Irish Economy Conference: Preliminary Notice

The podcasts and presentations from last year’s Irish Economy conference are available here. This will be run again in January 2013. The general reaction to the 2012 session was positive and we think it has a useful function and should be retained as an annual event held in January.  I wanted to post now to give time for discussion and suggestions for sessions. The layout will be similar to last year, with a potential for three parallel sessions depending on amount of quality speakers that are available. Comments on this blog directly influenced last year’s session so this is a good place and time to make general comments if people are interested in shaping the format and line-up. Alternatively, either me or Stephan Kinsella can be contacted with suggestions. Or use #ieconf as a hashtag on twitter

67 replies on “Irish Economy Conference: Preliminary Notice”

The social implications of 400K long term unemployed

Something on debt and what the current situation where there is no way out for the hopelessly indebted means to real people

Limerick post crash – it would be fabulous to get Niamh Hourigan to speak with say Stephen Kinsella for a mix of economics and sociology and what impact the economic decisions are having on the ground in Moyross

A public choice analysis of Irish economic policy in recent times.
Both Micro-policy and Macro-policy.

Obviously the bleeding of domestic demand because of a non optimum monetary envoirment which gives grossly incorrect input output signals.

We could stop the exporting of our wealth tomorrow if we went back to the Punt.
Why is it the Euros prime directive to sustain Saudi Arabian & East Asian Domestic demand ?
Do our betters have investments outside this happy clappy Euro Circus ?

I’d like to see a presentation on how money is created through loans and then canceled out of existence through loan repayments. I’d be happy to provide the sources of information on this.

I’d also like to see some analysis on the fact that mortgages have reached their natural limit of duration. i.e. They take two incomes almost their entire careers to repay. Since so much of our money is created through mortgages hitting this milestone could render this recession quite unique.

Finally, having monetary reform on the agenda would be great although it would be hard to decide which system to discuss in detail.

InterDisciplinary_Recognition of he iniquitous sc(r)ewed distribution of economic, social and psychological values within the Irish Citizenry as a foundation to addressing movement towards a real, as distinct from bullsh1t, knowing republican lifeworld.

Energy as an factor of production (apart from land and labour).

What are the implications for the Irish Economy when fossil energy supplies become constrained?

Models of economic processes: Permagrowth and Sustainability. Why both will fail.

Three biggies:

– Capitalism without failure is like Catholicism without sin – why too big to fail makes winners of sinners.

– How the financial system is now predicated on fraud and why the legal system won’t prosecute the “too big to jail”.

– With debts like this who needs inflation?

@Brian Woods Snr.
We can’t be sure where the oil will flow when this post war trade /credit expansion fails.
Overall global oil production is still rising although the increases are of the expensive variety.
Ireland is taking a hit for the post 1980 Europe of wage / energy /tax arbitrage which is a sort of Poetic justice given we were at the vanguard of this very sick Guinness Peat Aviation syndrome.

But who knows what the future may hold ?
The oil might just remain in the ground for a long long long time.

Then again Half of the Chinese oil ration might flood these shores …. our best and brightest can then do a proper job on the Bog of Allen – filling the gaff with skyscrapers and getting some “growth” back into our bones.

Who really knows ?
We are open to the 4 capital / labour winds are we not ?

Bring on something even more pointless I say.
For the crack like.

Inexorable stickiness & power relationships in an internal devaluation – are parallel currencies the only answer?

All physical world solutions are pointless when banks can create monopoly credit.
They will always waste the energy of all endevours.

Our Goverments are not goverments when they refuse to produce interest free taxable fiat.
Its the only mechanism to break the back of the Venetian banking system via reducing the banks leverage power over us.

A parallel strong /weak currency where the tax goes to banks via interest will not work for us , but it will for the banks.
The interest free fiat must be a monopoly currency of goverment , not the banks and their so called “sovergin debt”.

People are not asking the simple question why cities must remain in defecit ?
(cities must always be in defecit to their hinterland be it agriculture or fossil fuel energy)
The same dynamic happened during the fall of Rome – why farm if most of your resourses are sucked into city centres to be spent on whoring ?

The cities must be centres of positive intellectual dynamism with maybe a bit of whoring thrown in.
If they are centres of what they see as creative destruction………. well its best to not engage with the system….although the system may wish to engage with you.

Its a classic tale of civilization collapse played out many many times in the past.
Nothing much has changed in 2000 years.

Culture and the economic model

it’s alright ‘cos the historical pattern has shown
how the economical cycle tends to revolve
in a round of decades three stages stand out in a loop
a slump and war then peel back to square one and back for more

bigger slump and bigger wars and a smaller recovery
huger slump and greater wars and a shallower recovery

you see the recovery always comes ’round again
there’s nothing to worry for things will look after themselves
it’s alright recovery always comes ’round again
there’s nothing to worry if things can only get better

The impact of upward only rent review leases on the Irish Economy. Ah sure who cares! Let everyone just close down. Economists have more weighty matters to discuss.

Heres the problem as I see it.
Credit as in bank credit of all kinds can only expand (cities expand outward or upward) they don’t stand still (until now in Ireland).

Well now we have enough stuff…….but we cannot use the stuff because our tokens are bank credit and not debt free stock.(although with a yield)
You get misallocations of resourses such as empty buses and single occupant cars causing a kind of dramatic wastage of resourses that we now cannot replace with more energy dragged out of the ground that they somehow call credit growth

Chris J Cook has a interesting pure fiat suggestion – but first some history

“For several hundred years, the Exchequer financed and funded English sovereigns by issuing IOUs, in the form of wooden tally sticks (pictures) split into two parts. Individual creditors were given the Stock as a receipt and as a credit token which was returnable to the Exchequer in payment of taxes: the Exchequer retained the counter-stock or foil to be matched against returned Stock.

13th-century Exchequer “stocks”.
By the time the (privately incorporated) Bank of England came along to privatise the money supply in the late 17th century there were at least £17m worth of tallies in issue at a time when the total cost of the operation of the Kingdom was perhaps £2m to £3m per annum.-

From 1660 onwards, the UK began to issue interest-bearing Stock wholesale which met a demand for long term risk free annuity investments. This Stock paid interest periodically to the holder and became very popular with long term investors, representing the lowest risk and most solid income stream available. Meanwhile the physical tally stick accounting system gradually fell into disuse as the accounting system became a more secure double-entry book-keeping system.

Several classes of Stock were issued and in 1752 these were consolidated into what became known as Consolidated Stock or Consols. Further issues were made and in 1888 these were all brought together by (Chancellor) Goschen’s Conversion as the 2.5% Consols which remain in existence to this day”

He then calls for a stock of money to be issued at a discount – say a £1 unit sold for lets say 90 pence.
The rate of return depends on the amount of time before the money is returned on payment of taxes.

In his words
“Stock revolutionises long term investment by transforming the risk. There is no longer a risk that debt and interest will not be paid. The stockholder may redeem Units against taxation, or may sell Units to other taxpayers/investors. Even if pure investors will not buy Stock, taxpayers will always buy Stock when the price is below £1.00.”


A precious killer me thinks…… precious me precious me Gold is but a trinket.
As FOFOA says GOLD is debt.

Items that won’t be on the agenda!

The challenge of creating 200,000 net new Irish jobs in a slow-growing Western Europe

On Wed, the IDA announced: “Guidewire Software, Inc. (NYSE: GWRE), today announced that it has established a consulting centre in Dublin. Guidewire already has a team of approximately 25 employees in place and additional hiring is underway.”

There was no information on new jobs. Nevertheless, there were the usual bromides from the echo chamber of the starship ‘Enterprise’ to support a common actionless action.

‘The Times They Are a-Changin’ as Bob Dylan sings but ‘challenges’ are in the same boat as that disarming question: what crisis?

Concepts like globalisation are seldom aired but an interesting little stat shows that from a low level in 2000, trade between Asia-Pacific and Latin America grew at an annual average rate of 20.5% to 2011, reaching about US$442bn. Along the way, Asia-Pacific’s share of LA’s trade rose to an unprecedented 21%, right behind the 34% of the US, the region’s main trading partner.

Spin, falling FDI, dodgy data and dumb policy-makers

Jan 19, 2010: Good news at last as economists announce a new dawn after a winter of gloom. Lower costs are already “kickstarting growth” and from behind a desk, increasing shares in export markets have already been discerned from recent cost reductions. However, a European Central Bank (ECB) executive director on Monday, said such people are delusionists. One or possibly two more tough Budgets are needed and rising exports will power rapid growth from 2012.

I added in that piece:

The Irish Independent reports that ESRI economist John FitzGerald said: “We will see a vigorous recovery in 2012.” He added that the economy could expand by as much as 5% a year between 2012 and 2015.

Speaking at the ‘Checkout’ annual retail conference in Dublin yesterday, he said a short-term boost to the economy was likely to kick in during 2012 as consumers once again started spending money. Workers have been pouring money into savings accounts, building financial security nets in case they lose their jobs as the employment rate hit 12.5%.

Dr Alan Ahearne, adviser to the Minister for Finance said a number of factors gave rise to optimism. He said there was a 5% improvement in unit labour costs since the autumn. “This is already kickstarting growth. We are starting to gain market share but we need to do more as we lost our competitiveness during the boom years,” he said.

Tossed in the stew, is a reference to a special report from Bank of Ireland economist Dan McLaughlin who forecast that a substantial increase in exports in 2012 would help a recovery.

In fairness to Dan, he has curbed the unbridled optimism of the halcyon days of the bubble but give it time. Whether he still believes as he did in 2007, that the economy wasn’t unbalanced, we don’t know or will we know.

As for the three referred to “experts,”  when credible forecasts for economic growth in the United States and the Eurozone in 2011, are less than 2010, because of the exits from governments’ and central banks’ massive stimulus programs, what value should we give to Irish forecasts for 2014 or 2015?


It’s easy to see how dodgy data can even beguile some bright folk. It also underpins fairytales that are more seductive than the cold truth.

I wondered at the time, where could Alan see increasing market share from his perch in Merrion St?

Is Ireland a failed State?

“Ireland is the old sow that eats her farrow,” — James Joyce

“Ireland’s derivative mental set about life and the world, superficially divided by imported variants, is domestically unchallenged.

It underpins the institutional and ideological stagnation of which we have become increasingly aware. Accustomed to depending economically on foreign investment, subsidies and loans, we are also dependent on portrayals of reality fashioned elsewhere,” — Desmond Fennell, in The Irish Times.

After the second home-made economic crash in a generation, has the current response changed significantly from the early 1980s?


The existence of the euro even reinforces the conservatism of the elites.

Why would you want change when you’re on track for a gilded mealticket for life?

Weak political leadership is matched by silence from groups directly or indirectly dependent on the public treasury.

Has anyone said, more could be done for less?

Will pre-2008 return?

University heads still aspire to the prestige of a ‘world-class’ university if fees can be imposed again. It’s always easy spending others’ money and dare we wonder how can Finland survive without third level fees or even fee-paying secondary schools!

A panel session on Irish WTF

Sir, – I refer to coverage of the report by the National Competitiveness Council (“Ireland in maths crisis as students lag behind”, Home News, July 4th), where much is made of the importance of mathematics and the need for high achievers in maths to be given appropriate training.

Unfortunately the Teaching Council does not accept engineering degrees for registration of mathematics teachers. It also does not take postgraduate degrees into account when assessing qualifications as “there is no Leaving Certificate course content in a PhD”.


Fire this ‘Teaching Council’! Unbelievable …

@Minister R. Quinn

Does a degree in architecture disaualify you from teaching mathematics?

Come on, folks. Surely you don’t anticipate that the organisers of this event will present a programme and line-up that will seriously challenge the propaganda dished out by the ‘power-that-be’ – who ultimately sanction their pay, prerequisites and research funding (with the obvious exceptions of a few emigres and non-Irish participants)?

Even if they were to, it wouldn’t make a blind bit of difference – apart from running the risk of public opprobium, ridicule, isolation or maginalisation orchestrated by the Government spin-machine or, if the cut were too close to the bone, of career-limiting, if not livelihood, retribution from the ‘powers-that-be’.

And it wouldn’t make a blind bit of difference because economic policy is controlled totally by the Standing Committee of the Politburo (aka the Economic Managment Cttee) comprised of the Taoiseach, the Tanaiste, Ministers Noonan and Howling, their SPADs and a handful of senior officials. Nothing, absolutely nothing, happens without their say so. Unless any critique of policy or presentation of policy options in some way penetrates their thinking it hasn’t a snowball’s chamce in hell of having any impact.

Everything is simply shouting from the ditch, unless it captures and channels a surge in popular disgust and anger. The comparison and contrast with Britain is informative. A large number of citizens for a long time either ignored or suppressed their growing unease about the behaviour of the media, their dereliction of their ‘fourth estate’ duties and their suborning of various institutions of the state. It took a single brutal and tragic event – the rape and murder of a school girl – and the reprehensible behavour of a section of the media in the way it became involved in this case that provoked the fury of the British people. The outcome was the partial evisceration of the evil Murdoch empire and a full-blown, wide-ranging, judge-led inquiry.

Currently, the public disgust, resentment and anger is mounting at the reprehensible behaviour of the bankers – and that of major energy energy market players (which could very easily extend to include all utility service providers who are ripping off their customers).

It will be interesting to see if this will have any ‘demonstration effect’ in Ireland. The grounds for public disgust, resentment and anger at the machinations of Official Ireland are even stronger than they are for the growing public sentiment in Britain.

There are some indications that the pay of the SPADs is becoming the focus of public attention, but this is small beer – though it could prove to be a significant turning point. One wonder how long Official Ireland will be able to keep a lid on things.

Ireland never really had money power so it must depend on external capital flows from FDI to tourists from areas where there was money power…now to extreme & absurd levels to pay a external debt stock.

This creates the conditions for massive malinvestment of capital as huge bubbles must be sustained to pay this foregin debt and its exponential interest and indeed after the bubble can no longer be sustained physical capital and people must be depreciated to pay this stock of debt.
In the past this monetary mechanism was accomplished via wars where physical capital was destroyed in Battle or depreciated much more rapidly.

In many ways we have had enough growth…….we simply need tokens to spend – if not the stuff that already grew will not be used.
Indeed the response from the “authorties” suggests the stuff built was not built to be used as such but to create “growth” to pay the sov debt.
A absurd and sick situation.
Any futher Investment must now concentrate on building stuff that was less credit senstive…. anti bubble stuff.
This if done globally will not register as “growth” as less resourses will be used but at least some of the stuff built will actually be used rather then destroyed in a monetary battle for debt repayment.
As we will have the static / maybe declining energy resourses but with a huge amount of stuff remaining.

@Paul H

If no one bothers to at least encourage a challenge to the post-colonial trauma that inhibits discussion in Ireland – then it definately won’t happen.

Anyway, I thought Liam D had made it over the wire and the search dogs couldn’t follow a scent over water?

I Guess They will not talk of giving all and I mean all the tiny but still not insignificant political Fiat power to banks via the ESM coup.
This strange hand over of all power to the Venetian banks without a fight is very puzzling ?

Its as if we really want to be Bitch slapped into eternity.

These people are not friends you wish to have a close relationship with.

The Mario take out of the Italian economy is something to behold.
Operatives for these organisations seem everywhere withen the soiled fabric of Europe.

We are still living with the catostrophic fallout of the cabinet wars and these devils unstoppable rise to total power.

They will not stop until they are stopped.


Stephen Hawking has a degree in Natural sciences. Within that he concentrated on physics.

Would he be “world class” enough to teach Irish teanagers maths.

Engineering, physics, theoretical physics and others are entirely appropriate degree subjects for teaching second level maths.

Genuine question, if you have a maths degree, but no qualification in ‘Irish’, do you pass muster for teaching maths in a Dublin school?


As you can probably see from the initial mix of comments, statements suggestions and quibbles, your ( very worthy) project is already running into murky water and may overwhelm you.

What, exactly, specifically, would be the OBJECTIVE of the conference?

What audience are you/would you like to address/influence?

What theme/title?

Properly/professionally conceived, planned, targeted, ‘peopled with speakers’ and executed, such a conference, particularly if moderated in such as way as to produce a short, coherent ‘executive summary’, could generate the agenda for for the coming year, throw up the themes for a series of ( big and small) studies, exchanges and events and even (gasp!) influence policy.

This would be particularly the case if it was combined with a planned strategy to attract attention and meaningful participation from (Irish and non-Irish) outside Ireland.

To go at this professionally a dedicated ( accountable!), task force, preferably internationally connected, would need to to formed. And to achieve meaningful objectives the time to January is very, very short.

Best of luck but you need to decide if ‘more of the same’ is what you’re after. Or something else!

@ Grumpy

I don’t know. Maybe not.
But the problem is larger than the Gaeilge.

That Teaching Council excuse is risible. There is a consistent picture emerging of help being offered by people who know their stuff and it being rejected. The mediocrity continues.


The main point I was making is that, even in mature democracies, those who are part of, or in some way dependent on, the ‘establishment’ will never challenge its antics. It is very difficult for those who are part of the problem to become part of the solution.

The challenge only comes from a big shift in public opinion and sentiment – which might be building up subterraneously for a long time.

For some reason – though I can think of many – the Irish public has not really got the hang of this. It would be a magnificent ‘coming of age’ of Irish democracy if they were to master the knack for the first time. The look of shock and horror on the faces of those in Official Ireland would be worth an awful lot.

And I though I made exception for the emigres and non-Irish participants.

Oh dear, Richard, I fear you’re taking this event far too seriously. I gather you attended the last one. This is similar to an opening night knees-up for the actor luvvies.

Rather than have a conference where talking heads talk to other talking heads, why not invite some different thinkers along to a proper public event?

Forgive me for living up to my username, but a group of academics sitting in a university classroom isn’t anything different to anything we’ve seen in the past.

Some of you (and I’m specifically looking at Brian Lucey and Constantin here (the Bert and Ernie of economic love-ins)) constantly laugh at people on twitter who don’t understand the nuances of economics or finance. Well, here’s your chance.

Scrap the proposed format, invite some new people from outside the usual circle and put this event on in public for the public.

The usual commentators are active on their own blogs, this blog and twitter, so they don’t need the publicity, but there are other people who do. Let’s get them involved.

@Paul Hunt

Gave up taking myself seriously long ago. Now you’re advising extending it to others?

The best luvvies can give memorable performances and even move audiences sometimes!

I think all those poopooing, sneering, hurling on the ditch and generally skittering should be offered a place. Course, then we would see then exposed, literally.
Paul Hunt I’m looking at you. can you commit to presenting a paper in and of an academic style and standard, on whatever it is your wittering on about? Or would that be too hard?


Its just another example of regulatory capture – this time by mathematics departments – to exclude competition. Foreign mathematicians (in effect foreigners in general), presumably, are already excluded from the market by the ‘Irish language’ requirement.

@ Grumpy

Teaching is one of the most parochial professions in the world IMO. It is very, very hard for Germans to get a job teaching in German Switzerland.They don’t speak Swiss German. Nobody else speaks Swiss German. Swiss German is not used in the classroom.

Primary and secondary teachers tend to club together against outsiders, in my experience. Especially where jobs are involved.

The practice of sheltering underperforming teachers would appear to be common outside Ireland too.

In Ireland there is a huge mental problem with honours maths. Only 17% of students take the honours paper for their Leaving Cert. 30% should be capable of managing the paper.

How about revisiting the famous pulled ERSI paper and coming out with a % of people who would be better off on the scratcher…..

@ Gtfaway

But it’s probably down to evil public sector workers really.

A lame attempt at victimhood, surely?

I don’t know what point you’re making on tax — Irish GDP as a denominatar misleads when it’s used in international comparisons.

In Finland, teaching is a sought after profession where teachers are paid as much as doctors or lawyers but less than counterparts in Ireland.


I presume your chosen pseudonym captures your reflexive response to anyone who might challenge your apparently narrow and prejudiced view of the world.

I’m afraid, though, that your desire to see me in the modern equivalent of the stocks will not be satisfied. I don’t see any way that the folks here would invite me to present at this event, since they would run the risk that I would highlight their collective failure, in a time of serious political and economic crisis, to perform their duty to the public – who ultimately pay for their services if not so handsomely as heretofore but probably more handsomely than many of their peers elsewhere. Nor am I sure I would wish to be associated with those who are quite so lily-livered.

@Michael Hennigan

Have you go any information on how the collapse of Nokia is impacting Finland?

@ Paul Hunt

I think you’d be a great addition to this event. The campaign to portray Richard Tol as an oppressed dissident was a masterpiece of satire, the comparison to Einstein and the Theory of Relativity a stroke of comedy genius.


Thank for for this barbed encomium. Amartya Sen quoted Auden on Europe in 1939 on the eve of war:
In the nightmare of the dark / All the dogs of Europe bark, / And the living nations wait, / Each sequestered in its hate.

You seem to have sufficient bile to spit for a nation – “sequestered in its hate”.

@ seafóid

Finland still has got ‘Angry Birds’!

Last year Nokia’s share of Finnish GDP was at the same level as it was in 1992, before the company began its meteoric rise. In 2011 Nokia accounted for half a per cent of Finnish GDP. In 2000 the figure was 4%, according to calculations by the Research Institute of the Finnish Economy (ETLA).

In 2008, the information and communications industry accounted for 6% of Finnish GDP. Now it is down to 3%.

Nokia’s share of exports was 21% in 2001 and down to 10% in 2011.

During the 1990s the economy oriented heavily towards ICT (information and communication technologies), and by the end of the decade the country was the most ICT specialised economy in the world.

Finland has been ranked top in virtually all international comparisons measuring competitiveness, or knowledge economy developments — including World Bank Knowledge Economy Index, and OECD’s Student Assessment tests (the so called PISA studies).

Finland has a net national surplus (a negative public debt) of over 50% of GDP.

Finnish GDP grew by 2.9% in 2011 and growth is expected to be 0.9% in 2012.

The biggest export sector is the chemical industry.

‘Scrap the proposed format, invite some new people from outside the usual circle…’ What a revolutionary idea!

No need to scrap anything ( although parallel session conferences are logistically complex – and militate against the achievement of a short list of well-defined objectives).

‘Worth attending, self-referential, very few, actionable new ideas’ is how a few of us (non-Irish based) summarised the last event.

What’s the objective this time? For whom? By whom?

Who’s organising the content? Who’s doing the organisation?
Who’s in charge of the follow-up?

If one wanted to identify one or two critical topics, select and and ‘recruit’ top quality speakers with international ‘clout’ and likely to generate two or three actionable conclusions likely to impact on an Irish/international policy makers, January next year is tomorrow!

Self-referential is over. World-wide!

@Richard Fedigan,

You seem to be intent on trying to make a silk purse out of this sow’s ear. Your interest and enthsiasm are admirable. But all of these events or gatherings involve various parts of Official Ireland speaking to each other.

The participants cloak their timid, feeble, non-specific, circumspect, mealy-mouthed, weasel-worded and ever-so-cautious efforts to speak truth to power in academic garb so as to cause least upset to the ‘powers-that-be’ – it makes no sense to bite the hand that feeds. And there is an on-going competition to perform the most technically aclaimed intellectual contortions and verbal gymnastics to give the impression that something of substance is being communicated in a bold and unflinching manner, whereas in reality all punches are pulled when the profound dysfunction at the heart of governance, policy and regulation hovers in to view.

Those who have some access to the corridors of power will be more circumspect than most. Those who yearn to have some access will seek to differentiate their product and will throw various shapes, but their technical virtuosity will be in inverse proportion to the substance. There is an enveloping, suffocating and over-riding fear of stepping out of line and upsetting the ‘powers-that-be’. Dissent and challenge, of course, are welcomed, but it has to be communciated and expressed within very tight parameters and subject to quite elaborate protocols and etiquette. It is often the case that those who express dissent or offer challenge are not fully aware of these parameters, protocols and etiquette with which only the fully initiated are conversant and the dissent evaporates in a space filled with knowing winks, patronising comments, sotto voce murmers and inane grins.

Nothing will be achieved until some of these ‘public intellectuals’ collectively assert their independence from government and its expansive apparatus, critique the dysfunction in governance in a manner that may be communicated to and resonate with the general public and, crucially, actively seek to inform, educate and enlighten the general public.

It is only the public who can demand the changes in governance that are required. The politcal classes have no incentive to – and every incentive not to – present the case for these changes to voters.

It would be unwise to assume that the apparent sullen and resentful docility of a majority of voters may be sustained indefinitely

Finland like Ireland is not longer sovergin.
So it must export its wealth to sustain a balance of debt.
Not a sustainable or rational situation.
All of the European nations are extreme colonies of the banks now – which is why physical commerce no longer has in basis in real world input output costs.

Its internal economy has experienced problems also.
The disastrous cost overruns of their EPR reactor not reflected in this corporate video is a direct result of the PPP system.

They must have PPP systems in Europe because the Goverments are not sovergin…. (they can’t produce debt free money)
Its a circular argument.
A Entropy Gyre the Irish ancients kept writing on those rocks of ours.

They were telling us something me thinks.
“For God sake don’t do those Public Private partnerships”
We tried that stuff out with those stone circle thingies and it took us generations to get the job done”
However we had suitable candidates for ritual sacrifice when the thing was finally completed”

The first topic I would like to see addressed is not purely economic but a lot of economists have expressed view on it.

Technocracy – What criteria and principles shold we use in seeking to strike a balance between personal freedom, democracy and economic stability achieved through the technocratic protection of the common weal? How can we relate such criteria and principles from the current proposals for changes in the operation of the EU and the EZ monetary, budgetary, banking and political systems.

Four other issues I would like to see explored/learn more about:

1. Civil service management/policy formation reform – What is the potential for economic gain by reforming the policy formation process (including management and promotion structures) in the Civil Service? If this is uncertain, how should this be approached as a problem which lies at the interstices of micro economics, macro-economics, behavioural economics and management science? (my lay-man’s terms!)

2. Debt write-off/forgiveness – What effect of would debtor-friendlier insolvency laws (e.g. UK equivalent) have on the current and future stability our banking system and on the Exchequer? What does the evidence from abroad tell us (e.g. jingle mail in some USA states)? What are the potential positive effects for the domestic economy and how would this affect the banking system? If related, how is the carrying forward of losses by banks and other institutions affecting tax take?

3. Costs of the Legislative Process/Legal Systems – What are the economic costs of an unwieldy legislative process? In particular, the costs and problems caused by
– an ad hoc proliferation of interdependent statutes,
– creating new laws which the state is not equipped to enforce (leading to a culture of non-compliance and non-enforcement),
– the delays in implementing important legislative changes,
– the ad hoc nature of drafting of legislation and the potential for errors,
– the existence of a treble system of common law, statute law and equity,
– the barriers to entry for businesses in particular sectors, and the barriers to entry into areas of legal services, where the the ever growing proliferation of applicable laws requires specialisation and constant review.

4. Economic risks and costs of outsourcing – What are the economic risks and costs of outsourcing of IT Development, IT infrastructure and other outsourcing by the state? In particular, what are the tail risks in relation to loss of current expertise in the future (e.g. how telecoms or a land registry work) and the loss of ability to renew, reform and further develop such systems?

(Government has divested itself of key industries and with them key knowledge and expertise,, e.g. telecoms. It has also separated itself from regulators. Outsourcing IT has long been the practice (e.g. development of PPARs) although in-house development is now more prevalent amongst progressive departments and organisations. The second Bord Snip reports recommends consideration be given to outsourcing our land registry, a key piece of national state infrastructure.)

It might be an idea to have a session for moaners and cribbers run simultaneously with a a separate session where moaners and cribbers are banned!

Only joking 🙂


@Paul H

The key bit being this (even if you go into a sulk every time Paul H mentions “public intellectuals” try to rise above it):

“critique the dysfunction in governance in a manner that may be communicated to and resonate with the general public and, crucially, actively seek to inform, educate and enlighten the general public.”


“Nothing will be achieved until some of these ‘public intellectuals’ collectively assert their independence from government and its expansive apparatus, critique the dysfunction in governance in a manner that may be communicated to and resonate with the general public and, crucially, actively seek to inform, educate and enlighten the general public.”

It is about bringing the issues to the attention of the readers of the papers really, isn’t it? The Republic is broken. I presume a lot of people working in the universities with decent knowledge of how things are supposed to work know this.

Apparently it takes 10 percent of people in the population to be on board for the subject to enter “everybody knows” category.

How many people know at the moment? 2% ?

This man would probably be a good sparring partner :

Sir, – Desmond Fennell (Opinion Analysis, July 2nd) complains that the “magazine shops” do not offer for sale journals of ideas. It is true that there is no great enthusiasm for “that sort of thing” in Ireland, but there is also a problem with distribution that has a social and political dimension.

Our “magazine shops” must pay rent to Dublin’s commercial landlords, whose appetite for bloated rents is legendary. This barely regulated sector renders it difficult, if not mathematically impossible, to provide services and products which happen to be low-profit. As many excluded services are socially valuable, the result is less diversity and a diminished cultural experience for citizens and visitors.

In my case this is not a theoretical argument. I have some experience of the commercial culture of the city as I have been selling literary and intellectual journals in addition to other literature in Dublin for over 30 years, managing to survive in the face of a hostile rental culture largely through compromise.

I am also joint editor of a journal of ideas, the Dublin Review of Books (, and our answer to the distribution problem has been to publish online. Now in its sixth year, the DRB enjoys an international and Irish circulation far in excess of that possible for a comparable locally distributed print journal. We would like to complement the online DRB with a print edition but given prevailing conditions, this seems unlikely. I hope that Dr Fennell may find some comfort in the relative success of the DRB. – Yours, etc,


Books Upstairs,

College Green,

Dublin 2.

@Grumpy & Seafoid,

When it comes to engaging with the ‘great unwashed’ the kind of response I pick up from our ‘public intellectuals’ runs along the lines of: we don’t have any great influence, there are only so many op-eds the newspapers will take, op-eds are often too short to explain complex policy issues (and are subject to butchery by sub-editors), we tend to have our own specialisms and are reluctant/unwilling to venture in to other areas, we don’t have the resources, it’s difficult to attract people with the relevant specialist expertise, we have a very heavy workload as it is and there is a high opportunity cost attaching to the existing extent of our involvement is the public domain..and so on.

I understand most of this and really have no grounds to contest any of it, but I’m left wth the sinking feeling that there is a broad recognition that there is an important task to be performed and yet most of the effort seems to be expended on justifying why it can’t be done and on addressing issues that are highly relevant – but only in a way that studiously avoids consideration of the underlying dysfunction in governance.

(In passing Maurice Earls and his DRB colleagues comprise the expection that proves the rule Desmond Fennell expounded.)

As I’ve pointed out previously, the contrast and comparison with England (and Britain) is informative. For more than 700 years from the signing of the Magna Carta, an increasing share of the English adult population – joined initially by the Welsh and subsequently by the Scots and increasing in share until universal suffrage was secured – struggled in fits and starts to subject their native elites to effective democratic governance.

The Irish people played a major role in the great democratising reforms of the 19th century, but the continuous drive was to secure freedom from the foreign yoke – and this was achieved broadly coincident with the achievement of universal suffrage. But this foreign yoke was replaced by the hegemony of native power elites which, because of their real or perceived role in securing national independence, were never subjected to effective democratic governance. Two confected, but unnatural, power blocs – one reasonably coherent, the other emerging in serial, but intermittent, marriages of convenience – competed for political power. This was sufficient to present the trappings of a stable democracy, but, as the role of the state and its apparatus expanded – and state agencies, ripe for capture vy sectional interests, multiplied, it proved totally insufficient when severe pressure was imposed.

The increased expression of anger and discontent by the British public at serial and serious institutional failures – and the resulting increased assertiveness of Parliament over the executive, its agencies and those exercising economic power – is refreshing and invigorating. The people are re-discovering that they exercise the utlimate authority to subject these jumped-up, arrogant elites to effective democratic governance.

The Irish people never experienced this in the first place. It’s probably a bit much to ask them to re-discover something they never experienced. But they might be enticed to experience it for the first time.

@ PH

I don’t know that the UK is much better

What tended to happen in Ireland in the past was the influence of ideas from elsewhere – eg the influence of the French Revolution brought an end to a model that was first implemented by the Brits in 1607 and ushered on 1798 and subsequently the Act of Union.

I think we are more likely to see ideas coming from beyond the Anglosphere this time.


Don’t mind the ideas. This the mounting anger and resentment of millions and millions of consumers of what are now basic utility services – media services, basic banking and insurance services in addition to the ‘traditional’ energy, water and transport services – who are fed up of being ripped off by the fat cats – and then being taken for a ride when the fat cats screw up.

It’s all a bit inchoate and sporadic at the moment, but their MPs are feeling the heat and the Government is being buffetted. The Government, of course, will try to dissipate the heat and deflect the anger, but I don’t think it’s going away. And the ideas will be forged in the heat.

The British public can remain supine and almost comatose for years, but when it finally stirs itself, the effect is wondrous to behold. I have no idea how this will play out, but there is some movement at last.

The Irish public, unfortunately, seems to be incapable of stirring itself. And those who might encourage them to do so are about as much use as a eunuch in a harem.


I’m sure a thread will come by any time now to allow you to expound on why the dour, hard-headed and well-governed Finns – and the equally hard-headed, straight-talking and well-governed Dutch and Austrians – will spurn the begging bowls proferred by the PIIGS while the latter remain in denial about the extent of their continuing misgovernance.

@ Grumpy

I would believe you. And every generation someone like Mike Gibson or Brian O Driscoll comes along for Ireland. But I am thinking more about the journeymen who can never beat the all Blacks.


There are subtle, but important, differences. For example, it is likely a majority of Irish voters decided they would put FF & the Glasrai to the sword soon after Sep. 2008, but they bided their time until the chancers ran out of road. They didn’t force the pace. The banking mess in Britain was much smaller proportionately. If had been of the same scale as that in Ireland and had had the same eventual outcome in terms of IMF or Troika rule, the government would have fallen immediately.

There is an irreducible core in Englishness of an immoveable belief in the rule of law, in liberty constrained by a measure of fairness and the absolute right of the people to decide how and by whom they are governed. There is a sour resentment and pessimism about the way things are now, but it is informed by a strong belief that they could be better – and this collective belief and desire to make things better and fairer will prevail. You can push the English people quite a bit and they’ll put up with a lot, but then a point is reached when their sheer bloody-mindeness and cussedness is aroused.

We’re not there yet, but we’re getting there. I wish I could say the same for Ireland.

@ Paul Hunt

Having more than a passing acqaintance with all the nationalities that you mention, I can assure that dour they are not. What they share is a capacity is to think straight and to have a social conscience.

These are qualities worth emulating. For the opposite

cf. courtesy NAMA Winelake.

“Deputy Timmy Dooley: To ask the Minister for Finance his views on whether the National Assets Management Agency will engage in demolition of part built housing schemes; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

Minister for Finance, Michael Noonan: NAMA have advised me that there are no plans to demolish further developments but it may be considered as a means to reaching resolution on properties where; a) the economic viability of the site is otherwise in question, or b) due to structural or other considerations, the development is not viable.
As the Deputy may know, there was recent media commentary on a development in Longford which is to be demolished. I am advised by NAMA that the salient facts in this case were: NAMA acquired loans secured on this property in December 2010; the property, comprising two-bedroom duplex units and three-bedroom apartments, was poorly constructed, had been subject to continuous vandalism and anti-social behavior, including the removal of all fixtures and fittings and had become a significant source of concern for neighbouring residents. I am further advised by NAMA that the property is located on a flood plain and in the middle of an industrial estate. As a result of its condition and location, NAMA advises that the investment required to bring the property to a habitable state and to the point that it could be sold, in the unlikely event that a willing buyer exists, would be such as to make the investment uneconomical and that it is questionable whether structurally such works could in fact be undertaken. In any event, NAMA advises that Longford County Council, in detailing the Category 4 remediation works to be taken as part of the agreed site resolution plan in respect of this development, set out a requirement that the apartment block be demolished.

NAMA advises that to undertake the necessary remediation on this development, including the proposed demolition of this block, it had first to take enforcement proceedings over the property, which was a protracted process.

Following publication of the Report of the Advisory Committee on Unfinished Housing Developments in June 2011, the Minister for State with responsibility for housing established a National Co-ordination Committee to oversee planning and implementation of remediation programmes in respect of unfinished estates. NAMA is represented on this Committee and is proactively engaged in policy processes aimed at the resolution of the problem of unfinished housing estates.

I am advised by NAMA that of the 243 estates categorised by local authorities as the most problematic from a public safety perspective (Category 4 estates), only 29 (or 12%) of these estates are controlled by NAMA debtors or receivers. 150 (or 10%) of Category 3 estates are linked to NAMA debtors. NAMA is funding out of its own resources, through its debtors and receivers, the cost of urgent remediation work (estimated at €3 million) and significant progress is being made in this regard.

I am also advised by NAMA that it plans to invest substantial funding over its lifetime in preserving and enhancing the assets that secure its loans, including significant investment in assets located in Ireland, and that a substantial portion of its cash reserves will be used for this purpose. The Chairman of NAMA recently announced plans to invest €2 billion in this area by 2016. To end-March 2012, the Agency had invested over €1 billion in the preservation, enhancement and completion of property assets underlying its loan portfolio. Over €500 million of this had been committed to assets in Ireland and this is helping to secure the direct employment of thousands of employees in small and medium trading businesses located throughout the country, in addition to substantial additional direct and indirect construction and property related employment in general building works including re-fit, refurbishment and up-grade of NAMA-controlled properties.

NAMA has indicated its intention to rollout other innovations to support the resumption of more normalised activity in our property markets. It has committed, for instance, to sponsor the launch at least one Qualifying Investor Fund (QIF) by the end of 2012, a proven mechanism for leveraging institutional investment. NAMA advises that it has identified over 3,000 residential units as being available and potentially suitable for social housing and it is working with housing authorities to determine the suitability of these units for the provision of social housing within their functional areas.”

Irish commercial property lease law in Ireland is unique in the eurozone. The effects this lease law is having on our economic performance might be worth examining.

Is John Corcoran of the Korky’s shoe shop empire now posting as Marabelle?

Comments are closed.