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.”