Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Again with the Celtic Tiger

About this time last year we wrote:

It is July. Which means a new season of op-ed columns -- that written by our glorious pundits while on their holidays, consisting of little more than their previously frozen views, spiced with some supposedly relevant observation from their Grand Tour

So it must be another sign of global warming that the hack migration is ahead of schedule, because Tom Friedman is in Dublin in June:

Yes, the country that for hundreds of years was best known for emigration, tragic poets, famines, civil wars and leprechauns today has a per capita G.D.P. higher than that of Germany, France and Britain. How Ireland went from the sick man of Europe to the rich man in less than a generation is an amazing story.

Needless to say, there's plenty of blog commentary [usefully collected by Slugger O'Toole] so let's just make a few quick observations here:

By the mid-1980's, though, Ireland had reaped the initial benefits of E.U. membership - subsidies to build better infrastructure and a big market to sell into.

Can anyone think of an example of how our infrastructure had improved by the mid 1980s? For God's sake, it's still shite!

Deputy Prime Minister Mary Harney. "It was because we nearly went under that we got the courage to change."

The redemptive theory of crisis. So are we better off for having had the crisis?

In 1996, Ireland made college education basically free, creating an even more educated work force.

Timing here is all wrong -- the boom was already well underway by 1996. And "free" is a misnomer. College education was already heavy subsidised. They did abolish tuition fees in 1996 but they have returned via backdoor fee-for-service on campuses.

We set up in Ireland in 1990," Michael Dell, founder of Dell Computer, explained to me via e-mail. "What attracted us? ... [Ireland also has] very good transportation and logistics and a good location - easy to move products to major markets in Europe quickly."

If Dell liked our transportation system in 1990, and we're willing to take his statement at face value, why is the government so fixated on tolled motorways now?

and you, too, can become one of the richest countries in Europe.

Everyone can be above average!

"It wasn't a miracle, we didn't find gold," said Mary Harney. "It was the right domestic policies and embracing globalization."

Mary is true believer, like Pat Cox. But read any day's headlines on RTE, view the catalog of government incompetence and mismanagement therein, and wonder whether much of our success is despite the people in charge.

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