The one good thing the last six years has brought is that we no longer have to suffer from bond salesmen in the media, pontificating and solemnly suggesting that everything is just fine, even though buttons are bursting all around us and the economy turns into Mr Creosote.
Just a wafer thin bank guarantee …
The bad thing is that the university economists have replaced them, scattering sackcloth and ashes and making the Minister for Hardship sound like Tommy Tiernan.
More than most, we in Ireland seem to have a lot of them on the telly, on the radio , in the papers, a bit like having epidemiologists on the telly during the Black Death, if they had telly, or epidemiologists, and to be honest with you, the analogy is closer than I realised when I started making this limp joke. It is a plague, isn’t it? We’re living through an economic plague and the economists are, perhaps, one symptom (or maybe a cause) of it.
If you exclude David McWilliams, most commentary now is from university economists, which of course is not necessarily a bad thing. Probably the mouthiest of them is Brian Lucey, who donates an occasional pearl of wisdom to this site, but he’d be in close competition with The Count (and not in a Charlie Flanagan sense) Gurdgiev, the Dark Prince of economic gloom on the telly.
It’s funny, but not in a funny way. Not so long ago, how many economists did we know? I’m guessing roughly none.
Not one. Not a sausage.
Given a choice between listening to practitioners of the Dismal Science and following the World Grass-Growing Championships.most of us were in there cheering for Fescue.
But nowadays, now that the sky has actually fallen, everyone wants to be on the side of Chicken Licken and we all know them. The smart young lad from Limerick, the chap from Cork, the gobby Kerryman, the ubiquitous mellifluous one from DCU, Dr Doom from Moscow. Others like the jolly one from UCD, the glumly-accurate expert in the Black Death who saw parallels with the Irish economy. The baldy one from Trinity.
They mostly seem to reside in the newspapers and magazines now, not on Drivetime, Vincent Browne or Newstalk, and in some ways I suppose that’s a good thing. After all, they are public servants, albeit in the superior, condescending way that Sir Humphrey is a public servant, so we may as well get some public service from them.
Like all academics, they have a number of things to do. They’re supposed to teach, to publish research, to pitch into fundraising and admin. And, as professors, they’re supposed to profess. To try to explain what exactly is going on.
So what are they doing?
University libraries are great places. With a very little effort and a half-decent excuse, members of the public can usually get into them. Nowadays 95% of what they do is on line and there’s a great database called Scopus, from Elsevier, the massive rent-extracting machine that controls a whack of the world’s scientific journals and charges eye-watering amounts to read content. Into the library, onto the database, plugging in some names and hey presto. What the talking heads have been doing is revealed.
Since the Great Plague of 2008, you’d imagine all these professors would have been churning out professorial papers in gigantic abundance, wouldn’t you?
Admittedly, quantity doesn’t equal quality, and I suppose that one good piece is worth a hundred useless ones but a first step in getting a good piece is to get any piece, and these guys are paid to do research, which presumably includes publishing it.
So here we go.
Nonsense published since the Great Plague, by the mediaconomists.
In order of output.
Brian Lucey 52
Stephen Kinsella 19
Karl Whelan 13
Morgan Kelly 9
Constantin Gurdgiev 4
Seamus Coffey 0
Tony Foley 0
Naturally, this doesn’t mean they published anything that made sense, but still, we have to start somewhere.