Sunday, February 27, 2011

Revolt in Ireland!

The election in Ireland, with voter turnout over 70%, has seen the public throw out Fianna Fáil, the neoliberal party that has caused a depression in Ireland (see “Ireland’s Sham Recovery: GNP versus GDP,” September 15, 2010). Voter disgust and anger with current policy is all too clear. But the trouble is that no radical and alternative economic policy has been put forward by the major parties.

The new government will be a coalition of Fine Gael and Labour, with some rhetoric from the Labour party already that it will renegotiate the EU-IMF program. However, this might be doubtful in a coalition government with the centre-right Fine Gael.

One other thing emerges too: the brutal neoliberal austerity of the type that has been pursued in Estonia and Latvia has now been rejected by Ireland.

Unless there is a radical rejection of current policies, more Eurozone countries will be crucified on the cross of gold that is the Euro area and its disastrous neoliberal ideology.

One can only shudder at the new age of austerity that is now being planned in Europe and America by neoliberals and conservatives. If the most extreme of them have their way, we will see what has happened in Latvia: depression, mass unemployment, a brain drain, falling birth rates, and mass poverty.


Here are two other views of the situation in Ireland, which are worth reading:
Harry Browne, “Irish Election Makes Room for the Left,”, February 28, 2011.

Daniel Finn, “Ireland on the Turn? Political and Economic Consequences of the Crash,” New Left Review 67, January-February 2011.


  1. It's interesting that you mention birth rates.

    On one hand, you have traditionalist Christian writers like Patrick Buchanan who say that falling birth rates in Europe are a result of overly indulgent governments that have disincentivized the need to raise a family.

    On the other hand, you have certain progressives who claim that falling birth rates are a celebrated hallmark of civilized western nations in which medical care is so good that even rural families need not worry about having another earner for the family.

    And then there is a third category of progressives, like Alexander Coburn, who believe that falling birthrates are a lamentable condition of societies where bad policies are practiced.

    So I reckon you fall in the third camp?

  2. Much like life expectancy, falling birth rates are caused by many factors.

    If you have a link to anything by Alexander Cockburn on that, I will read it, and see if I agree.

    Of course, lower birth rates are due to a great extent to different social attidutes amd contraception.

    The type of fall in birth rates I am talking about above is one due to poverty, unemployment, and job insecurity just forcing people to not have children. If you don't have a job or prospect of one, why have a child?

  3. He was saying that Sarkozy and Osborne's policies are the kind that led to falling birth rates in the 1930s.

    "France also has a high birthrate, unlike its dismal levels in the 1930s when austerity programs of the sort proposed by Sarkozy produced a population dwindling at disastrous speed."

    Here's what I find strange. If I read this blog, I will die. If I don't read this blog, I will die. Eventually. Reading this blog has no effect on my being alive or not.

    It's recession time. Poverty, unemployment, and job insecurity would have been there in a recession, regardless of policy pursued. Are we to believe that there would have been less poverty, unemployment, or job insecurity if, say, Chris Christie had built the railway running from New York to New Jersey instead of scrapping it? Or that French people would have less children if they were to receive a smaller pension at the age of 66?

  4. Alexander Cockburn's comments in that article are spot on.

    Poverty, unemployment, and job insecurity would have been there in a recession, regardless of policy pursued

    I disagree. These things would be reduced substantially by different policies.

    And the US is not in a recession now.
    It emerged from a depression (its first since the 1930s) in Q3 2009.

    It is now mired in high involuntary unemployment, real GDP growth well below potential GDP, a massive output gap, and a crippled financial sector. Loss of manufacturing and outsourcing are also serious problems (which show up in the current account deficits).

    These problems can be fixed by government interventions.

  5. First depression since the 1930s? I find the distinctions between recession, depression, downturns, and corrections to be purely arbitrary. A depression never happened since 1930s because we simply changed the meaning of the word, even though the recession caused under Paul Volcker's early monetarism is described by a few as resembling the early stages of the Great Depression.

  6. "I find the distinctions between recession, depression, downturns, and corrections to be purely arbitrary"

    They are not "purely arbitrary".

    A depression is a downturn in the business cycle in which output or the value of output falls by 10% or more.

    A recession is a downturn in the business cycle in which output or the value of output falls by less than 10%.

    By using these definitions and sticking to them consistently, they are meaningful and important.

    Volcker's double dip recession was not a depression:

    In the first contraction from January–July 1980, GDP fell by 2.2%.

    In the second contraction from July 1981–
    November 1982, GDP fell by 2.7%.

    In fact, the US recession of November 1973–March 1975, induced by the first oil shock, was worse than each of these considered as individual recessions, with a 3.2% contraction.

  7. Correction.

    The Great Recession was not a depression. I was looking at US nominal GDP, rather than real GDP, when I said that.

    It is better to say:
    A depression is a downturn in the business cycle in real GDP falls by 10% or more.

    A recession is a downturn in the business cycle in which real GDP falls by less than 10%.

    A look at the contraction in US Great Recession from Deceber 2007-June 2009 shows real GDP fell by 4.1%, so it was not a depression, but a severe recession.

  8. Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael might not have started out this way; each of them has been all over the ideological spectrum. But they do currently manifest, like the National and Liberal Parties in Australia, the ability of a more sophisticated electoral system to sustain, as distinct entities, both a socially conservative, nationalistic, agrarian-populist party and a neoliberal one.

    As well as to blunt the edge of neoliberalism by requiring Fine Gael to go into coalition with Labour, the commitment of which to abortion, even if all Labour TDs (never mind the majority of voters in a referendum) could be made to go along with it, is essentially a meaningless piece of electioneering against the sectarian Left and the Greens, since no coalition containing either Fianna Fáil or Fine Gael would ever legislate for such a thing (neoliberalism still has its limits in what is, after all, still Ireland), and since no governing coalition could ever be formed unless it included at least one of them.

    Kevin Myers describes Irish Labour as "not Labour in the British sense, for it attracts few working-class votes, has no clear principles, and is largely a platform for the careers of its senior members. Some of them are ex-IRA men or supporters of the USSR, over which a discreet veil is being consensually drawn." How does one answer that?

  9. Then presumably for conservatives looking for less neoliberal economics in Ireland, a practical strategy would be to change/convert Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael from within to old style conservatism?

    I have always wondered why conservatism converted to neoclassical/laissiez faire economics when historically conservatives in the 19th century were enemies of classical liberals who were pushing extreme free market economics back then.