Economy Politics

Eleven questions the media might ask President of Renua, Eddie Hobbs (but probably won’t)

Eleven questions the media might ask President of Renua, Eddie Hobbs (but probably won’t)

  • How much money was lost by investors in the Cape Verde holiday home debacle?
  • How much money has Eddie earned from work for the public sector broadcaster, RTE?
  • Does he still believe that the female-dominated teachers unions voted as they did on the Haddington Road agreement because it was their time of the month?
  • Does he have any moral qualms about investing in repossessed property in Detroit?
  • Will he be engaging in similar vulture-fund activities in Ireland?
  • Does he share the views of Billy Timmins, the deputy leader of Renua, that rough sleeping should be made illegal?
  • Are there any other sectors of the economy, apart from public sector workers, who should see a wage freeze?
  • Given the fact that he is now a public figure and president of a political party with representatives in the national parliament, will he provide a full accounting of all investments and debts he holds so we can be sure he is free of any question of potential conflicts of interest?
  • Does he agree with the party’s consummate media performer, Terence Flanagan, that water protestors should have their social welfare payments cut?
  • How much money has he personally taken from the Brendan Investments property fund ?

Eddie is now a public figure. Its good that he and others have founded a party since we need diversity of opinion. But he comes off as cranky, thin-skinned and evasive.

It’s hard to see him lasting…


Professor Brian Lucey blogs here.


The Financial Times – Getting it Wrong on Ireland, in Every Way Possible

So, the FT has an op-ed on the Irish recovery.  And it is, sadly, about as wrong as can be. 

The op-ed starts with the facts, of the crash and the recovery. Then it moves into how this miracle happened (noting the actions of Draghi in reducing bond yields as key, a fact lost on the cheering chimps of cutting that lurk in .

In some ways Ireland has been fortunate. Its two biggest trading partners, the US and Britain, are both growing strongly.  Its low bond yields owe more to the decisive actions of Mario Draghi, European Central Bank president, than to any decisions made in Dublin.

So, the external environment has been in our favour. And it has.

The FT has two main paragraphs on how we dunnit, whatever it was we dun.

The first is a doozy.

The costs of a bloated public sector were reduced with swingeing wage cuts and slashing the payroll.

Nice to see that they identify the real culprits – NURSES! :). Phew, that’s simple then. Reduce bloat, and get bigger.  Sort of a  conflation of the Neutron Diet and expansionary fiscal contraction.

Private sector wages have fallen by more than 2 per cent annually in the past four years, restoring competitiveness to industry.

Really wonder if that was all it took.  If it was a mere 2% per annum for 4 years that’s a cut in wages of less than 8%.  Given that wages are a part (how much?) of industrial costs, it seems unlikely that that would be the driving factor.  The National Competitiveness Council 2014 report rings alarm bells, with a whole range of issues other than wages exercising its concern muscles – see page 4.   I also don’t know where the numbers come from. The CSO data suggest that compared to Q2 2010 private sector wages are actually UP by about 1.5%.

Above all, the government recognised the serious risk played by its shattered banking system and took steps to rebuild it.  Through its “bad bank”, the National Asset Management Agency, it made banks come clean about their losses.

Above offer excludes residential and buy to let (fester) mortgages.  Honestly, this can only have been culled from a government press release.

By forcibly swapping toxic assets for safer government debt, it cleared the way for lending to start again.

Ah, the old “NAMA will get credit flowing” reborn as “NAMA got credit flowing”.  Except, it didn’t.  Lending hasn’t started again.  A glance at the Central Bank Business credit data will show that credit growth rates to business have been negative since 2011.  NAMA will do what again now?

It then goes on to say some frankly bonkers things

Instead, Ireland must rely on exports and on attracting overseas investment. Wage restraint has restored competitiveness, which alongside a flexible English-speaking labour force, make it a choice destination for multinational companies such as Pfizer, Dell and Apple.  As a result, Ireland has a healthy current account surplus and investment growth of 15 per cent per year.

Hmm.  Again the wages, despite ZERO evidence that they are a driver of good or bad competitive pressure. Again the haunting sense that this reads like something a politician might say. Again, a missing of the points that the Irish Balance of Payments is a volatile beast.  A look at Table 1 of the CSO release will show just how. And don’t, please, mention anything about tax-efficient investment strategies, or the mysteries of how computers can be manufactured and sold from Lodz in Poland and appear as Irish exports.

For struggling eurozone nations it must be tempting to place their hopes in more effective action at an EU level. But recent efforts to pep up demand look insufficient.  And for small, open economies such as Ireland external conditions are far less important than steps taken at home. 

Yes, because when you trade with the world, what they have in terms of demand conditions are irrelevant.  Some modern equivalent of Say’s Law holds at all times internationally, so relentless cost pressure (via wage restraint, regardless of whether that is relevant or not) is the only way forward.  And don’t look for anything remotely like coordinated supranational coherence.  Yer on yer own. And didn’t they say at the top that the external environment was the key?  I’m confused.




This article first appeared on Prof Brian Lucey’s blog here.

Economy Politics

Mirror Mirror on the Wall, Who is the Sorriest of All?

brian cowen sorry for economic collapseNo one more sorry than I about what happened,’ says Cowen .

I have never met Brian Cowen.

The closest I came was twice, once when I saw him and some others in a hotel near the Dáil and the other time when a mutual acquaintance with whom he had been in school stood me up for a beer in favour of the then Deputy.  I am sure and am assured that he is a decent chap, and one who has as much empathy as any other. This can only be highlighted witnessing the shambles that society has entered into.  I believe him when he says that the actions, ultimately disastrous as they were and serially incredible as they seemed even at the time, were taken by him and his cabinet for the best of intentions. Alas, not just the road to Clara and political ignominy is paved with good intentions.

That said, it seems to me to degrade language for him, in his present circumstances of a 140k per annum pension, to say he is the sorriest of all.  A partial list of people whom one might think are more sorry than he for the economic collapse might include

  • the nearly 400,000 people who have emigrated since the start of 2009
  • the nearly 200,000 people who have not emigrated but who as of July 2013 were more than one year on the live register.
  • the residents of Priory Hall left in the lurch by state, court and society but who are being hounded for payment by the banks they saved
  • the residents of poxy pyrite mansions dotted round the country who have been left in the lurch by insurers, Homebond, the state and the legal system
  • the 77,000 people who saw their respite care grant cut.
  • economists in banks who ramped the system
  • economists in universities who could have, but didn’t, shout stop earlier or at all
  • the 50 or so FF TDs who lost their jobs in 2011
  • The 30 plus Labour TDs not in cabinet who now face the electoral whirlwind in 2014

One could go on.

This is not an Anti FF post. It is anti a style of political rhetoric which thinks a half-baked apology en grudge served on a bed of self-justification with a glass of crocodile tears is enough. Far better to respond to all media with ” I am retired from politics.  What we did we did for what we thought then were the right decisions. Of course I regret any pain and suffering my and others actions caused. Thank you”. Simple, dignified, and accurate. Engaging in competitive misery from a well paid retirement is none of the above.


This article also appears on Brian Lucey’s website here.

Environment Law Policing

Lack of Political Will to Enforce Law in Ireland

I kinda like Joan Burton.  No, not in strange way, but she always seemed (at least in 2008-9-10) to have a good solid handle on the banking calamity.  It’s a pity she got the smeared end of the stick when Labour went into government.  Actually, when you think of it – Labour got the ‘go away out foreign and don’t bother us’ Foreign Ministry post for its leader, the ‘minister for hardship’ for Howlin, the ‘minister for rolling back the welfare state’ for Burton and all for what?

Anyhow, I kinda like her.

I have no animus towards Billy Kelleher TD either.  I have met the man once, over a coffee at a summer school and he seemed an affable enough version of FF V2.03, Haughey-free and not too infected with the Bert virus.

That said, the interplay between the two of them on the RTE news show “Saturday with Claire Byrne” (what used to be Saturday View when Rodney Rice ran it) was enough to cause me to begin to lose the will to live.  In fact there were two episodes, either of which would cause one to lose hope in the ability of the Irish political system to take any form of action.

The first interplay was around the Anglo tapes.  Claire Byrne asked both of them their reaction and also about the allegations (which I note here) by the Taoiseach that the main thing from any inquiry was to uncover collaboration between FF and the bankers (because we didn’t know that they were close).  All round the country people are outraged at the arrogance and petulance of the Anglo dudes and still, for we are a charmingly naive people, look to the political class for leadership and some indication that there will be justice or even vengeance.  Instead of a measured reaction from two intelligent people about the tapes, about the constitutional problems of the Dáil holding inquiries that apportion decisions and blame, about the nature of banking and finance, we got … squabbling.  Political point scoring, squabbling, polite point scoring and name calling, and a degree of disconnect from the issues that was dispiriting.  It’s a game.  What we have in politics bears as much resemblance to the concerns of the ordinary world as Kabuki theatre does to the realities of modern day Japanese life.

turf cutting_2

The second spirit-sapping discussion came at the end, neatly bookmarking a show that resembled a political sandwich with a policy vacuum as filling.  We heard about the turf cutting standoff.  Farmers had moved heavy machinery onto protected peat bogs and were engaging in strip-mining it.  Let’s be clear – this wasn’t a few auld lads with sleans and bottles of tae but commercial contractors, doing to protected boglands the same as illegal mahogany loggers do in the rainforest .  This was being done on boglands that were designated special conservation areas under EU and Irish law.  There were police present including a superintendent, a senior officer.  The reporter noted that they were leaning over a ditch observing the law-breaking — observing it mind, not stopping it, not arresting those engaging in it, looking on at it.  Again here was an opportunity for our political leaders to show leadership.  During the show we had talked about the need for the Anglo issues to be dealt with, in criminal court if needed.  We had talked about the legal aspects of the Dáil inquiry and on the need for forensic and detailed examinations of what happened when where and how.  Then we moved onto flagrant, public, mass law-breaking in front of police.  The two politicians hemmed and hawed, admitting that yes it was a breach of the law but there were circumstances, issues, complications etc.  I asked how many of those breaking the law on the bog would that evening be supping stout in the pub decrying the Anglo chaps and urging the full rigour of the law to be applied, to silence.

If we don’t get leadership, if we cant get leadership, from two intelligent thoughtful politicians, if we cannot get them to urge on national radio that the law be respected fully and it be challenged by legal peaceful means only as we are a mature and peaceable democracy, then we wont be always.  People will rightly despair that a state which allows open defiance of a senior police officer who is not then supported 100% by politicians, that that state can ever come to grips with as complex a catastrophe as the banking crisis that has engulfed us.


Banking Favourites Scandal

100 things Ireland could have got for the price of one Anglo Irish Bank

With the #anglotapes this week it seemed to me a good time to recall those heady days of August 2010 when we had spent only €25 billion on Anglo.  At that time Ronan Lyons and I penned this little piece in the Sunday Business Post.  — BL


This week, it was announced that the EU had approved a further injection of our taxpayer money into additional capital for Anglo-Irish Bank . This brings the total as of now to  almost €25 billion.  This is money going into a bank that is essentially in wind-down over the coming decade, money that the Irish citizens and taxpayers will not see again, as it is shoring up the balance sheet of a bank that had too much imaginary wealth.  And that is not the end of the money, many fear.

So just how much is €25bn that we are having to borrow for Anglo? In one way, it’s small change, compared to what will possibly be €200bn in borrowings by the State to fund the non-banking deficit between the onset of the crisis and 2020. But to any rational mind €25bn is still a mind-bogglingly large amount of money.  The State has limited borrowing capacity, limited by a combination of what the taxpayer can repay. In putting €25 billion into Anglo, the government, on our behalf, has spent money that can not be used for other projects.  Here is a list, then, of 100 things – grouped into various categories – that the government could have spent €25 billion but chose not to.

Ireland could make a major contribution to fighting global poverty world-poverty

€25 billion would go a long way in the fight against global poverty. Here are a few suggestions:

100. Buy enough malaria nets to protect the entire malaria-affected population of the world (half a billion people) for 80 years (based on NothingButNets figures of $10 a net)

99. Completely fund the World Food Programme for five years

98. Repair twice over the damage done to Haiti in the recent earthquake

97. Fund enough clean water and infrastructure projects to meet the Millennium Development Goals in those areas

96. Buy up and extinguish the national debt of Bangladesh

95. Fund the UNESCO “Information for All” Project for 1200 years

94. Provide food aid to Niger for 1000 years

93. Asphalt every trunk and regional road (110,000km) of substandard road in sub-Saharan Africa

Ireland could become a World Science and Technology Hub leneye

Major scientific and technological projects cost a lot of money. But rarely €25 billion.  Here are a few ways Ireland could have used the money to become a global hub for major breakthroughs in science and technology.

92. Start our own space programme, with twenty €1.2 billion space shuttles

91. Foot the bill for a century of global research into nuclear fusion (the current 30-year global ITER project is expected to cost €5-10 billion)

90. Research & develop 5000 new drugs. One of  ’em’s bound to be useful

89. Construct 6 Large Hadron Colliders – one for each Green Party TD

88. Build 5 James Webb Space Telescope (the successor to Hubble), and revolutionise astronomy

87. Build two magnetoplasma space vehicles which in theory could get to mars in 40 days

86. Build a space elevator

85. Build two ITER nuclear fusion reactors and provide the world with cheap, abundant energy.

We could decide to give ourselves a break holidays

What about using the €25bn to give ourselves a break? Here are a number of things that €25 billion could pay for, while we take a break.

84. Pay the interest on everyone’s mortgage for 4 years (€147 billion of mortgages at 4% is €5.88 billion a year)

83. Abolish income tax for two years (based on 2009 gov income tax receipts of €11.8 billion)

82. Offer everyone on the live register €100,000 to emigrate (we could afford a 50% take-up by the 466,000 on the dole)

81. Abolish VAT for two and a half years (based on 2009 receipts of €10.8 billion)

80. Remove excise duty from fuel, tobacco and alcohol until 2015 (based on exise receipts of €4.7 billion a year)

79. Pay the grocery bills of everybody in the country for 2.5 years

78. Scrap all fares on all forms of public transport, intercity and commuter trains and buses for 33 years

We could just treat ourselves scrooge-mcduck-1

We could just treat ourselves with the €25 billion windfall. Here are some suggestions as to how.

77. Run the world’s best ever lottery – every Irish citizens is entered into a draw where 25,000 people become millionaires!

76. Give every OAP a pension of 55,000 for a year….

75. Fly the adult population of Ireland to Las Vegas, give everyone €10k to gamble with

74. Give every person in the country €5,555.56

73. Buy half a million ecofriendly Nissan Leaf cars and have enough for a 5GW nuclear power station with the cash left over

72. Provide a new laptop every year to every second level student for 147 years

71. Buy a 32GB iPhone, a 64GB iPad, a 13? 2.13GHz MacBook Air and a 27-inch iMac for every man, woman and child living in Ireland

We could treat the world icecream

Treating ourselves is probably a bit selfish. Here are some ways to make the rest of the world like us more!

70. Buy 6.7 billion copies (one for everybody in the world) of Joyce’s “portrait of the artist as a young man”

69. Buy a pint of guinness for everyone in the world to celebrate Arthur’s Day (and it would count as exports)

68. Buy every child in the world a 99 ice-cream cone every day for a week

67. Send every adult in the world on an MSc in Social Media in NCI

66. Send 225,000 people to do the Harvard MBA

We could truly become the world’s biggest sports fan 10bestclubs_2012

Sport is big business. But not that big. With €25 billion, we could…

65. Buy the world’s 20 most valuable soccer clubs, worth €9.6 billion, wipe their debt (€2.3 billion) and move them to Ireland, building each a 75,000-seater stadium (€600m each, based off cost of Aviva stadium)

64. Host two Olympics games, based on the London 2012 cost of €11.2 billion

63. Buy Tonga and Fiji, which would have obvious rugby advantages

62. Construct 25 Bertie-bowls (one for each county except Dublin!)

61. Buy 83,300 McLaren supercars

60. Buy the entire stock of tickets and merchandise for all premier league clubs for the next 12 years

We could decide to really become a major player on world markets 2374

Banking and finance got us into this mess. Surely they can get us out?

59. Buy €600 billion in Credit Default Swaps on Ireland (could pay off nicely in the next few years!)

58. Buy two of Asia’s largest banks – Bank Central Asia and Malayan Banking

57. Recapitalise ALL the banks in Europe that failed the stress tests

56. Purchase Monsanto, as a present for the green party, or (buy Nokia as a present for Ivor Callely)

55. Give each one of the 10,000 most senior bankers a round of golf on old head Kinsale, the most expensive course in Europe, every day for 20 years, and hope that they come up with some ideas!

54. Subsidise the US postal service for ten years.

53. Allow the Italian Government to not put in place its 3-year austerity plan.

52. Pay the salaries of TCD and UCD academics for 100 years.

We could just do it  because we can burjkhalifadubai-828m

While the Government says it’s not a waste of €25 billion, many people believe it is. Here are ten ways to really spend €25bn.

51. Buy Steve Jobs (€25 billion is actuarial value on his life) and get him to work for Ireland Inc.

50. Buy gold plating 1.75mm thick for O’Connell Street

49. 25,00 carats of red diamond, enough to encrust a Mercedes.

48. Build a shed 10k long by 4k wide and put it around Tullamore.

47. Buy every one of the 5.8m cattle in the country, and to keep their little feet cosy two pairs of jimmy choos each

46. Detach the People’s Republic of Cork from the Republic of Ireland, by constructing a 10-metre wide moat – the per-kilometre cost of the new Gothard Tunnel in Switzerland suggests this may cost €30bn but I’m sure we could haggle them down in a recession.

45. Cover the entire county of Dublin a foot deep in corn

44. Hire Bertie to speak for 95 years

43. Purchase carbon credits to allow us to burn 3,000 sq miles of hardwood forest

42. Build 20 copies of the Burj Khalifa Dubai, the worlds tallest building

We could just splash the cash item0-size-queen-mary-2-100488-1

When people win the lottery, there’s naturally a tendency to splash the cash. Winning a €25 billion lottery would certainly allow us to splash the cash.  Here are some ideas.

41. Buy 1,000 luxury yachts to kickstart the Upper Shannon Rural Renewal Scheme (78-footers, 2nd-tier Russian oligarch standard)

40. Buy over one third of Denmark, 10% of France or three Luxembourgs, based on 2008 land costs

39. Send 833 people into space (or perhaps just 1,666 one way trips…)

38. Stay in the most expensive hotel room in the world for 3,400 years (it’s the Atlantis resort, Bahamas in case you were wondering)

37. Build 50 ginormous cruise liners akin to Carnival Splendour or Queen Mary 2

36. Make 100 Avatar-type films, which lets remember made back its money x4 at the box office!

35. Buy every TD a Boeing Dreamliner, ideal for those trips to Glenties

34. Purchase 35 of the world’s most expensive mobile phone (goldstriker iPhone 3GS supreme) for every member of the Oireachtas!

33. Build four Libraries of Alexandia in each county.

32. Endow one university to the level of Harvard.

31. Tile Dun Laoghaire-Rathdown totally in nice porcelain.

30. Buy five Nimitz Class Nuclear supercarriers to scare the bejaysus out of the Spanish trawlers.

29. Or buy 17 Virginia Class nuclear attack submarines, if we wanted to sneak up on the Spanish trawlers instead.

28. Supply the water needs of Galway City, for a year, with Perrier water

27. Purchase four Birkin Hermes bags for every adult female in the country, one for each season’s wardrobe.

26. Buy and install 100 sq yards of parquet flooring for every single dwelling in the country.

25. Fill the Jack Lynch Tunnel with Midleton Single Cask whiskey

24. Purchase 225,000 kg of the most expensive truffles in the world

23. Buy every house and apartment listed on and still have 12 billion left to refurbish them

We could transport ourselves  out of this mess 98962638-crop-rectangle3-large

With €25 billion in our back pockets, all those pie-in-the-sky superprojects would no longer be pie in the sky! Here are ten ways Ireland could put itself on the global superproject map.

22. Construct our own “Channel Tunnel” from Rosslare to Pembroke (based on the cost of the Jack Lynch tunnel)

21. Build 1,000 km of high-speed rail, serving all major coastal cities on the island (based on recent costs in Spain)

20. Build 11,150 miles of dual carriageway

19. Put in place a 400 station metro (if we could build it for the cost of Porto’s metro)

18. Put in place a Maglev train from Belfast to Cork via Dublin

17. Build our own Three Gorges Dam, complete with turbines

16. Put in place 12 new Luas lines

15. Build just short of two Hong Kong International Airport (€15 bn each)

14. Build 12 New York-style “Freedom Towers” at €2bn each

13. If we didnt want a tunnel we could have five Oresund-style 20km long bridges (Denmark – Sweden, €5b)

We could pay for improved public services childrenshospital

And lastly, some slightly more practical ways to spend €25bn

12. Build 75 brand new 50-teacher schools and run them for 75 years

11. Build 35 new Children’s Hospitals (based on €700m cost of new Children’s Hospital in Dublin)

10. Pay for an extra 5,000 hospital consultants for 62.5 years, based on Finnish wage (or for 29 years based on Irish wages)

9. Pay for cervical cancer vaccines for every girl going into 1st year for the next 8,333 years

8. Reduce the pupil teacher ratio in primary schools to 1 in 10 for the next 20 years

7. Given an ultra highspeed fibre-optic broadband connection to every single house (including ghost estates…)

6. Buy 8,500 years of private speech and language counselling and really help autistic and speech problematic children

5. Introduce free pre-schooling for 32 years, based on an average cost of €700 a month for two years of 10 months, for all 110,000 children in the country

4. Make education properly free – the current cost from primary school to degree graduation is €70,000 per child. €25bn would bring nearly 400,000 students through their entire education

3. Give medical cards to everyone, for 25 years based on €500m cost in 2009 to cover 1.5m people

2. We  could use the money to renew and replace the drainage and water system of all mains

1. Or we could buy one broken bank…oh, hang on…..

So, a mixture of the bizarre, the stupid, the deeply practical, the useful, all tinged with a sense of lost opportunity. A bit like the government’s solution to the banking crisis really! What this list shows us is that choices matter. Its unlikely that any government would have #50, paving O’Connell street in gold, as a priority (well, not perhaps unless its leader was from Dublin Central), But wouldn’t it be nice if we had a government with the courage and vision to do #18, a maglev on the east coast, which would catapult Ireland into a world leading technological position and cement the all-Ireland economy? or decide  #96 to lift Bangladesh out of poverty? Or … the list goes on, a list of lost opportunities.  And when one considers the additional €100 billion that represents the structural element of the government debt, well…

While Colm McCarthy is correct, that anger is not a policy, its hard to be anything but enraged when one considers the sheer scale of wasted opportunities.


Prof. Brian Lucey



Primetime Creche Report — We in Ireland Just Don’t Like Children

crecheWe don’t like kids in Ireland. Oh, individually we do. We love a cute baby, or a wee moppet, or pictures of kids on a strand in summer. We love our own kids. But as a society we don’t.   All we have to do is look at the way we deal with them over decades and we can’t but accept that we don’t like kids.

We don’t want them in restaurants, or in the pub. We don’t want them in some hotels or in shops in their nasty buggies – what, cant they walk?

We throw up massive barriers to adoption ensuring that kids stay institutionalised rather than having a chance at a family.

We don’t want, as a society, to allow the creation of a economic structure that allows parents the choice to either stay at home full time or to entrust them to the care of a decent system of child care.

We don’t invest in schools instead allowing literal generations of children to be educated in rotting prefabs. We don’t even provide a system of national education, instead fobbing it off to religious groups over decades.

We don’t have  a decent nationwide system of sports facilities, again relying on voluntary sports organizations some of which have only recently emerged blinking from tunnels of sporting and actual sectarianism. We don’t have playgrounds, and seem incapable of planning for children going to school despite there being 5-6 years warning from birth to school.

We don’t like it when unmarried mothers have more of them and have at least moved on from snatching these kids and imprisoning the mams, instead happy now in the enlightened eras to allow them to stay together in dire poverty .  We couldn’t be bothered to invest over decades in ameliorating the deepest poverty, instead happy to fling the resultant broken kids into the savage maw of lunatic religious or latterly into a creaking state system of prison.  Actually, we kinda hope that they would just overdose already and save us some money.

We don’t like the idea that we might have to mind them, instead wanting to use schools as surrogate homes and wonder why the hell the teachers get all that time off when they could be minding teaching our kids. We don’t want kids to have a say in how things are run, even big kids, so we ensure that we run referenda and elections when they can’t make it.

We don’t want their voices heard so we don’t bother appointing voices of kids (as opposed to some of the excellent voices for kids) to the Seanad, instead appointing people that would make Caligula’s Horse seem like Talleyrand.

We don’t want them to play, ensuring that absent playgrounds the roads and estates are determinedly child-surly to put it at its best.  We didn’t plan when we had the money and we cant be bothered now to plan for integrated housing estates that have the amenities for families instead treating them as combination battery housing/investment portfolios

We dont want kids seeing their parents, instead creating and fostering economic structures and social mores that encourage ultra commuting and the necessity for both parents to work. Meanwhile a soi disant socialist minister is busy dismantling the child support networks such as they are.

We don’t want them to grow up healthy, not bothering to put in place proper nutritional programs. We are happy to have sweet and tuck shops in schools and to allow schools to be ringed by chippers and kebab joints  – sure didn’t we have no dinner just a jam sangwidge between 9 of us and we had to make the jam ourselves etc etc etc..

We don’t want them to be healthy as that would involve a decent national children’s hospital which has served as a most useful political football over decades.  Anyhow we don’t want them to survive as we can’t be bothered to invest in the normal quota of high end medical staff in the hospitals we have.  God, or the market (there seems to be a conflation of these in some peoples minds) will provide. We don’t want them to stay sane, as that would require investment into childhood psychiatric and psychological services (anyhow the evidence is that the fine ‘minds’ of Dáil Éireann are not at all convinced that mental health is a real issue …).

We don’t want them to be cluttering up the streets when they can’t get a job, and we sure don’t want to bother with all that expense and trouble of intervening in youth unemployment blackspots. Sure didn’t we have to emigrate and there was no Ryanair then, no we had to SWIM to Holyhead…

I could go on but I need to go to work. The Primetime report last night on creche abuse was horrific.  It was enough to make me as a parent cry and to feel murderous rage that someone would do these things to smallies. But then, when I woke up this AM, I realised … this is part of what we are.  We don’t, as a nation, like kids.




Also posted on Brian’s blog, here.



Fifty Shades of Property Tax Grey (well, brown)

So the revenue have produced a heatmap of the country, at DED level, to give you a guide as to the property tax you will pay. Or, not.

Its fifty shades of brown …well, seven anyhow. Take a look at Kerry and Kildare (yes, yes, I have two houses…one in Kildare where I live, and the other the old family home in Kerry) Anyone want to tell me that this is clear? Why not seven distinct shades?  Yes, one can increase the contrast but then if its too high and one is on the border of two bands you cant see….




Contrast this dog’s breakfast with some of the work by AIRO and we see night and day.

I’m going to send a copy of The Visual Display of Quantitative Information  by  Edward Tufte, the best book ever on graphics, to the revenue for Easte   Maybe the Troika have insisted we sell off all our colours or something.



Also posted on Brian’s blog, here.


Éamon Ó Cuiv Wrestling With His Conscience and Winning

So Dev Óg wrestled with his conscience and won.  What a strange and faintly nauseating sight it was, also somewhat pathetic to see his dreams of importance fade.  I guess however Irish history would have been brighter had his grandad had the same degree of intestinal fortitude as he had.

On another level however it’s deeply worrying.  Here is a man who, whatever one might think, at least had some courage, to say “I’m not sure”.  All right he has now decided to toe the party line but we know him to be hypocritical.  Clarity is good.  How many other Irish messengers of the people, Teachtaí Dála, have deep qualms of conscience on an issue but who keep said qualms firmly out of the gaze of the very people they represent?  How many troop through lobbies, baa-ing piteously about the whip system, voting in exact opposition to how they feel?  How many make a cold calculation that the prospect of advancement up the greasy pole of the cursus honorium is more important than their conscience?  How many are going slowly mad from the cognitive dissonance that such causes, or from the drink needed to calm the still inner voice that insists “but you don’t believe that do you?”

A very large number I would imagine.

On the flip side when was the last time a senior politician took a stand of personal principle, any principle, to his or her own detriment? Resigned because they didn’t believe in a policy? A long time ago

Proponents of the whip system suggest that freedom to vote as TDs wish would cause chaos (or at least a different flavour of what we have at present). Maybe but the reductio ad absurdum of that is to have no parliament for fear of dissenting voices and for fear of a government not getting its way on all issues no matter how trivial.  It’s the same attitude that castigated the Greeks for the temerity to be publicly confused about how, where and under whose whose guidance they wish to proceed.

Let’s try something: let’s have some free votes in the dail. Let’s see what TDs really believe. We might be horrified or delighted but we would at least see them as less a set of interchangeable Lego figures endlessly mutable and interchangeable and more a reflection of the protean nature of Irish society.


(Previously published on Brian Lucey’s blog)

Economy government Politics Society

Bring Back Satire

Where, many people ask me, has the Irish tradition of satire gone? This is after all the land of Swift and a place where the curse of a bard, that he would sing satirical songs about you, was a powerful force in keeping the upper classes in some semblance of order in Celtic times. They have a point : we could do with some satire, to whet the mind of incipient Myles na gCopaleens.  Northern Ireland is blessed with the demented wit and literary genius of Colin Bateman. We need someone to take up the mantle of Juvenal, Rabelais, Twain and to become an Irish Colbert (Stephen, not Jean-Baptiste) or Stewart (Jon, not the scottish soi-disant Kings).

There is no shortage of material.  Although a dull dog for the most part, I have racked my brains (all economists have two, the rational and the normal one) and come up with some ideas.

  • A left-wing union oficial demands the immediate bailing out of the country by the IMF.
  • The left want an outcome that will enforce immediate budget balancing while the right want to continue to spend more than we earn as a nation.
  • The prime minister goes on a charity climb to raise funds for services he has presided over cutting back.
  • A man in supreme moral authority claims to be unaware as a 36 year old of the effects of child rape and orders raped children to be silenced to protect them.
  • A state pours billions for two decades into a bank that never makes a loan and never takes a deposit.
  • In order to not nationalise the banking system the state takes steps to ensure that they nationalise the banking system.
  • A man gets elected to parliament on the basis that he will allow people to continue to strip-mine a wasting resource.
  • A man gets elected to parliament on the basis that he will build a massive casino in the middle of nowhere.
  • The state demands that a man who has no legs appear regularly before a doctor to ensure that he is still disabled.
  • Despite a massive property crash, the state makes it illegal to tell people what property prices are.
  • A bankrupt state gives billions to a bankrupt state agency to allow people lose money on the property market via negative equity guarantees.
  • With no functioning banking system and people facing falling income, and with a hundred thousand or more unsold houses, the central bank insists that the housing market is massively undervalued.
  • A man gets 6 years for smuggling garlic while rapists get the same.
  • An organisation that was rife with organized, systemic, institutionally covered up paedophilia gets to control over 90% of primary education.
  • The state pays tens of millions of euro to store equipment it never used and which it never will.
  • Bankrupt property developers say that they need to keep a massive luxury car fleet to impress people who might lend them money
  • A finance minister solemnly tells a group of international bankers that there is no danger of capital flight as we are an island.
  • While presiding over cuts and increased taxes on one part of an island a political party decries the same cuts and taxes on another part.

These are just a few random thoughts. I’m sure people would laugh themselves sick at the preposterous nature of the scenarios but sure that’s the point of satire.  Isn’t it?


Environment government

What Local Services?

The good old days were not that good and we didn’t live to be that old. Most of them were, like MiniMe, nasty brutish and short

We did all sorts of things that were bad – we went on crusades, we burned witches, we elected Brian Cowen. And we did some things that were probably in retrospect bad but were at least pleasant – we drank ether, ate to extinction rare and endangered species and had a weekly rubbish collection

For some reason, probably because in between worrying about badgers and bailing out Anglo Irish bank, a green party TD thought it was a good idea, we stopped the weekly bin lift.  Now we have fortnightly rubbish, recyclable, glass, paper and other bins of various sizes shapes and hues and households have been turned into the recycling equivalents of the backyard iron smelters of the Cultural Revolution.

There’s a wonderful concept in economics called the polluter pays principle. The more you pollute the more you pay. We used it well in the plastic bag levy, where we have a choice to use a recycled bag or box (marginal cost zero) or get a new one (cost 22c).  It works.  If applied rigorously it would, for instance, mean that the burden of bailing out the banks falls only on the 45% of people who voted in FF/GP in 2007.

As a polluter (Mrs Prof and I seem to generate the rubbish of a small industrial town in Silesia) I am happy to pay. But I don’t have a choice, other than to load the bird pecked bags into the back of a car and trot off to the dump.  I’d pay for someone to come collect each week.  I’d pay by weight.  If I had a choice.  I don’t want a composter, or a wormery (although theyd be nice). I want and will pay for a weekly rubbish collection.

By abolishing council weekly bin collections that choice was taken away from me. A household charge and a forthcoming property tax are fine, but if they are to fund local services then we might reasonably ask, what local services?  The council no longer seems to collect bins, cut grass, repair roads, etc.   Linking local funding to local services will lead to massive enragement when we realize we don’t actually get many local services.  Not even bins collected.