Too Connected to Fail

by Henry Farrell on May 4, 2010

My “review”: of “Ship of Fools,” Fintan O’Toole’s book on the wreck of the Irish economy, is up at the _Washington Monthly._ Opening paragraph:

bq. When I first came to the United States from Ireland in the early 1990s, Americans thought of my home country as a land of green fields, bibulous peasants, and perhaps the occasional leprechaun. Once, on a bus from Ann Arbor to Detroit, a fellow passenger heard my accent and asked if she could touch me for good luck. But something changed over the course of the 1990s and 2000s, as Ireland started to enjoy remarkable levels of economic growth. Blather about Guinness and the Little People made way for a new story line: the success of the Celtic Tiger economy. Between 1995 and 2007, Irish GDP grew at an average rate of 6 percent every year. Housing prices rose by 270 percent between 1996 and 2006. A country that had long been notorious for its high emigration rates started to import people instead. Gort—a tiny town in Galway—acquired a large population of South American immigrants, while Dublin supported no less than three Polish-language newspapers.

All up to dsquared now.



Anderson 05.04.10 at 3:56 pm

There was actually an NPR report on the Irish economy this morning, which could have benefited from O’Toole as a guest; they did have someone from Trinity, I believe, point out that cutting spending when the bubble burst was a terrible idea.


Scott Martens 05.04.10 at 4:22 pm

“Unfortunately for the Irish, they succeeded.”

This sounds like the punchline from a self-deprecating ethnic joke told by an Irish Canadian comedian.

“Dublin audiences gaped at Michael Flatley’s dance spectacular The Celtic Tiger, which culminated with Cathleen ní Houlihan, William Butler Yeats’s embodiment of oppressed Ireland, performing a grotesque striptease to reveal bra and panties emblazoned with the Stars and Stripes.”

*Please* tell me that’s on YouTube somewhere!


William Burns 05.04.10 at 5:05 pm

This may be the first disaster in Irish history since the Viking invasions that can’t be blamed on the English.


Chris Bertram 05.04.10 at 5:18 pm

@3 – the sack of Baltimore wasn’t down to us and nor was the hand of Henry.


Ciarán 05.04.10 at 8:12 pm

William: give us time. We’re still working on the narrative. Also with the Vikings.


bert 05.04.10 at 11:24 pm
After which you may want to scrub your eyeballs with bleach.


Antti Nannimus 05.04.10 at 11:52 pm


Thanks, Bert! I’m going to go get me some bleach as soon as I’ve finished watching it a couple more times. Yeah, as soon as I’ve finished a Guinness. In the meantime, this is one more thread on the Irish economy just shot to hell.

Have a nice day!


Tommaso 05.05.10 at 3:04 am

Henry, looking at your numbers, Reaganism looks great to me:

(1.06^12)(1-0.0725) =1.87

Between 1995 and 2009, Ireland’s GDP almost doubled*. This seems a pretty good deal to me.

* the growth rate for GDP in 2008 is omitted in your article, the calculation above assumes it is zero. Assuming GDP fell by 7.25 percent in 2008 too, you would get 1.73, still a big number.


dilbert dogbert 05.05.10 at 3:58 am

As we say in the U S of Hay: ” It ain’t over till its over” or ” The Fat Lady Hasn’t Sung Yet”.


Substance McGravitas 05.05.10 at 4:01 am

As we say in the U S of Hay: ” It ain’t over till its over” or ” The Fat Lady Hasn’t Sung Yet”.

Oh boy, looking forward to the end of Ireland so we can properly assess it.


dsquared 05.05.10 at 7:08 am

The 6% is an arithmetic average – because the really high growth was at the start of the 1996-2006 period (and therefore is subject to compounding later), the actual geometric average growth was 7.4% pa during the period, and Irish GDP in 2006 was about 2.2x the 1005 level.

However, falls at the end of the period have the same compounding effect – the years 2007-9 take the 14 year average compound growth rate down to 5.3%. If the Irish economy shrank by 7% in both of 2010 and 2011, that would bring the 16 year growth rate down to 3.5% and anything worse than that would make it decidedly not worth their bothering.

I think that Tommaso has a point and the breakeven calculation is actually quite favourable to Ireland – they really did get quite substantial benefits from the 1990s-2000s boom, and there were genuine changes in the Irish economy during the period (massive changes in the employment status of women, not least). It’s just that what they didn’t have was a model for the rest of the world or a Reaganite success story.

(O’Toole’s book does actually recognise that the boom years weren’t all bad and Ireland changed for the better in lots of ways).


dsquared 05.05.10 at 7:13 am

#2, #6, #7 : Henry didn’t warn us that even pre- the striptease, Cathleen ní Houlihan appeared to us in Flatley’s vision in the guise of an Aer Lingus stewardess. I suppose we should thank our stars it wasn’t Ryanair.


JoB 05.05.10 at 7:45 am

3- But it can. Going out on a limb here: wasn’t Ireland just squeezed between Reagan & Thatcher, then decided to join ’em, then overdosed?

As with Iceland, the interesting thing is how the diffuse owners of international capital put up a success tory of low tax deregulation that went completely bust but is still used as what Greece et al. should have been doing all of this time.

The current voting system is based on derivative trading. It’s truely global but you get access in the thing only if you can put in upward of 1B$ or so.


hix 05.05.10 at 8:26 am

The Irish model to help foreign tax evaders looks far supirior to the Greek model of local tax evasion. Ireland still comes out ahead of everyone else.


ajay 05.05.10 at 8:40 am

“Dublin audiences gaped at Michael Flatley’s dance spectacular The Celtic Tiger, which culminated with Cathleen ní Houlihan, William Butler Yeats’s embodiment of oppressed Ireland, performing a grotesque striptease to reveal bra and panties emblazoned with the Stars and Stripes.”

I’ll say this for the BNP, terrible right-wing ethnic bigots they may be, but at least they never staged massive Morris dancing festivals.


Scott Martens 05.05.10 at 8:57 am

Re #6, #12, #15… Oh lord almighty, that does make my head hurt. I don’t even know where to begin with it. It’s moments like this when I clutch my copy of De la grammatologie and repeat “il n’y a rien hors le texte” until the vertigo goes away.

(Speaking of things that make one’s head hurt, and not to hijack the blog, does anyone have a copy of Jevons’ 1878 Nature article “Commercial Crises and Sun Spots” in an emailable form? I’m writing a chapter about the effects of exogenous variability in language models for my dissertation and calling it “sunspots”. For some reason, Nature has its 19th century articles behind a paywall and I am not paying $32 for it. As a service to humanity, I promise to post the text to Wikisource so no one has to pay for it again.)


Alex 05.05.10 at 9:51 am

6: at the beginning of the strip, she appears to make a Nazi salute…which isn’t actually the worst bit.


Walt 05.05.10 at 12:28 pm

Is the Flatley thing supposed to be a political message? Like capitalism has reduced us to being like the slutty Americans?


garymar 05.05.10 at 10:48 pm

Cathleen ní Houli-gams!

Does Flatley work on commission? I want him to do a piece for me called “The Polish-American Tiger: Garymar from Hamtramck, Michigan”. The piece must climax with a buff male stripper, wearing only tightey-whiteys decorated with a kielbasa-and-pierogi motif, surrounded by a bevy of bikini-clad beauties!

Also, the bikinis should display some kind of Solidarnosc reference.


Robert Newsom 05.08.10 at 1:31 am

I have forced myself to watch the youtube video at least a dozen times. The horror! Sorry, I just don’t see any political or economic message here. In fact, I don’t see a particularly heart stopping striptease. You could reproduce that musical number in any Junior League Charity Ball without exciting much comment.

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