Tag Archives: Irish financial mess

If You Only Read One Article This Year About Ireland – Read This

Not many financial writers can break down the economy of a country in a way that gives you a razor-edged insight into the character and spirit of it’s people. Michael Lewis, author of the classic “Liar’s Poker” and the more recent “The Big Short” is that rare kind of master in the art of non-fiction.

Mr. Lewis’s article in this month’s Vanity Fair, When Irish Eyes Are Crying not only offers the most concise overview of where Ireland is today and how it got there, it seems to express the odd predicament that Ireland has been in for centuries. While it will certainly convince you that Ireland’s financial problems are far worse than you ever realized (its government debt is rated lower than Iraq’s at present) it provides an even more interesting panorama of the internal, external, cultural and personal forces that have come to define the country, in a way that’s eerily similar to the 1950’s.

A convincing case is made that Ireland is, right now, the financially sickest nation in the western world. It’s debt is almost immeasurable, and its crony politicians have made a succession of choices that have amplified the pain it’s citizens have felt and will continue to feel for it’s crazed real estate boom.

Just two bright spots that emerge from the story. First, that the country’s condition is so bad that a default on soverign debt is almost certain. That may offer an end, however Draconian, to the current mess. The second is that, for all their faults, the Irish remain as funny as ever. If you have an resistance to reading a financial article, I guarantee you that this one will provide several deep belly-laughs. Credit Mr. Lewis for also gaining an inside track on the true Irish character. His comments about how the talkative nature of the Irish tends to conceal a deepy reticent character are dead on.

At the very least, you may take some comfort in the fact that, when it comes to real estate, those Irish were even crazier than we Americans.

Is Ireland Melting? Quotes From The Financial Front

Ireland certainly doesn’t need a publicity agent to get itself in the news these days. Unfortunately, most of the mentions aren’t too good. Here are some interesting quotations caught this week about the old sod’s massive economic problems:

“This year the eve of All Saints passed in a deathly hush…with nothing to be seen in the skies save, in the murky distance but approaching ever nearer, the Four Horsemen of our particular Apocalypse: the International Monetary Fund, the European Commission, Brussels and the Iron Chancellor, Angela Merkel.”
– John Banville, “The Debtor of the Western World,” New York Times 11/19/2010

“It’s possible that the bailout of Ireland could turn into a backdoor method of helping German banks and other foreign banks that have mismanaged their exposure to Ireland’s banking system.”
– Nathan Vardi, “Is Ireland Europe’s AIG?,” Forbes.com November 2010

“Ireland found riches a good substitute for its traditional culture, but now we may be about to discover what happens when a traditionally poor country returns to poverty without its culture.”
– Christopher Caldwell

“The yoke of the European Union is lighter than the yoke of the British Empire, but Ireland has returned to a kind of vassal status all the same.”
– Russ Douthat, “Ireland’s Paradise Lost,” New York Times 11/22/2010

Stay tuned, and let’s hope things get better over there rather than get worse!