How UK’s right-wingers got it so wrong on Ireland


9:10 am - November 22nd 2010

by Sunny Hundal    


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The Indy’s leader writer Ben Chu said the other day:

Until very recently Ireland was the neoliberal darling, despite its membership of the euro and despite its insistence that every bondholder in its banks needed to be made whole. And the right in this country genuinely believed that Ireland could cut its way to health at a time of depressed European and global demand.

He adds: “What happens when right-wing economic ideology meets reality? The answer in one word: Ireland.”

And it’s worth showing how badly right-wingers in the UK got it wrong over Ireland, and why they’re now trying to blame the Euro.

1. George Osborne in The Times (February 23, 2006): Look and learn from across the Irish Sea

Economic stability must come before promises of tax cuts. If, over time, you reduce the share of national income taken by the State, then you can share the proceeds of growth between investment in public services and sustainably lower taxes. In Britain, the Left have us stuck debating a false choice. They suggest you have to choose between lower taxes and public services. Yet in Ireland they have doubled spending on public services in the past decade while reducing taxes and shrinking the State’s share of national income.

Funny, that deregulation and ‘economic stability’ didn’t quite work according to plan did it?

2. Hamish McRae in the Independent (December 16, 2009): We have a lot to learn from Ireland

So what should we learn? Ireland last week moved to correct its fiscal mistakes, whereas we are still in denial about them. Just as important, the austerity budget it brought in seems to have been largely accepted by the Irish people. And if past experience is any guide, this budget will start to lay the basis for a return to solid growth.

Moral: never take lessons from the past from right-wingers.

3. Guido Fawkes with his crystal ball (December 9, 2009): The budget Britain needs was delivered in Ireland

By coincidence here in Ireland it was also budget day, the Finance Minister Brian Lenihan delivered a 7% cut in public expenditure to match the 7.5% fall in GDP in 2009. To equal that Alastair Darling would need to have announced £40 billion in public expenditure cuts today. Here are some of the reasons Guido thinks Ireland will bounce back faster than the UK…

(And before that in 2008… Ireland “safest place to deposit money”)

4. Iain Dale on his blog (December 10, 2009):

Darling said on TODAY this morning that the non ringfenced departments’ budgets would be “broadly flat” in the years after 2011. So, how, exactly, does he intend to cut borrowing by half? The answer is that he intends to do it by the extra tax proceeds which will be raised by the economy growing at 3.5% a year. The only trouble with that hypothesis that no serious economist agrees with the Chancellor that growth will be at that level. Indeed, you don’t have to look too hard to find economists who believe there will be very little growth at all.

Guido is right. The PBR the British Chancellor should have delivered, was delivered yesterday in Dublin. Hopefully George Osborne is studying it in great detail.

5. Daniel Hannan MEP on his blog, also praising ‘tough’ action (March 24, 2010):

Could any Chancellor get away with such a speech? Yes: these very words were spoken by Brian Lenihan, the Irish finance minister, when he introduced his budget three months ago.

Gordon Brown, uniquely, seems to believe that you can inflate your way out of trouble, spend your way out of recession, borrow your way out of debt.

(And remember Hannan’s fabled predictions about the Icelandic economy?)

6. Liam Halligan in the Telegraph (Apr 03, 2010): Rebounding Celtic tiger offers UK harsh lessons in demolishing debt

True, Ireland has racked up a 2009 budget deficit equal to 11.7pc of national income – almost as ghastly as that of Greece. The difference is that Ireland took, and is continuing to take, genuinely decisive action to get its fiscal house in order. There’s little talk among ministers in Dublin of “just a few more months of Keynesian boost”.

The Irish have rolled up their sleeves, spat on their hands and are getting on with the job. As a result, the country’s government and taxpayers have been rewarded

It seems the only people ‘rewarded’ are the country’s bankers.

* * * * * * * * *

Caught so badly with their pants down and predictions dumbfounded, the Right has decided that the blame lies squarely with the Euro. Apparently they predicted this all along.

But that wasn’t the case at all. As Ben points out, the above had…

No mention of the Euro. No mention of a property bubble. No mention of crony capitalism. Just blind cheerleading for a deregulated, low-tax economy.

And look where that got the Irish. Says it all really.

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About the author
Sunny Hundal is editor of LC. Also: on Twitter, at Pickled Politics and Guardian CIF.
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Reader comments


1. Dick the Prick

In trying desperately to prevent falling further into a nihilistic double bind and a vicious cycle of terror at the economic virulence that seems omni-present; haven’t we all been failed by all those who claim governance?

I’ve been moving slightly into institutional illigitamacy in that (quite undeveloped at the moment) are they able to cope these days? As money is bar far the most movable commodity and globalisation through this interwebby thing now so capable from one’s sofa; that all talk is cheap?

It is in the vested interests of e.g politicians to claim they have ‘solutions’ when the blindingly obvious fact is that none of them do. The bank bailout has happened, QE has happened – the money’s gone to some shell company in Bermuda or the Cayman Islands etc and that’s that. We’ve been mugged.

There’s no-one to blame as it’s too massive. I dunno. Perhaps this is the new epoch where money becomes worthless not by inflation but because trust in its value and ability is derisory and scorned. Get thee an allotment and ignore the pontificators of deceits, perhaps. A friend has started blogging soup receipes and that seems like autumnal progression to me.

The Scottish Nationalists used to hold up Ireland (along with Iceland) as a model for their eventual independence – the the collapse came, London bailed out Scotland, and Ireland fell appart.

The SNP have subsequently wiped Ireland from their rhetorical map (along with Iceland)

And so it is now with the Tories. Ireland took a hard-line and zealous small state approach to the budget deficit – while the UK took a Keynsian approach. Having fallen appart already the pieces that were once Ireland have now shattered – while the UK has returned to growth (all be it modestly)

The Tories have subsequently wiped Ireland from their rhetorical map.

A big lesson might thus be that the Tories got lucky. Labour set the economy back on the course to recovery before the Tories could get in and destroy the country as Ireland’s government did.

Had the tories been in power sooner – we’d perhaps be facing a bailout.

“A big lesson might thus be that the Tories got lucky. Labour set the economy back on the course to recovery before the Tories could get in and destroy the country as Ireland’s government did.”

The greater luck is still having control over our monetary policy, for which the Coalition really does have Brown to thank. With tight money, Ireland might well have been screwed whatever its fiscal policy. With the BOE able to inject liquidity in response to any drop in government spending over here, we were always likely to fair better either way.

Not forgetting of course that had the Tories been in power rather than Labour, we’d no doubt have started from a worse position, as the kind of ultras who would have been in charge would have been even more supine in terms of the lack of regulation and oversight of the financial sector than the crypto-Tories in New Labour.

I assume that I count as a right winger for these purposes?

And that I’ve been consistently saying, for well over a decade, that Eire was going to come a cropper as a result of membership of the euro might have some bearing on matters?

You know, that one of these right wingers was actually right?

Even to the point that Nobel Laureates agree:

http://krugman.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/01/11/europes-ok-the-euro-isnt/

Ireland’s problem really is the euro.

A big lesson might thus be that the Tories got lucky. Labour set the economy back on the course to recovery before the Tories could get in and destroy the country as Ireland’s government did.

Had the tories been in power sooner – we’d perhaps be facing a bailout.

Don’t be ridiculous. If you think that Ireland’s difficulties are the result of their austerity budget you’re further away with the fairies than I’d have believed possible. Ireland’s budget deficit this year is an unbelievable 33% and their cost of borrowing has soared. The reason for this is not the fact that they cut public spending, but the fact that their banking system is almost irretrievably banjaxed. To put it another way, do you genuinely think that everything would be fine now, if the deficit was 40%?

Playing the 20/20 hindsight game – which is always great fun but never especially useful – Ireland’s current strife comes down to two economic policies, one short term and one long term, and one political decision. The long-term cause of the banking heart-attack was phenomenally loose lending policies, helped by low interest rates. This fuelled both a consumption boom, and a massive construction boom, as well as leaving banks dangerously over-stretched. The decision to guarantee both bank deposits and bond-holders when everything went tits up meant that the Irish state was effectively writing a blank cheque for institutions with liabilities greater than the state’s capacity to pay.

The political decision that makes it so hard to get out from under was, of course, the decision to join the Euro. That not only fuelled the boom by maintaining interest rates at a lower level than was ideal for a boom economy, but it obviously also prevents the usual monetary weapons for a damaged economy – no devaluation, no control of interest rates (which are now too high…) and so on.

The argument that this was all brought about by trimming public spending is doubly ironic – when you have no control over monetary policy, the only lever you have left is fiscal policy. Working on the basis that deficits of 30%+ are unsustainable (and although that’s slightly unfair, as it includes one-off costs, the underlying deficit is still approx. 15%) what would the left recommend? Increasing spending to cut deficits?

Not forgetting of course that had the Tories been in power rather than Labour, we’d no doubt have started from a worse position, as the kind of ultras who would have been in charge would have been even more supine in terms of the lack of regulation and oversight of the financial sector than the crypto-Tories in New Labour.

I’m not sure that’s a safe assumption, given that the regulatory structure of the financial sector in the UK was a New Labour creation. Indeed the Tories were opposed to it:

With the removal of banking control to the Financial Services Authority…it is difficult to see how and whether the Bank remains, as it surely must, responsible for ensuring the liquidity of the banking system and preventing systemic collapse.

The coverage of the FSA will be huge; its objectives will be many, and potentially in conflict with one another. The range of its activities will be so diverse that no one person in it will understand them all.

The Government may, almost casually, have bitten off more than they can chew. The process of setting up the FSA may cause regulators to take their eye off the ball, while spivs and crooks have a field day.

Reasonably prescient that.

Whatever predictions Liam Halligan makes in his column you can be sure within a month or two the opposite will have happened. Always fun to read for the sheer amusement.

Sunny, what are you actually arguing here – that the Hannans and Guidos of this world don’t have a crystal ball, or that the euro isn’t to blame for Ireland’s current crisis?

If it’s the former, do I need to remind you that you wrote in support of the Lib Dems before the election? Things change.

Tim J – can you point out the passages in the 2001 and 2005 Tory election manifestos promising change in the regulaton of the banks? For that matter, can you show us any speeches from either George Osborne or David Cameron prior to the crash in which the argued for tighter bank regulation? If you can, then you may well have a point. If you can’t, well ….

Tim J – can you point out the passages in the 2001 and 2005 Tory election manifestos promising change in the regulaton of the banks?

Well on that basis it’s hard to argue they’d have been worse isn’t it?

The Euro is the reason the PIGS (Portugal, Ireland, Greece, Spain) are in such a bad state, they we’re given too much money by the EU, grew too fast, ploughed money into the state, low tax to poach companies from established nations and generally broke themselves. Not right or left, just pure stupidity.

7

Hmmnn.. it’s probably a safer assumption than some of the stuff being trotted out by the right now I’d say Tim. Whatever the faults of the FSA, and those of New Labour’s policies towards regulation, or the financial system as a whole, the argument that we’d be in a better place now if the Tories had been in power rather than Labour simply doesn’t ring true. It’s quite possible (indeed I’d say probable) that we’d be in an even bigger mess than we are now.

14. Luis Enrique

Ireland’s problem really is the Euro

well, that and the incredible housing bubble, regulations that left the banks free to expand to ginormous proportions inflating it (and maybe the decision to guarantee bank deposits). And, from what I gather from anecdotal evidence, widespread fraud in the housing market.

Even with its own currency and control over monetary policy, I don’t think Ireland would be able to deal with banks that owe big billions, but who own assets worth smaller billions. We may not have seen the half of it yet. OK, I guess with its own currency it could “solve” the problem with a bout of Zimbabwesque inflation.

These right wingers need their noses rubbed in this. They saw the boom and praised it. As for Ireland’s budget cuts, I’m less sure what to make of that. The hole Ireland is in is very deep, I don’t know what the right budgetary response to it is/was.

But to my mind the underlying error, when its comes to the commentariat getting things wrong, is to think with too a broad brush (i.e. the right wingers who simply thought Ireland was doing things they liked the sound of, without bothering to find out in any detail about the condition of its banking system). Left wingers can make similar errors – for example, what are references to “low tax” coming from? Am I right to think Ireland’s low corporation tax rates? But Ireland’s corporate tax revenue as % of GDP is similar most Euro nations. I don’t think low taxes are part of this story. I think that’s an example of painting with a broad brush and sweeping up “things I don’t like” into your “narrative”.

I really don’t think that one can credibly argue that the Irish had any alternative other than slash their budgets. Although their budgets were balanced before the financial crisis. They were based on revenues that had completely disappeared and were not coming back. The unilateral blanket guarantee was insane and they are now paying the price for the insanity. And yes at the heart of everything was the euro. Without that there would have been no negative interest rates that fueled the boom in the EZ periphery. Maybe the low interest rates were appropriate for Germany who the ECB were looking after but it quite literally meant free money in Ireland. One size monetary policy does not fit all.

Ireland’s problem really is the Euro

Ideology really blinds people. To a scary degree.

So here we are with an international crisis of mammoth proportions and you get the Kool Aid-drinking brigade now attempting to divert the issue towards yet another ideological pet hate.

Bear in mind I am against Britain’s membership of the Euro.
But, unless I lost it completely, the US (where the crisis originated and Lehmann Brothers collapsed, etc) did not and does not have the Euro.

Iceland, another battered victim of the crisis, didn’t have the Euro either.

The UK, where 700 quazillions were spent to stop all major banks from a devastating domino effect, is not part of the Euro either.

Open your eyes. Stop reading from religious (ideological) hymnsheets.

17. Luis Enrique

Richard W

that’s a good point – I was thinking about being in the Euro constraining how they respond to the crisis: you are talking about how Euro membership created it. But it’s still only half the story right? I mean, negative real interest rates don’t dictate that your banking system has to balloon by pumping money into a property bubble that was bound to burst at some point. Free money can be used more sensibly.

18. Luis Enrique

claude

You are of course correct that the biggest financial crises occurred in countries outside the Euro. But you may still want to consider how Euro membership affected what happened in Ireland. (Could one argue that at least Euro membership means Ireland had a bunch of other governments willing to bail it out, when it needed bailing?)

what I’d like to know more about is this: somebody has got to take a loss. Irish banks borrowed money, lent it out, but loans aren’t going to be repaid yet the banks creditors are going to be repaid. So where are the losses going to end up, with the Irish tax payer? With Euro tax payers? Or as real losses spread across the Euro area via inflation, if the nominal losses essentially end up getting papered over by printing Euros. Or is there still a chance that some of the creditors to Ireland are going to have to wear some losses?

14

“Left wingers can make similar errors – for example, what are references to “low tax” coming from? Am I right to think Ireland’s low corporation tax rates? But Ireland’s corporate tax revenue as % of GDP is similar most Euro nations. I don’t think low taxes are part of this story.”

I think it’s part of the story because the French and Germans are unhappy that the low rate of corporate tax in Ireland (12.5% I think) effectively “sucks in” tax revenues from states with higher rates, including e.g. the likes of France, Germany and the UK which all have much higher rates.

I’m therefore not sure why you think this is a left wing error?

“But, unless I lost it completely, the US (where the crisis originated and Lehmann Brothers collapsed, etc) did not and does not have the Euro.

Iceland, another battered victim of the crisis, didn’t have the Euro either.”

Different crises…..

The Irish problem really is the euro. Small peripheral economies will, in a single currency area, find that interest rates are not set with the needs of small peripheral economies in mind. As I’ve said elsewhere:

“Before the euro started, back when we were all still talking about whether to join EMU or not, there were people of right and left who actually got this right.

The euro area simply isn’t an optimal currency are. For God’s sake, even Gordon fucking Brown got this one.

The effects of changes in interest rates will be hugely different in places where the vast majority of housing is owner occupied (UK and Ireland) as opposed to rented (Germany, say). And hugely different where mortgages are floating rate (UK and Eire) as opposed to fixed rate (Germany).

In the former a lowering of interest rates reduces housing costs for almost everyone. In the latter it only changes costs for the marginal uptake of new housing purchases. Similarly, a rise in rates will lead to a huge reduction in spending power in the former model while having little effect in the latter. So whether it’s boom or bust, the effects are greatly magnified in one type of economy: something of a problem when those rates are being set for the other type of economy.

Right back from the late 80s this was obvious. As it happened, it turned out to be the low interest rates needed by the euro core countries that screwed over Ireland (aided, yes, but not caused by, the local corruption and banking stupidity). But if it had worked the other way around, if Germany and France had been facing inflation and thus interest rates were set to reduce that, then Ireland would still have been screwed over. Just the other way: whether you’re getting screwed missionary or doggy style you’re still getting screwed.

Single currencies in non-optimal currency areas just don’t work. Period.

And no, clever management by clever technocrats cannot be sufficiently clever to overcome this basic fact.”

Luis is correct that I’m slightly over egging it. It doesn’t have to turn out this way. But it will turn out this way. The political constraints upon it turning out any other way are simply too large.

Eire’s problem is not a low corporate tax rate (as Luis points out, they get about the same portion of GDP from it as everyone else). Eire’s problem isn’t the productive side of the economy at all.

Eire’s problem is purely and simply a massive loand/building bubble, set off by negative real interest rates and accompanied by the inevitable crash and bankruptcy of the banking system.

Iceland’s situation is similar, yes, and they’re not in the euro. But it wasn’t actually a land bubble in Iceland: the cause there was the bankers themselves.

And perhaps most importantly, Iceland (a prediction for you!) will, I think, come out of this a lot better than Ireland. They’ve had the external devaluation that Ireland can’t and thus don’t need to have near a decade of the very painful indeed internal devaluation that Ireland must.

@14 ” I think that’s an example of painting with a broad brush and sweeping up “things I don’t like” into your “narrative”.”

Hear, hear. It’s the classic case of “if the facts don’t fit your theory, change the facts”.

As I see it, the original crisis came from a dual failure of banking and government – in that neither was prepared to take any responsibility. The banks lent and lent, on the understanding that the government would tell them when enough was enough (for what is regulation, if not a way of the government doing that). Government, enjoying lots of extra tax money, seemed to assume the banks wouldn’t overextend themselves and didn’t call time on the housing bubbles building up across the world.

I don’t think either side can claim innocence in this matter – though of course they both will.

22. Luis Enrique

Galen #19,

Only in so far as left-wingers build “see, this is where low taxes get you” into their story. Which I think some are. But if not, not. The problems Germany and France have with Ireland’s low taxes may or may not be valid, but Ireland certainly didn’t get into this mess because it was sucking tax revenue out from other countries.

If taxes fit into the story anywhere, I think it’s more: “this is where having tax revenues hugely reliant on a housing/banking sector, primed to implode, gets you”

You forgot to mention another right-winger – nationalist Alex Salmond

“Scotland looks out to an Arc of Prosperity around us. Ireland, Iceland, Norway, Finland and Denmark. All small independent nations. All stable, secure and prosperous.

Of all these nations, no example is more impressive and inspiring than Ireland. And none is more relevant to the decisions that Scotland faces today. ….

And of course we Scots are lucky enough to have the one of the best brands in the world – a global recognition and affection for our culture that money cannot buy.

Take financial services. With RBS and HBOS – two of the world’s biggest banks – Scotland has global leaders today, tomorrow and for the long-term.”

BTW, as others have pointed out, there are different factors involved in Ireland which you’re putting in the same basket. Praise for Irelands austerity when faced with massive government overspend is very different from praise from Osborne for Ireland’s low taxes.

@ 17. Luis Enrique

You said

‘ that’s a good point – I was thinking about being in the Euro constraining how they respond to the crisis: you are talking about how Euro membership created it. But it’s still only half the story right? I mean, negative real interest rates don’t dictate that your banking system has to balloon by pumping money into a property bubble that was bound to burst at some point. Free money can be used more sensibly. ‘

Some on the left in Britain got the euro issue wrong from the start. They seen some on the British xenophobic right being opposed and thought if they are against it we must be in favour. It was never a left right issue. The euro made sense for the euro core but not the rest. Friedman on the right and Krugman on the left said it would not work. Everything that is happening was forecast to happen. What you have to remember Luis is the Mundell idea behind the euro that all their borrowing costs would converge. Yes that happened and what a fucking disaster it led to. Before the financial crisis Ireland sovereign debt was 77 basis points lower than Germany. The sovereign rate is the benchmark and that goes some way to determining the rate the banks pay in money markets. If the banks can borrow cheap money then they will lend cheap money until it all goes tits up. The convergence is now completely reversing to divergence as they are quite clearly not all Germany. Without the euro the EZ periphery would not have had the same level of boom because they would not have had access to finance at those rates.

23

I’m not sure you can beat Alex Salmond too hard with the big stick of hindsight, given that few other people at the time (whether right or left) were saying anything very different. Altho’ it may all be a bit of an exercise in “what if?-ery” it is by no means certain that een had there ban independent Scotland it would ipso facto have been in the same boat as Iceland and/or Ireland.

The other states referred to such as Norway, Denmark and Finland don’t seem to be in such a bad state. For all we know, Scotland would have been more like them, as we cannot know whether an independent Scottish government would have followed the same path as the Irish government.

26. margin4error

To those who responded by also pointing out that the Euro plays its part (thuogh has not had the same devestating impact on all Euro countries) – I agree

I guess it is a mark of Gordon Brown’s competence as Chancellor is that he kept the UK out of a currency that wasn’t aligned to our economy.

22

Agreed: it does however become an issue for the Irish if France and Germany make raising the tax rate a quid pro quo for the bail-out. Similarly the amount the Irish governement has raised or sucked in by having such a low rate surely forms part of their overall calculations as to how much money they expect to have when it comes to calculating the level of cuts necessary.

I guess it is a mark of Gordon Brown’s competence as Chancellor is that he kept the UK out of a currency that wasn’t aligned to our economy.

If only he’d stuck to all the other Tory economic policies after 1999 as well eh?

Similarly the amount the Irish governement has raised or sucked in by having such a low rate surely forms part of their overall calculations as to how much money they expect to have when it comes to calculating the level of cuts necessary.

I was under the impression that lower rates could only ever lead to a lower take? Surely if Ireland doubled their corporation tax rate, they’d double the revenue. I mean, we all know the Laffer Curve is a myth…

29

Why would it lead to a lower take if lots of companies who used to be based in other countries move their HQ for tax purposes to Ireland rather than France, germany or the UK?

“I guess it is a mark of Gordon Brown’s competence as Chancellor is that he kept the UK out of a currency that wasn’t aligned to our economy.”

Yes, it’s true. Gordon Brown’s finest hour as chancellor was when he left everything as it was, ‘did nothing’, if you will.

Why would it lead to a lower take if lots of companies who used to be based in other countries move their HQ for tax purposes to Ireland rather than France, germany or the UK?

Ah, so cutting tax rates can change incentives and lead to higher revenues? Well well. Maybe we could sketch out some sort of curve to illustrate it.

Tim J,

I don’t think it is a Laffer curve issue. The Europeans say it is predatory by getting firms to move specifically to Ireland for tax purposes. Obviously raising it would not lead to a great surge in revenue because some of the firms would move out again. To me the logic of a single currency area should dictate that they all charge the same corporation tax rate. That’s if they must have corporation tax. Imagine what would happen if we said firms in based in Birmingham only had to pay 10% and everyone else 25%.

34. margin4error

Tim

We are not talking about trimming public spending in Ireland – we are talking about a massive cut that utterly reversed the natural stabilising effect of state spending in a recession.

The fact is that as economies shrink, tax take shrinks with it – often at a far faster rate. The first priority is therefore to stop the economy shrinking – which Ireland didn’t do enough on.

33 – You’re right, and I’m being flippant for which I apologise. Although it is clearly an example of Laffer-ness, in that lowering rates can encourage greater economic activity, and hence higher revenues.

You’re also right that it is a logical (or at least an economical) necessity for a currency union to have a consistent fiscal policy as well as a single monetary policy. The fact that this isn’t the case is due to the fact that the euro is still more of a political than an economic construct.

Imagine what would happen if we said firms in based in Birmingham only had to pay 10% and everyone else 25%

You’d get a lot of firms make a margin decision to establish in Birmingham? We used to have something vaguely similar in councils charging differing business rates. We’ve also seen something very similar in Special Enterprise Areas (Docklands being the best example) where specific tax breaks are given to companies prepared to set up in specific areas. If you want to encourage regional development, it’s not such a bad idea.

33

Exactly. In the end that is the logic, unless you are going to come up with some realistic alternative to corporate tax (yes, I know some people want to abolish altogether, but if you do where does the shortfall in incoming revnue get made up from exactly?), there is an incentive for someone to “freeload” on the others.

37. George W. Potter

@2 No question of that. Even though I support the Coalition, I think that you’d have to be a fool to think that implementing conservative economic policy prior to May would have done anything other than wreck the economy.

It’s not actually that surprising that a few people widely considered to be ignorant have turned out to be ignorant.

If you had found examples of incorrect utterances from economically credible right-wingers (rather than economical-of-thinking ones) then I’d think you were onto something.

Lower tax rates to encourage economic development are fine by me. However, if firms are only moving their tax HQ to take advantage of the lower rate with minimal economic activity in that area it is just tax arbitrage. That seems to be the European complaint. I don’t know enough about it to judge whether it is true in the Irish case. Anyway they are not going to make it a condition so it is all academic.

The Far Rights obsession with the Euro, and their love affair with big earning idiot bankers means that they have down played this as a banking crises, and talked up the failure of the Euro.

What is happening in Ireland is the same as what happened here, (not in the Euro) and Iceland (not in the Euro) and New York (not in the Euro) and Dubai ( not in the Euro) This, once again is a banking disaster as private banks lent billions to private businessman, and property speculators, and were cheered on by the free market morons. Now it has all gone tits up and the same free market clowns run in and say bail ,out we must have a bail out.

The banks just like a naughty 2 year old who has shit on the floor stand there and say “you better clean that mess up or it will stink out the whole house.” So the politicians and the banks conspire and wave their magic wand and private debt suddenly miraculously turns into public debt. And the poor bloody Irishmen and woman will pick up the tab for this latest corporate theft. Meanwhile the corporate tax rate in Ireland remains the same, so those nice greedy businessmen don’t have to pay for the bail out.

Look at the smile on our chancellors face as he can’t wait to bail out his rich banking mates in the city. Pip Squeak tells us one day that we are like Greece ,a basket case, but the next he is waving around billions of our money to bail out the rich bankers.

Socialism for the rich is what we now have and free markets for the poor. Time to get out the pitchforks and torches.

sally,

If you think that Dubai (property boom dependent on incoming money) and Iceland (banking boom dependent on outgoing money) are the same, you have a rather simplistic view of the world.

And for the upteenth time, most right-wingers don’t like big banks any more than you do – as effective monopolies they are part of the problem. Indeed, there is a coherent argument that the problems in banking (not Dubai…) were a result of lack of competition as much as anything – there was no competetive market to expose problems and mispricings. So yes, there is a right-wing argument about regulation causing the banking crisis, but it is not the one you think.

“Small peripheral economies will, in a single currency area, find that interest rates are not set with the needs of small peripheral economies in mind.”

exactly! Which is why Wales should have its own currency. Our membership of the pound has screwed us, because economic policy has been based on what is good for London and the South East.

Can’t see your fellow UKIP members agreeing though.

Tim Worsatll, if you’re going to agree with Paul Krugman, then don’t be selective, because his whole analysis includes arguing against the kind of austerity the above commentators had been recommending. Nice try at obfuscation nevertheless.

Mark M:
Sunny, what are you actually arguing here – that the Hannans and Guidos of this world don’t have a crystal ball, or that the euro isn’t to blame for Ireland’s current crisis?

That while the Euro undoubtedly makes it difficult for governments to be flexible in dealing the crisis – that was not the origin of the crisis.

The crisis came because the Irish massively tightened their belts (and this was applauded by Tories) and that led to the economy getting worse, not better.

The problem of Neoliberalism and the problem of euro are two different issues.

Belonging to a monetary union without an economic union is suicide.
?ot only for Ireland, but for every european country, especially, in poorest areas..

The terms of the Maastricht and Lisbon, a tight and very conservative Policy of European central bank and the chaotic economic difference of the member states condemn it to a wreck ..

Also, if you add the non-adoption of common European bonds, the failure of a single mechanism government borrowing and the reluctance of economic convergence of the rich countries of north to the poor countries of south, then you have an explosive cocktail.

The euro was a fraud, because Europe not lead to any attempt of rational economic union …

The pattern of subsidies under conditions of a common currency, to make countries of south reaching the rich north, is ridiculous … As the only policy is 3% deficit and 60% debt. And from there … who cares..

only through economic union and the political-democratic
consolidation can happen real convergence, thus avoiding national bankruptcies ..

Even a neoliberal united Europe, it works better than the current monstrosity of the euro…

But Germany and France don’t want this.
It costs……

45. Luis Enrique

Hi Sunny,

The crisis came because the Irish massively tightened their belts (and this was applauded by Tories) and that led to the economy getting worse, not better.

I’m afraid I don’t think that’s right. It’s a banking crisis, assets worth much less than liabilities, which the Irish government tried to bail out but was overwhelmed by the scale of the problem. I can’t say with any confidence how much worse austerity made things, I can’t imagine the situation would have been that much better had the Irish not cut government spending, the sums involved in the banking implosion are just too great.

To add to Luis’ point, if the Irish government had not cut spending, the size of their debt and defecit would both be larger, meaning that borrowing would almost certainly be more expensive and the problems would be exacerbated. It is only if the continued government spending led to clear economic growth that borrowing might get cheaper’ unfortunately the closest we have to an example of a country spending its way out of this recession is probably the UK – and they stopped spending last year; those still spending are not out yet. Furthermore, the UK was able to devalue (and its debts are in pound sterling, so devaluation means devalued debts) – Ireland did not have this option.

46

“To add to Luis’ point, if the Irish government had not cut spending, the size of their debt and defecit would both be larger,…”

But wasn’t part of the argument (much like that in the UK around election time and immediately afterwards), that by cutting too deeply and too fast you could actually make matters worse than by cutting less deeply and over a longer period?

That was certainly part of the debate listening to the media discussions on the current Irish bail out; they were drawing a direct comparison that if Osborne and the Tories had done what the Irish did (which many on the UK right advocated), the UK might be in a worse position than it already is.

Galen10,

That is certainly an argument. But it was an argument that Britain could have (basically devalue the currency and the economy a bit more and cut less – this is an all else being equal assumption which Luis or Tim will scream at the simplicity of) whilst Ireland, trapped in the Euro could not – they had only one tool available.

I do agree that cuts that are too sudden and drastic will obviously damage an economy (although over what term I am less sure).

48

Up to a point, yes I see that argument. Ireland was obviously in a hell of a mess, but it would be a mistake to lay the whole blame at the door of the Euro, and let’s be honest many of those doing so are doing it for ideological reasons.

The Irish government could still have pursued different policies WRT to the depth and speed of cuts. Similarly, the Greek crisis was more to do with the dishonesty of the Greek authorities, and the fact that the rest of the Euro zone consistently failed to make weaker economies fulfill their obligations.

Shifting attention onto the Euro is just an attempt to re-write history to fit the ideological hobby horse of those opposed to the whole concept.

50. Luis Enrique

here’s an (intelligent and open minded) right winger also highlighting some right-wingers having previously sung the praises of Ireland, and asking how to make sense of things now:

http://www.marginalrevolution.com/marginalrevolution/2010/11/second-thoughts-on-ireland.html

@43 Sunny

“The crisis came because the Irish massively tightened their belts (and this was applauded by Tories) and that led to the economy getting worse, not better.”

I’m going to leave this one, as I doubt we’ll find agreement (though I can’t find any stories claiming the cuts led to this, so I’m not sure where you’ve got the idea).

“That while the Euro undoubtedly makes it difficult for governments to be flexible in dealing the crisis – that was not the origin of the crisis.”

Well at least we agree that the euro is a continuing factor in this crisis, and that the longer Ireland stays in, the harder it’s going to be to fix things.

@43. Sunny Hundal

Of course Ireland, Iceland and the Baltic states were poster boys of the right in the boom years. However, they were built on sand and the claims made about them were nonsense. The quotes you provide are all from clueless morons and you are quite right to have fun at their expense. Ironically, Paul Staines praising the very guarantees that sunk Ireland. I just do not think the cut spending slowly versus austerity applies to the Irish situation. The scale of the mess they are in dwarfs a few percentage points either way on the government fiscal deficit.

44. Galhnos

‘ The problem of Neoliberalism and the problem of euro are two different issues.

Belonging to a monetary union without an economic union is suicide.
?ot only for Ireland, but for every european country, especially, in poorest areas..

The terms of the Maastricht and Lisbon, a tight and very conservative Policy of European central bank and the chaotic economic difference of the member states condemn it to a wreck ..

Also, if you add the non-adoption of common European bonds, the failure of a single mechanism government borrowing and the reluctance of economic convergence of the rich countries of north to the poor countries of south, then you have an explosive cocktail.

The euro was a fraud, because Europe not lead to any attempt of rational economic union …

The pattern of subsidies under conditions of a common currency, to make countries of south reaching the rich north, is ridiculous … As the only policy is 3% deficit and 60% debt. And from there … who cares..

only through economic union and the political-democratic
consolidation can happen real convergence, thus avoiding national bankruptcies ..’

At last someone who gets the bigger picture. Everything else involved in the wider crisis of the EZ are symptoms. The root cause is a one size fits all inappropriate monetary policy for widely divergent economies. I just do not get the blindspot that lefties and liberals have with the euro. The natural stance for lefties or liberals wold have been to be sceptical of the whole project. Inherent flaws and contradictions were in the system from the start. The poorest countries and the poorest and most disadvantaged within those countries were always going to be the ones to pay the price when a crisis occurred. Moreover, plenty of people not on the xenophobic right were saying a crisis was inevitable and the weakest members would have to cede power and sovereignty or be even worse off by leaving. What the fuck is liberal about that?

At the heart of the euro project they always knew that there were inherent flaws and a crisis would occur. However, they are arrogant bastards who do not believe markets should apply to them. They always believed when a crisis came they would be able to manage it towards a closer political and fiscal union. The fundamental logic behind a monetary union is a political and and fiscal union. One does not need to be xenophobe to see that just basic arithmetic does the job. Without the PU & FU the monetary union does not make much sense. However, even the ECB and EU have almost been overwhelmed by the scale of managing the crisis. Moreover, it is far from over. If you believed that ceding power to the euro core was ever going to be to the advantage of the periphery. Let’s just say I have a bridge you might be interested in. The weakest states will see their public sector hollowed out and continual nominal wage cuts in the private sector for years ahead. The euro will not survive in its current form. Some of the weakest members will either leave or be forced out. Alternatively the ceding power to the core continues and you are left with shell states. That is not europhobia or xenophobia, it is just the hard economic facts.

“The quotes you provide are all from clueless morons and you are quite right to have fun at their expense. Ironically, Paul Staines praising the very guarantees that sunk Ireland.”

Staines is such a jerk!

Folk who really have egg on their faces are the likes of Blair, Mandelson, Heseltine and Kenneth Clarke who wanted Britain to join the Eurozone.

The other folk are those who believe that free market capitalism works – what has happened to the banks in Ireland is a glaring example of where self-regulation of financial markets leads.

And btw Ireland was a low tax economy. It also has one of the most unequal distributions of income among EU countries.

52 Richard W,
I agree with you.
“Without the PU & FU the monetary union does not make much sense”

Without economic union and political consolidation we can’t avoid national bankruptcies in Europe… Otherwise, we have to leave from euro…

That’s the problem with euro..

The problem with capitalism is this:
RSA Animate – Crises of Capitalism

Totally agree. Capitalism can only fail in the long run. We are finding that out now. Trouble is. Greed is the great deceiver and the Tories are green with it.

@ 50. Luis Enrique:

There are some good links on that Tyler Cowan blog post. I would not call him right wing. More like a liberal tarian who supports President Obama and has never hidden that he thinks the Republicans are a bunch of fruitcakes. The tax issue is fascinating and will be much debated as to whether the low tax was driving the property speculation or the speculation was driving the tax rates lower. Suffice to say the hubris was built on sand and clear evidence that you can’t finance the state on inflated revenues from speculation. The bubble bursts and the state is left with a severe shortfall of revenue.

58. Luis Enrique

Richard W

you’re right about Cowen, although I think he does describe himself as a (centrist, government friendly) libertarian. And if he commented on here, I’d give him about 5mins before he’s called a brown shirt Tory troll.

Flicking through old news files leading up to the launch of Euro at the end of 1999, I came upon this from February 1998:

More than 150 German economics professors have called for an “orderly postponement” of economic and monetary union because economic conditions in Europe are “most unsuitable” for the project to start.

The call to delay Emu “for a couple of years” is made in a declaration signed by 155 university professors and sent to the Financial Times and the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung newspaper in Germany. It signals intensified opposition to the government’s euro policy.

The declaration was organised by Manfred Neumann, professor of economic policy at Bonn university and chairman of the Bonn economics ministry’s council of expert advisers. It signals concern among professional economists about Bonn’s determination to begin the single currency on January 1 1999.

The declaration that “the euro is coming too early” will press the government to explain its policy in economic terms. The statement points to the failure of large European Union states to meet the economic criteria for membership in the Maastricht treaty of 1992 and highlights worsening structural problems.

Postponement, it says, “has to be seriously considered as a political option”. The professors do not oppose the euro, but make clear that Emu’s success is more important than a prompt start.

http://www.internetional.se/9802brdpr.htm

@57 I don’t think someone has to support the Republicans in order to be rightwing. Many Republicans are closer to the European far-right than to the mainstream European right. Many Tory MPs backed Obama, too.


Reactions: Twitter, blogs
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    How UK’s right-wingers got it so wrong on Ireland http://bit.ly/agXTBH

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    RT @libcon @sunny_hundal How UK’s right-wingers got it so wrong on Ireland http://bit.ly/agXTBH < Excellent article, as usual

  3. Derek Bryant

    RT @libcon: How UK’s right-wingers got it so wrong on Ireland http://bit.ly/agXTBH

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    How UK right-wingers got it so wrong on Ireland (and why we should ignore them from now) http://bit.ly/agXTBH

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  11. Ceehaitch

    RT @sunny_hundal: How UK right-wingers got it so wrong on Ireland (and why we should ignore them from now) http://bit.ly/agXTBH

  12. tom_watson

    Compilation of Irish economy quotes from Sunny_hundal http://bit.ly/9C48Sl Doesn't slavish adherence to monaterism always lead to this?

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    How UK's right wingers got it so wrong on Ireland http://bit.ly/bz7iDn

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    RT @tom_watson Compilation of Irish economy quotes from @Sunny_hundal http://bit.ly/9C48Sl

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  75. Lisa E

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  76. Jonathan Davis

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