessness, overconfidence and the total lack of professionalism, one sees clearly a lack of checks and balances not only within Anglo but within the country/ system as a whole, Parties were not dealing with one another at arm’s length, transactions were circular in nature, back to back and off market pricing. There was misrepresentation, market manipulation and market abuse…The rationale was made to fit the objective at the expense of guiding principles and truth.”
He argued that the government authorities were “stuck in their old ways” and did not “recognise nor understand conflicts of interest”.
It so much clearer for someone who comes from the outside to see this stuff in Ireland.

There’s been a weird amount of vitriol on here over the last 24 hours. Seems to be an odd mix of people who absolutely despise the ESRI and its forecasting ability, people who absolutely despise Richard Tol for not having mainstream left wing environmentalist viewpoints, and people who absolutely despise that Richard Tol may have something bad to say about the ESRI. All very strange.

what share of direct ESRI funding comes from govt?
my understanding – based on nothing more factual than chats with ESRI staffers so IE readers pls correct me if I wrong – is that the share is around 25% and has decreased significantly over the years.
in addition to direct govt funding, much of their income presumably comes via contracts from state sector at national and EU level … but in ways v.similar to most policy research institutes. Shills? Not so sure.

That is academia for you and maybe even human nature. Every time I see a friend succeed a little bit of me dies.

@Mr. Bond,

I find it very strange that you find it very strange. This is Ireland, after all. I’m sure Richard would not claim any monopoly on wisdom – who can? – but most of what he advanced was slidly based on evidence and analysis – and it reflects much of the common sense and economic sense underpinning public policy in other better-governed countries. In all jurisdictions all those who seek to speak, even a little, truth to power run the risk of vilification, but Ireland is definitely at the extreme in terms of the risk of total public, official and establishment calumny – often, as you note, with different, and often conflicting, agendas being advanced by various groups in the baying throng.

And, because Richard could only make these observations on his departure, it will have a chilling effect on any others who might be tempted to speak their bit of the truth to power. And this is precisely what those who exercise and abuse economic and politcial power and influence want. And so they win again.

Forgive this change of subject but it is something that crossed my mind today after listening to Colm Mc Carthy on Newstalk this morning.

He said that taxes, welfare and the CPA will have to be looked at again.

If that does happen, then how will it affect the banks in relation to their mortgage book? I presume that the PS would be a significant sector of the mortgage market!

Have the affects of a public sector wage cut on the banks and their viability been calculated within the recent work by Blackstone et al.?

And, I suppose, if not, why not?

Has there been a specific


Re Sarkozy and ‘Kitty SoftPaws’

With Sarkozy counting billionaire Bettancourt and billionaire Hayek as close personal friends, les travailleurs down at Toulouse must be starting to wonder whose side Sarkozy is on.

Pity Ireland did not have a presentable auld Cait to rival Miss Kitty Softpaws. It might have kept Sarkozy’s mind off the Corporate Tax rate!

We do like to Berate ourselves in this Country. You would swear that the place was full of shysters and crooks. Apart from Politicians which I do not associate with I believe we have a relatively honest Civil and Public Service, our Garda and Army are not corrupt and the business community are generally honest and compliant. What we seem to have in abundance is Self Proclaimed experts in just about everything with the result that it is impossible to tell fact from fiction. Individuals like Prof Tol will come and go from this country for their own personal reasons and that is to be expected but I do not see the reason to come to the conclusion that the best and brightest are about to leave Ireland for good. I know lots of people who have decided to come back here having gained experience abroad. They have not seen the pot of gold in Australia and the far away fields are not necessarily greener. It is inevitable because of the size of the UK economy that there will always be a draw to that place for whatever reason and Good Luck to Prof Tol if he has found a position there that matches his research experience.

Why do you think it’s academics beating on Tol? What evidence (Ernie ball aside) do you have for that?
Meanwhile, we find that the insider nature reveals itself with reports that the dept of finance are to not pay relocation or indeed interview expenses for candidates for the Secretary of same. That to me seems very much designed i ensure that an insider, in the broadest terms, gets it. In academia, in international business, even I suspect in the wider public sector, if someone incurs reasonable expenses coming to interview they are reimbursed. What on earth is going on?

@Bond @all

What I find even more “strange” is that no thread has opened up to discuss the ludicrous implication that a a “High Calibre” Secretary General of Finance Minister cannot be found to work for a salary of 200 000 Euro.

IMHO that “high calibre” spin is complete rubbish and fair dues to the Labour Party (Brendan Howlin) for resisting this.

Even more ludicrous is the suggestion that “high calibre” external candidates may not be willing to pay their own travel costs to attend an interview or “relocate”. Any “high calibre” candidate who would want that is IMHO not “high calibre”.

If the DoF is stuck I would be willing to “babysit” (as I understand some of the poor dears are suffering from “low morale” in the wake of the previous SG`s departure) for 10 grand a month until a “high calibre candidate” can be found.

I understand the major challenge during the “interregnum” in DoF would be not to “lose” 3.6 Bn Euro.:)


The silence of his fellow academics about his treatment prior to leaving and the valid criticisms he has made is deafening – and significant. And it appears that Joe Durkan has been wheeled out to reject – this is the standard practice, no possibility of engaging in a rebuttal as that would suggest the criticisms might have some validity – the criticisms:

I expect that is all there will be to it. The line will be: the ESRI, via Joe Durkan, has rejected the criticisms. Any further, official comment by the ESRI might give the criticisms some validity. So there won’t be any – even though the world and his mother know that what Richard said barely scratched the surface. The waters will soon be smooth and calm in the fetid pond.

As for this interview expenses issue, why on earth do you seem so surprised?


“Ireland could do with more Dutch straight talking”

Very true. I also understand the Dutch recently had a successful “Twitter campaign” to reverse bank bonuses for potential “high calibre” beneficiaries.

I think it is very hard for Irish people to say “no” to someone’s face or to disagree publicly. The other thing is that it is not so easy to be outspoken in the culture . You have toolboxes like OLeary and Jedward but otherwise it doesn’t really happen.

Maybe everyone in the ESRI is just mortified.

What decade has the right wing given up on capital spend ?
Please answer – I am truely very interested in how societies collapse and how many decades it takes before implosion.
Me thinks implosion happens a bit before the oringinal capital spend has depreciated into a future archaeological find.
But hey we can make money on Interest until the day of Judgement , right?

If our bets are off we will be all dead anyway.
So we go all in on the depreciation of assets via interest extraction until we cannot – it is a rational response to these events , I give you that.

I am reminded of Issac Asmimovs stort story Nightfall when I read your comments

The Alien archaeologist may dig up all the evidence she needs to prove cyclical collapses of society but its hard to imagine all 6 suns sinking below the Horizon AT THE SAME TIME !
Imagine the panic.
Her theory is simply not credible……….
Lets live off the rent and also shut our ears to weird astronomers with equations pointing to Nightfall.
Preparing would subtract from our profit margin – would it not ?

I wish Richard all the best – there is a lot to be said for someone prepared to make hsi opinions heard – and there will always be inconsistencies available for us to target.
+1 btw to those who were equally aghast at the Bacon interview this morning on RTE1. That was RTE journalism at it’s most sycophantic.
Whats with this censoring/deletion of posts? Is it just Stephen Kinsella or some new policy on IE. What happened to Tim O Hallorans post?

@Paul Hunt

I heard Joe Durkan on the Radio this morning and if you are relying on the transcript from well then you are misinformed as to what exactly he said. He actually stated that he found it easier now to make criticisms of Policy ,if they were well founded, than he did when he was in the ESRI
up to 1983. He went into to the Private Sector before joining UCD in 1989 until 2002 when he retired. He rejoined ESRI in 2011. Joe Durkan in my opinion is one of the few sound Economists on the Irish Economy (no pun) that we have in Ireland. I would also suggest that Joe Durkan does not get “wheeled out” by anyone.

“Expert” Bacon is being trotted out again on 6:01 news recommending government intervention to prop up property prices. This stuff is surreal! Some Nama agenda being pushed?


I love the way you managed to include the words “expert” and “prop” in the same sentence. 🙂

@ Ahura Mazda

I prefer to see academics leave Ireland rather than being appointed to state boards for saying the ‘right’ things.

What evidence do you have that Richard Tol has anything to do with the above? The man has specifically gone to take up what is presumably a very well-paid professorship in the UK, and has also stated that economic reasons (not raising a family here during the Austerity Years) played a part in his decision.

If he’s resigned for reasons of principle, then it behooves him to explicitly say so, rather than having others arrive at that conclusion from his ambiguous statements (a familiar Tol gambit for deniability).

It must have been a very slow news day in RTE for Mr Tol’s departure to make item one on last nights 9 o’clock news.

How pathetic RTE has become…

Have to agree with the two comments about the very Irish “keening” going on here. I notice a lot of patting on the back for one member of the economists club by his buddies in the club; and this in a forum where there is general denunciation of the cosy, clubby Ireland?

I’m not in that little club and I don’t see where this description of Tol as a real dissident is coming from. Sure he has made a lot of waves with his ignore global warming campaign. That is anti-consensus if consensus is a synonym for rationality. Judge a man by his friends and you’ll see that Toll has that Danish self-publicist (and faker of facts) Lomborg and the US Congress (the ultimate flat earth society) as his best buddies. Apart from that zone, Toll is your bog standard free-market ideologue, pretty much from the same identikit as most other top academic economists.

On that topic I’m amazed at all the amazement that Irish economists didn’t spot the bubble. Yeah, that would be amazing if economics (as practiced in the public sphere) was an actual science. In fact it’s part PR; part religion: nobody blames the Ad agencies when the stuff does not ‘transform your life’ and nobody gets cross when the end of the world sandwich man gets it wrong. So why get cross at the economist cultists?

@EWI @Ahura Mazda

“I prefer to see academics leave Ireland rather than being appointed to state boards for saying the ‘right’ things.”

During the Soviet era (when being a senior public servant or academic was the best job) the following saying was very popular in at least one of the Baltic states :

“When you are among wolves you have to howl with them”.

Today in Ireland being a senior public servant/academic is one of the best jobs anyone can have throughout the EU.

On the other hand in Holland senior public servants and academics do not receive “stratospheric” salaries compared to their private sector counterparts.

It is not hard to guess which of the two countries has a lower rate of unemployment and which country has senior academics/public servants who are not afraid to indulge in “straight talking”.

It is also not hard to guess which of the two countries has higher unemployment and senior public servants and academics who say the “right things”.

With Bacon on the 6-1 and Mr Tol on the 9 o’clock maybe the Guvmint is playing a canny PR game ahead of the March ELA pound of flesh amputation.


“With Bacon on the 6-1 and Mr Tol on the 9 o’clock maybe the Guvmint is playing a canny PR game ahead of the March ELA pound of flesh amputation.”

Add that to the fact that this ,otherwise excellent, publicly funded site has only had one thread (Mr Tolś departure) running for two days in a row. 🙂

@ Livonian

The Netherlands has actual long-established industry and trade, partly from historical accident, partly from luck of geography. If you were to raise the salaries of Dutch public servants and academics it wouldn’t make a difference in any of these facts.

Personally, I’d be first one into the GPO to raise the Dutch flag if we had a chance to join that country. I lived there on and off for a number of years, and it’s wonderful to see what a real civic society and social democracy looks like.

“In a sign of the challenge facing the new Spanish government, the number of people registered as ‘out of work’ hit 4.42 million at the end of December. That’s the highest level since they first started collecting the figures in 1996, and will push the unemployment rate further above 22%.”

And the Spanish deficit is 8% rather than the 6% agreed with the PTB. Will 2012 be the year that they recognise that austerity alone is not working, along with huge swathes of young people ?


I hate to think how 22% unemployment in Spain translates into unemployment rates among young people : 40, 50 %?

If the Spanish make the same mistake as the Irish (prioritsing welfare and infrastructure cuts over Public service pay and pensions) there may not be enough time left to “recognise that austerity alone is not working” within that comparatively young democracy.

It would be better to have someone inside the tent pissing all over everyone and forcing them to act rather than wetting the bed and then legging it.
Its not couragous to be critical when you already have a job lined up in a foreign country.

That said,his depiction of the ESRI rings true.
As regards the Netherlands my experience of Dutch people is they are very tight fisted in business and jealously guard their wealth (this is a complement).
From my dealings with the Dutch it is hard to see a scenario where the bank guarantee could have been given there and certainly they would not have let their banks get into the state ours did.
The Dutch are very friendly in social company but in business dealings they are very abrupt and would appear to an unaware Irish person as confrontational.They call a spade a spade. At least thats my experience.

The Netherlands is a tiny country but it is a very wealthy country in the real sense that Ireland is not.


with every thing going to mush in Ireland and around the Eurozone periphery and today we see Germany with its unemployment figures reducing again it seems that the core of the Eurozone is sucking the outer countries dry


I partly agree.

Obviously the Dutch, with their long experience of trade and commerce, know the value of money and therefore taxpayers will only pay their public service what they think senior Public Servants and academics are worth rather than the other way around.

At the same time , while Holland is anice country to visit, I would not join you in rushing into the GPO to raise the Dutch flag. Holland and Belgium were not benevolent imperial masters.


Fortunately Philip has just opened another thread.

The way this thread was heading people could be forgiven for thinking that Mr Tol had “emigrated” to the Netherlands rather than switching jobs within the english speaking “common travel area”. 🙂

The Netherlands is going to hit the 17 million population mark in 2012 . 4 million is more manageable for the long term.

Calling a spade a spade is great: calling it “a fcuking shovel, Idiot” isn’t. Horses for courses and while as I said Richard will be missed there is a time for abrasiveness….just not every time. One as to wonder if n a parallel universe a more emollient Richard is now heading to the uk or is instead looking to be the next head of th esri and to then drag it further towards a world class institution?

@Dork of Cork

Societies do not collapse suddenly with the exception being invasion by stronger foreigners. Death by a thousand cuts or Chinese water torture is the more likely scenario. The collapse when it does occur is usually at the end of a long and slow decline. It is human nature to cling on by our finger nails until the evidence becomes overwhelming that failure is imminent. Even then an external trigger is usually the straw that breaks the camel’s back. Ireland is likely to emerge from this crisis in the next fifteen years or so. By then we will be a lot wiser and not much poorer. The ECB is the gift that keeps on giving and instead of casting aspersions on Merkel/Sarkozy and their successors we should be thankful that they are not throttling the ECB.
On the one hand I see disaster resulting from the continuing run up in debts and on the other we will in a couple of years owe so much that we cease to be a troublesome debtor, as we gain enough critical debt mass to become too indebted to fail.


References to Richard Toll good, bad or indifferent are somewhat irrelevant. Its not the ESRI thats likely to sink us (sunk us) its the scale of private debt and not as previously noted the size of banking debt as a proportion of overall Govt debt but PRIVATE debt in all its forms.

We go nowhere until realism prevails and the debt is cut and bond financiers, lenders and depositors alike lose money and tons of it. Until that basic capitalist reality dawns on us all the written words above are largely a waste of time. In economic terms this time it really is different – aren’t negative net interest rates meant to entice economic activity and yet most Western economies where this phenomenon exits the exact opposite is the reality on the ground.

Richard Toll or any economist in fact would not have expected nor would have been trained to expect this outcome but its the current malaise we find ourselves. Deal with the actual problem – private consumption is crippled by debt – one either pays it off through growth which is not expected in any meaningful way and certainly not enough to dent the scale of the problem or one writes it off and banks and their financiers fail. Unlike ‘Blind Date’ the choice is not yours. The latter is the only solution. The truth hurts.

I’m a fan of Richard’s analysis on the environment and waste, instinctively identify with those who strain to voice their unpopular opinions, and am very sorry to see him go, but I would like to say a word about some of this colleagues at the ESRI that I deal with from time to time. I wouldn’t like their reputations to be damaged by his statements. I’ve found much of the ESRI work, not necessarily on the general economy which I don’t always follow closely, but on specific research projects in which I have an interest, to be very useful and insightful and as far as I can see, not tainted by any desire to please. The funding model is obviously problematic, but I’d be slow to question the academic integrity of its output in a general fashion.

Ireland is a small country and I always feel flattered when people choose to live here and a little sad when they leave. Good luck to Richard Tol in his new endeavour, though I hope he sees the light on climate change, and market fundamentalism, and redistributive economic policies. And so on.

On the inter-academic sniping I would normally quote Sayre’s law “Academic politics is the most vicious and bitter form of politics, because the stakes are so low.” but actually, the stakes are very high.

@DOCM watch continues: On the divine right of creditors…..

It is amazing that your average Irishman (and woman) knows and accepts this fact in everyday business dealings but is unwilling to accept it when it comes to borrowings between states. If we are to get any leverage with our creditors, we have to put ourselves in the situation where we we can say we do not need to increase further our level of indebtedness to them. Whether the bank element is a quarter or a third does not really alter the argument.

Most amusing but not very edifying. I can recall when you (risibly) tried to spin the support of zombie banks and the repayment of bond holders as a matter of national dignity (finally joining the nations of the earth – in abject submission to Mammon). Now that the repayment seems to involve sacrificing dignity it has become a political necessity and not a moral one. I am sure we went through maintaining confidence as well. It is a absolute blast that now the banking bailout related proportion of the debt is so high you think the issue is irrelevant. Underneath it all it seems hat the only thing you really think is inviolate is debt.

We will not be the first or last country to refuse to pay odious debt – regardless of the book keeping effort to make it look like monies owed to governments and not paid to criminally incompetent financial capitalists.

@ Yield or Bust
Richard Tol …would not have expected nor would have been trained to expect…that real rates would be zero yet there would be no lending….

This is actually my biggest bugbear with Tol and all of the other economists. There is NO excuse for them not to expect an outcome such as the very one we are experiencing. there is literally tonnes of research on the zero bound limit to monetary policy. Most is based on the Japanese experience, but also on the great depression. The fact is, they didn’t see it because they ALL served their paymasters well, whether it was an ESRI economist under pressure to emphasize the elements of research that served the government agenda, or the bank economist that actually threw together a few charts from the last five years to support the view that the potential for productive credit expansion is infinite.

They all sang for their supper, Tol included no doubt.

Been busy and not consulting you for a while so missed the beginning of this thread.

My wife works with a ( French) global energy group, arrived back in Paris from the Durban Summit after ten days, tired, and needed to collect her thoughts and write a short, ‘synthétique’ report.

I printed Richard Tol’s ‘Durban:Jobs and Climate’ one-page, three-point post from 13th December last and it did the job!

It also caused a marital argument as, based on having attended the Bali event in 2007, I agreed with Richard’s concluding “Nothing much to show for 1,000 person-years of work. One wonders whether there really are no better investments of the time and effort.” And she didn’t.

Bravo, good luck and let’s have more movement of spirited critique in and out of Ireland. By Irish people AND anyone, from anywhere, interested enough to have informed opinions about us.

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