I am so at home in Dublin, more than any other city, that I feel it has always been familiar to me. It took me years to see through its soft charm to its bitter prickly kernel - which I quite like too.

Home Uncategorized Knock, knock

Knock, knock

John Bradley
Hell at the Gates: The Inside Story of Ireland’s Financial Downfall, by John Lee and Daniel McConnell, Mercier Press, 315 pp, €16.99, ISBN: 978 1781173947 Running a modern market economy involves a complex array of actors and agencies who are not omniscient and who can seldom achieve all of their stated objectives. In particular, while national governments may be sovereign and guard their sovereignty jealously, they are not autonomous. They function best when they act as careful strategic coordinators of all the forces that affect the economy rather than as self-interested micro-managers. Since the ship of state is often obliged to navigate in stormy waters, the least that one expects of the ship’s captain is that he plan for every reasonable contingency and ensure that he has a skilled and competent crew who collectively work to safeguard their vessel. Accidents tend to happen and mistakes are made if there is ambiguity or confusion in a chain of command. When everyone thinks that they are in charge, nobody is in charge. In my lifetime there have been three occasions when serious systemic political failures in Ireland were the primary causes of catastrophic economic consequences. The first was the existential crisis of the 1950s when sclerotic and inward looking policies that had isolated Ireland from postwar reconstruction and international trade produced stagnation and massive outmigration. The second was the economic recession of the 1980s, when the reckless and extravagant public expenditure policies of the late 1970s left the economy naked and vulnerable to the global recession that followed the OPEC-2 oil crisis. The third, and by far the worst, was the financial and fiscal crisis of 2008, when complacent, negligent and incompetent government policies, actions and inactions during the preceding years blew away the gains of the solid growth achievements of the 1990s and sank the economy under a mountain of barely sustainable debt. This book is to be welcomed in a slightly qualified way since it is a relatively rare example for Ireland that tells the inside story of how politicians handled a major crisis. Drawing on extensive interviews with the key political actors of the period 2008-2011, the authors set out a narrative of the monetary and fiscal collapse that reproduces many of the politicians’ own words, expletives included. They claim that the results provide “a deeply honest, deeply personal, revelation-strewn account of their experiences in the white heat of…

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