Current Affairs Economics Politics

Facing Down The Randinistas

Ayn Rand, the ayatollah of "Darwinist" economics (as preached at an Irish business madras near you)
Ayn Rand, the ayatollah of “Darwinist” economics (as preached at an Irish business madras near you)

Here is a statement I suspect a significant number of Ireland’s citizenry would agree with. Most Irish economists are capitalist ideologues. Or rather, most Irish economists are right-wing ultra-capitalist ideologues zealously adhering to a form of unregulated, unaccountable Anglo-American free market thinking that has had a disastrous impact across the globe. Of course there are exceptions, economists who can think outside the ideological mantras promulgated in certain well known Dublin business madrassas.

Often it is the older generation of Irish economists, children of the Seán Lemass years, who have the clearest and most insightful thinking. Eamonn Fingleton, a former editor with Forbes Magazine and the Financial Times, has spent nearly three decades studying the economies of the Far East and recently wrote an article puncturing the myth of Japan’s “Lost Decades”, the supposed reversal in the Japanese economy allegedly observed from 1991 to 2010. The article drew a surprising amount of online bile, especially from some fundamentalist Randinistas who remain wedded to the hoax-tuned-fact.

“Eamonn Fingleton is Irish. So he comes loaded with a host of culturally-embedded mental issues. If you have interacted with enough Irish nationals, you would know what I mean.

Fingleton grew up in Ireland when Ireland was little better than a third world country. He spent his early adult years in England, in the 1970s, during the lowliest era of British socialism and at a time when the Brits were still heavily invested in efficient manufacturing that kept all of their unionized Brits employed regardless of cost.

So, big government socialism seems rooted in Fingleton’s mind. Fingleton must be enamored with the big government socialism of the Japanese.

Also, Yasuko Amako, Fingleton’s second wife, is Japanese. So, likely, Fingleton is a Japanophile with a strong Asian fetish.”

Two kinds of racism for the price of one there. However Eamonn Fingleton has responded and in an exemplary manner:

“I have been accused of being Irish. I plead guilty. Though I have spent most of my career abroad, I could hardly have had a more Irish childhood: born in remote Donegal in 1948, I was brought up in the sort of traditional Irish countryside immortalized in the John Ford movie, The Quiet Man.

My ethnicity came up at Forbes.com last week when a reader who disliked what I had written about the Japanese economy resorted to ad hominem abuse. He offered this bouquet: “Eamonn Fingleton is Irish. So he comes loaded with a host of culturally-embedded mental issues. If you have interacted with enough Irish nationals, you would know what I mean.”

Then, he presumed to delve even further into long-distance psychoanalysis. Having gleaned – perhaps from Wikipedia – that I had suffered a uniquely unlucky personal catastrophe in 1974, he commented: “He [Fingleton] lost his first wife and children in a tragic car accident many years ago. It seems that Fingleton has not transcended that darkness as that shines in his behavior toward others and likely is what keeps Fingleton trapped in his unreality.”

It is a matter of speculation what the above passages are supposed to mean but they don’t seem friendly. More important they have no obvious connection with Japan, let alone with my analysis of same.

The irony here is that, irrespective of what my interlocutor implies, my Irish heritage has been an important asset in analyzing Japan. Why? In sharp contrast to the United States, Ireland has shared with Japan a history of extensive government intervention in the economy. Indeed without vigorous government leadership (and at times considerable government ownership of the means of production), there would never have been an Irish economic miracle. In the late 1950s, T. K. Whitaker, Sean Lemass, and other Irish leaders rejected Anglo-American textbook economics and asked how prosperity is created in the real-world. They looked to the state-driven economies of continental Europe, not least Denmark, Sweden, and Austria, for inspiration. By 1958 they had unveiled their first national economic plan, whose central element was a strong emphasis on promoting exports, particularly exports of manufactured goods.

Of course, the Irish economy hit turbulence in 2008, and is still in serious trouble. But this hardly gainsays the wisdom of the original strategy. Quite the contrary. Had Ireland stayed the course with manufacturing, all would probably have been well (for the same reasons that Denmark, Sweden, Austria, and, of course, Germany  have been riding out the world recession in fair shape).

Under the influence of the Reagan revolution, however, the Irish began to embrace free-market orthodoxy in the 1980s and ventured ever more deeply into financial services. Worse, they accepted the erstwhile confident advice of mainstream American economists that  financial services should be deregulated and what were soon to become known as banksters allowed to run more or less roughshod over the nation.

To sum up, judicious government intervention has worked for Ireland, as for much of the rest of Europe.”

Tell that to the current gang of political lunatics who have turned our island-nation into a socio-economic madhouse.

7 comments on “Facing Down The Randinistas

  1. Sharon Duglas

    You got names of these economists? I feel a need for letters to the editors.

    • Haha! Start with Marc Coleman, economist, journo, radio-presenter and amnesiac (as in forgetting his predictions of unstoppable economic growth and the need to continue the then state policies on the economy back in 2008) 😉

      Sound on the Irish language though 🙂

  2. Sharon Duglas

    Go raibh maith agat. Is he the one who made the snide remark regarding the sanity of Nationalists/

  3. an lorcánach

    m.c. is sound alright on the irish language, sionnach – “Agus, anois agus arís, píosaí as gaeilge” – newstalk.ie/coleman — i’m no neo-liberal or graduate of the smurfit school of laissez-faire orthodoxy but isn’t it fair to question the irish ‘education industrial complex’? bímis macánta: admittedly m.c. is too vociferously in targeting the public sector but in a state that subsidises the wealthy to do vanity subjects with little jobs prospects (thanks to new-labour’s free univ in 1994 and continued gov support of subsidised private schools) – fás trainers shamefully get the neck by Indo regularly but it’s the gov that still offers construction courses online! – while waiting for a “progressive” education system, there’s a race to the bottom for the rest of us! – ta, @

    • I don’t disagree. The Irish education system needs more than questioning, it needs root and branch reform. The French model of state schooling is the one I would follow. I certainly oppose faith-based schools and question the need for “private” (ie. fee-paying) schooling. Educational and parental choice is one thing but not when it hinders the creation of a united citizenry or the fostering of the sense of a common weal to which all adhere and in which all have ownership.

      Marc Coleman is right on some things and is generally a very engaging journo and radio presenter. But on the economy and socio-economic matters I think he is very much to the right and so, in my view, is incorrect. However his correctness in other areas shows once again that one should not see a person as a two-dimensional cardboard cut-out, something I too am guilty of (a lot).

  4. an lorcánach

    “Ireland: No More Austerity (and Dump the Euro)” – http://www.forbes.com/sites/johntharvey/2013/07/08/ireland-no-more-austerity — will never happen thanks not just to neo-liberals but european unionists – sadly the likes of desperate dan went to my old all-irish secondary school (which doesn’t say much!) @ – http://www.irishtimes.com/business/economy/ireland/commerce-across-borders-is-history-s-greatest-pacifier-1.1495385

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: