The outward re-orientation of the 1950s and 1960s

T. K. Whitaker has been much eulogised over recent times, and rightly so. But, as he recognised himself in later life, he had not been infallible (is anyone, ever?) and others whom he opposed at the time deserved credit for their part in the outward re-orientation of the economy in the 1950s and 1960s.  In an article just published in the Dublin Review of Books, I offer an assessment of his significance over the period.

Implications for Ireland of the new Trump Regime

There’s a lot of wrong-headed analysis doing the rounds on the implications of the proposals of the new US Administration for Ireland.  Will US companies “be enticed home” by a dramatic cut in the US corporate tax rate? Companies don’t primarily come to Europe for tax reasons. They come for market access. Ireland captures a disproportionate share of these inflows, to a large extent because our rate is low RELATIVE TO OTHER European rates. In fact, given the US tax-credit system, US MNCs in Europe would not be able to recoup upon repatriating their profits the difference between high European rates and a potential new low US rate; this would work in Ireland’s favour (to the disadvantage of high-rate European economies).

Lower rates outside the US encourage US MNCs to keep their profits offshore (though a huge proportion of these can actually be, and are, held in US bonds and banks). If fewer profits are held offshore this WILL reduce overseas RE-investments, as these are currently financed out of offshore profits.

A dramatic reduction in the US rate would reduce the inventive for re-domiciling, though, as John FitzGerald and Mary Everett (of the Central Bank) have both shown, re-domiciling into Ireland probably does us more harm than good. In any case large, rich, central (as opposed to peripheral) economies tend to have higher corporate tax rates for revenue-maximising reasons.

US protectionism would trigger retaliation which would in turn trigger vastly more tariff-jumping FDI into Europe and elsewhere. Nor would a retreat of US corporations to the US mean that their external sales would be replaced by US exports; a substantial proportion would be captured by foreign competitor companies. And a huge proportion of current US exports go as inputs to their own subsidiaries abroad. The US State Department would also not be happy with a reduction in US FDI: think of the “soft power” this overseas investment grants the US. So the proposed very low US rate is unlikely to be in America’s interests. This might well impact on the chances of getting the proposals through Congress, even if President-elect Trump decides to run with them.

Ataturk’s Ministers visit Sarajevo

The events of the last few days in Turkey brought back to mind this powerful snippet from Anglo-Irish writer Rebecca West’s account of her travels in Yugoslavia in the 1930s. Nothing to do with economics, and little related to present realities, but a passage that some might appreciate….

“There are thirty thousand Moslems in Sarajevo, and I think most of them were there. And they were rapt, hallucinated, intoxicated with an old loyalty, and doubtless ready to know the intoxication of an old hatred.

We came to the halt at the right moment, as the train slid in and stopped. There was a little cheering, and the flags were waved, but it is not much fun cheering somebody inside the tin box of a railway carriage. The crowd waited to make sure. The Moslem Mayor of Sarajevo and his party went forward and greeted the tall and jolly Mr. Spaho, the Minister of Transport, and the Yugoslavian Minister of War, General Marits, a giant who wore his strength packed round him in solid masses like a bull. He looked as Göring would like to look. There were faint polite cheers for them; but the great cheers the crowd had had in its hearts for days were never given. For Mr. Spaho and the General were followed, so far as the expectations of the crowd were concerned, by nobody. The two little men in bowlers and trim suits, very dapper and well-shaven, might have been Frenchmen darkened in the colonial service. It took some time for the crowd to realise that they were in fact Ismet Ineunue, the Turkish Prime Minister, and Kazim Ozalip, his War Minister.

Even after the recognition had been established the cheers were not given. No great degree of disguise concealed the disfavour with which these two men in bowler hats looked on the thousands they saw before them, all wearing the fez and veil which their leader the Ataturk made it a crime to wear in Turkey. Their faces were blank yet not unexpressive. So might Englishmen look if, in some corner of the Empire, they had to meet as brothers the inhabitants of a colony that had been miraculously preserved from the action of time and had therefore kept to their road.

The Moslem Mayor read them an address of welcome, of which, naturally, they did not understand one word. This was bound in any case to be a difficult love affair to conduct, for they knew no Serbian and the Sarajevans knew no Turkish. They had to wait until General Marits had translated it into French; while they were waiting I saw one of them fix his eye on a distant building, wince, and look in the opposite direction. Some past-loving soul had delved in the attics and found the green flag with the crescent, the flag of the old Ottoman Empire, which these men and their leader regarded as the badge of a plague that had been like to destroy their people. The General’s translation over, they responded in French better than his, only a little sweeter and more birdlike than the French of France, and stood still, their eyes on the nearest roof, high enough to save them the sight of this monstrous retrograde profusion of fezes and veils, of red pates and black muzzles, while the General put back into Serbian their all too reasonable remarks. They had told the Moslems of Sarajevo, it seemed, that they felt the utmost enthusiasm for the Yugoslavian idea, and had pointed out that if the South Slavs did not form a unified state the will of the great powers could sweep over the Balkan Peninsula as it chose. They said not one word of the ancient tie that linked the Bosnian Moslems to the Turks, nor had they made any reference to Islam.

There were civil obeisances, and the two men got into an automobile and drove towards the town. The people did not cheer them. Only those within sight of the railway platform were aware that they were the Turkish Ministers, and even among those were many who could not believe their eyes, who thought that there must have been some breakdown of the arrangements…

We had seen the end of a story that had taken five hundred years to tell. We had seen the final collapse of the old Ottoman Empire. Under our eyes it had heeled over and fallen to the ground like a lay figure slipping off a chair. But that tragedy was already accomplished. The Ottoman Empire had ceased to suffer long ago. There was a more poignant grief before us. Suppose that such an unconquerable woman as may be compared to the Slav in Bosnia was at last conquered this time, and sent for help to her old lover, and that there answered the call a man bearing her lover’s name, who was, however, not her lover but his son, and looked on her with cold eyes, seeing her only as the occasion of a shameful passage in his family history: none of us would be able to withhold our pity”.