Tag Archives: Economy of the Republic of Ireland

Ireland was no bastion of capitalism. Here’s what went wrong!

With Ireland sinking under a huge pile of debt, the socialist liberal left points out that Ireland, with its low taxes and supposedly unregulated banking system, is suffering from the excesses of capitalism. Liberals never waste an opportunity to convince you with pleasant-sounding lies.

I’ll give you a couple of examples of where the Irish and European governments, not capitalism, went wrong.

Minimum Wage

AP reports:

Ireland’s 140-page National Recovery Plan proposes to introduce property and water taxes, raise the sales tax from its current rate of 21 percent to 22 percent in 2013 and to 23 percent in 2014, and cut the minimum wage by euro1 to euro7.65 ($10.20).

So Ireland’s minimum wage was 8.65 Euros or $11.46. The minimum wage in the United States is just $7.25 with some states and cities imposing higher rates (the state of Washington has a $8.55 minimum wage, San Francisco is $9.79, and Santa Fe is $9.85) all of which are much lower than Ireland old $11.46 rate and its new $10.20 rate. With Purchasing Power nearly the same in Ireland as in the United States, the minimum wage there was 58 percent higher than in the US.

While everybody talks about Ireland’s extremely low corporate tax rate, much of that benefit was offset by this too high minimum wage. And the minimum wage did not just affect those at the low end of the wage scale. A minimum wage raises costs throughout the economy forcing employees to demand higher wages even at the higher end of the wage scale.

Liberals may argue that capitalism doomed Ireland to failure, but these high minimum wages are most certainly anti-capitalist.

Low interest rates

For years, the Irish economy was hot, earning the nickname Celtic Tiger. Wikipedia explains:

From 1995 to 2000 GNP rate growth ranged between 6 and 11% through 2001 and early 2002 to 2%. The rate then rose back to an average of about 5%. During that period the Irish GDP rose dramatically to equal then eventually surpass that of all but one state in Western Europe.

This economic growth led to speculative excess which led to inflation:

Inflation brushed 5% per annum towards the end of the ‘Tiger’ period, pushing Irish prices up to those of Nordic Europe, even though wage rates are roughly the same as in the UK.

Also:

Rising wages, inflation and excessive public spending led to a loss of competitiveness in the Irish economy. Irish wages are now substantially above the EU average, particularly in the Dublin region. These pressures primarily affect unskilled, semi-skilled, and manufacturing jobs. Outsourcing of professional jobs is also increasing, with Poland in 2008 gaining several hundred former Irish jobs from the accountancy division of Philips and Dell in January 2009 announced the transfer from Ireland, of 1700 manufacturing jobs, to Poland.

Much of this inflation and rising wages can be attributed to the high minimum wage discussed above. But where was the central bank to deal with this rising inflation?

When Ireland joined the Euro, it lost control of its monetary policy. Normally, a central bank would raise rates and decrease the money supply to fight inflation. But while Ireland was growing quickly, the rest of Europe struggled through most of the 1990s and 2000s with low growth rates and high unemployment. Thus, the European Central Bank (ECB) kept rates low in an attempt to promote growth. As a result, through no choice of its own, Ireland had a loose monetary policy at the exact time it needed a monetary tightening. Thus, Ireland’s economy, most notably its property market and banking system, experienced a huge bubble. We are now suffering the consequence of those previous excesses.

In a true free-market capitalist system, interest rates would have risen through investors’ demand and this would have slowed or stopped the Irish bubble. But the artificial government Euro system prevented this important market process from occurring.

Conclusion

Yes, Ireland was more capitalist than most. But errors like the above led the country to excess and then collapse.

“Ireland on the brink” with no way out

Marketwatch reports:

Ireland on the brink as budget crunch looms

Austerity threatens growth, but markets leave Dublin little choice

After promising a 15 billion euro ($20.7 billion) austerity package of spending cuts and tax hikes, Ireland’s government may be facing its last chance to avoid a bailout by persuading markets that the country can repay its debts.

Yields on government bonds have soared in recent days as investors increasingly fear that the only long-term option for Ireland will be a bailout from Europe. But sympathy for Brian Cowen’s Fianna Fail–led coalition is almost nonexistent among Dubliners, who see the government as the biggest villain in the collapse of the Irish economy…

Please read the whole article, but I’ll summarize it in just a few words: Ireland is damned if they do and damned if they don’t. If Ireland does nothing, it will be unable to repay its debts. In other words, it will default if it is not given a bailout. But the EU will not bail out Ireland if it does not reduce its deficit.

If Ireland chooses to reduce its deficit, which it is trying to do, it will require massive tax increases and/or huge cuts in spending. Either will result in massive protests and economic harm.

Western governments have been spending more than it could afford for nearly a century now. In the US, it started in 1913 with the emergence of the Federal Reserve and ratification of the income tax amendment. It got worse with the two world wars, Great Depression, and breaking from the gold standard. Now, countries like Ireland, Greece, Portugal, and Spain have only years, if not months, to get their houses in order. After 100 years of failure, we are now paying the price.