The Luck (And Skill) Of The Irish

Thomas Friedman has a very perceptive column about the success of the Irish economy in The New York Times:

Here’s something you probably didn’t know: Ireland today is the richest country in the European Union after Luxembourg.

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. It tells you a lot about Europe today: all the innovation is happening on the periphery by those countries embracing globalization in their own ways – Ireland, Britain, Scandinavia and Eastern Europe – while those following the French-German social model are suffering high unemployment and low growth.

The Irish have done an excellent job of turning their country into a hotbed of economic innovation and strength. Ireland has a rate of unemployment that’s as close to full employment as it’s possible to get. Tax revenues have skyrocketed, and the standard of living in all areas has increased dramatically. And Ireland did it by keeping their corporate taxes low, promoting smart economic growth, and reforming government spending. The Irish had their share of bumps in the road, but the progress they’ve made in the past 15 years is nothing short of astounding. Ireland’s an example of why an open society that embrace globalization, limits the growth of government, and reforms their labor markets can provide a superior quality of life to countries that try to use the power of government to control their economies.

13 thoughts on “The Luck (And Skill) Of The Irish

  1. It’d be interesting to hear a counterpoint to this Irish miracle. When business interests become hyperempowered, one can be sure there are plenty of working people being undermined. Something tells me that the average Flanagans and Murphys hanging out in the smoke-free Irish pubs are probably not quite as enamored of the new Ireland. And speaking of the smoke-free pubs, it also seems to be a pattern that nations where “economic freedom” is embraced are also the most resentful of individuals’ lifestyle choices. Aside for the nationwide smoking ban in pubs, Ireland has also kicked its nanny-state into overdrive on everything from fat taxes to public gum chewing. Not my idea of paradise.

  2. Connecting “economic freedom” with loss of individuality and the rise of the nanny state is a bit ludicrous. Smoke-free pubs are not the result of economic freedoms but instead a growing awareness of the harmful effects of second-hand smoke (by the way the vast majority of pro-free market-libertarians are hardcore individualists and are against smoke-free pubs). Trust me those same libertarians who have brought about the free market reforms for Ireland are surely not the ones clamoring for more government regulations/taxes. The success of reforms in countries like Ireland has brought about a backlash from the Left who realize that they their ideology is fast becoming an anachronism. It is this backlash that is responsible for nanny state reforms. Libertarians and Conservatives must remain on guard and ensure that their fellow citizens understand the importance of creating a business friendly economic environment.

  3. The Irish economic miracle is hardly nationwide as a drive through its northern and western counties will reveal. Furthermore it was essentially propped up by the EU and Brussels, and many new employers in the Republic of Ireland are not actually Irish and their longterm future in the republic depends on the concessions they can extract. Also, please note that there is no party in the Republic that could truly be defined as centre-right. This of course does not stop the Irish Republic from producing a lively domestic political scene. ROI has modernized a lot the past 20 years, and is no a catholic state for catholic people. I respect its positive changes, but still believe the celtic tiger to be an overhyped mirage.

  4. Also I give credit to the Dublin government for removing the illegal claims to Northern Ireland against the wishes of a majority of its inhabitants. Clearly the fact that it has spent more time worrying about its domestic affairs, instead of meddling with a soverign part of the United Kingdom has paid off, as the country is much more prosperous than it used to be.

  5. Justin Paul, thanks for the requested counterpoint on Ireland. If it sounds too good to be true, it usually is, so I’m not surprised that the alleged emergence of Ireland as a European economic superpower is largely inflated by free-market ideologues.

    Chris, I wasn’t necessarily suggesting a direct parallel between Ireland’s “economic freedom” and its ugly health-and-wellness police state. I was mainly noting the irony of the fact that the globe’s forerunners in jack-booted nanny statism (Singapore, Ireland, United States) are the nations most celebrated for their “economic freedom.” Perhaps the movers and shakers who have instituted Ireland’s economic reforms are not the same folks who have criminalized smoking in pubs and public gum chewing, but certainly there is some prominent force in Irish life tirelessly hijacking individual freedoms from the peasants.

  6. If America had a fat tax our national debt would be paid off in no time 😀

    Even better, we could tax people for saying something unspeakably stupid. Between Howard Dean, Harry Reid, Nancy Pelosi, et al we’d not only pay off the national debt, but we’d be able to fund colonies on the Moon…

  7. And fines for the “stupid tax” should automatically double when some pinheaded shmuck (or opportunistic Commander-in-Chief) tries to connect the September 11 attacks with the current situation in Iraq.

  8. Mark, you get on my good side by railing against criminalizing smoking and then you proceed to show your ignorance by reflexively complaining about the connection between 9/11 and Iraq. Now, you seem like a reasonably smart fellow. So, do you not understand that the war in Iraq is part of the larger war on the islamofascists, which include those who committed the 9/11 acts? You can complain there there was no coordination between Iraq and al Qaeda, and you might even think that invading Iraq was a bad move in the international war on terrorism, but to say that you find any relation between the 2 to be ludicrous reveals (a) your ignorance or (b) your partisan nature, uninterested in dealing with real issues. Grow up and talk about issues and stop echoing the children in the Senate.

  9. And fines for the “stupid tax” should automatically double when some pinheaded shmuck (or opportunistic Commander-in-Chief) tries to connect the September 11 attacks with the current situation in Iraq.

    Of course, the Democratic politicians who voted for the Iraq war resolution in October 2002 would have to pay as well, since that resolution explicitly connected Iraq and al-Qaeda…

  10. winston, if you used that argument to justify a war we had waged against Saudi Arabia or Syria, you would have point at least worthy of debate, but we’re talking about the secular Saddam Hussein regime of Iraq. The motivations of the 9-11 attackers were based on radical Islam, which is no way connected to the evildoing of Hussein or the Sunni insurgents killing Americans in Iraq today. Under your logic, we should not have fought the British in the Revolutionary War, but France because they were also in the business of colonializing foreign lands.

    Jay, you guys are confusing me. In one breath, you, Rove and the bloodthirsty war-mongers on the right are accusing “liberals” of wanting to offer therapy to terrorists rather than fight them. In the next, you’re defending your own mistakes and rhetorical manipulation by pointing to the fact that most Democrats went along with the wars you recommended. Help me understand here…..are these liberals cowards who want to offer “couches and ink blots” rather tanks and missiles for Islamic terrorists? Or are they wise enablers of Bush’s worldview who rubber-stamped his main foreign policy goals, understanding that voting to authorize war in Iraq was, in effect, an act of vengeance for the 9-11 attacks?

  11. Mark – your first paragraph is an argument over whether this was the right thing to do, not over the connection. You are merely saying there is a greater connection to Syria and Saudi Arabia. But although you claim Saddam’s regime is secular, since 1991 he has been courting the militant theocrats, from adding “God is Great” to the flag to appearing more in traditional dress to offering haven to bin Laden in the 1990s. We figured to land a democracy in the middle of Saudi, Syria and Iran would be the best way for democracy to spread – and democracies don’t spawn terrorists. Iraq is also better situated because it did have secular government and populace, was a small country, was not directly connected to Israel, etc. So, I think Iraq was the right decision. You don’t.

    If you don’t see the place of an Iraq invasion in the overall strategy, you are intentionally refusing to.

  12. winston, Jordan was at the bottom of the list of Middle Eastern nations we could invade to lash out at Islamic fundamentalists. Iraq was second to the bottom. Furthermore, the decision to invade Iraq was being made long before the 9-11 attacks. It appears that the house of cards that the “war in Iraq is part of the war on terror” crowd has been living in is finally starting to tumble regarding public opinion….not that public opinion even matters post 11-2.

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