In Dublin’s Fair City …

In Dublin’s Fair City …

.. where the construction cranes are so pretty. The Irish republic is having a fair economic boom right now, with economic growth on a par with that of China. Difference is that Irish GDP per capita puts it amongst the richest seven countries in the world (as is Norway) – and along with Singapore the only one that’s not that way because of oil. New Zealand, in case you’ve forgotten has now slipped to be about 30th.

So how have the Irish done it – how have they transformed their society to now have a per capita income that’s about double that of Kiwis? It’s certainly not size – they have the same number of people as we do. The Celtic Tiger found its mojo in the deregulation boom of the 1990’s and 2000’s, fuelled by favourable tax policies (12.5% rate on foreign companies plus the infamous ‘Double Irish’ tax breaks for multinationals to wash their earnings en route to tax havens), multinational investment and a particular focus on the tech and pharmaceutical sectors.

And with Brexit imminent it’s likely that Dublin’s once-was-derelict international finance centre will boom even more – hence the cranes all around the Docklands.

In short then, Ireland has positioned itself to arbitrage the shortcomings of the UK and other major western jurisdications when it comes to international tax and financial clearing. That explains why so many folk here work in the services sector – and why we would label the country a financial pariah. However it is also an industrial heavyweight now as well, testimony to its ability to have diversified its risks and boom across so many sectors.

And once again I notice – as I did in Norway – that Ireland’s population is far more dispersed across the country than New Zealand’s. Dublin contains 10% of the national population, Oslo 11% and Auckland 33%. Could it be NZ has clung to an outdated model of industrial concentration more suited to an early 20th century manufacturing-based model – together with all the crazy costs and losses to productivity that such concentration and commuting hell engender?

Anyway it’s always fun to make comparisons and a drive outside of Dublin reveals a dairy farming countryside not so different to the Waikato, albeit interrupted by some fascinating Neolithic archeolgical sites that pre-date the Egyptian Pyramids and Stonehenge. For me the takeaway from these sites are two – the clear evidence that the earlier homosapiens who walked this planet 5,000 years ago and earlier were no less intelligent than today’s (evidenced for example by the precision building of their huge stone block temples that align with the sun on the solstice days only) and secondly that religion is a farce invented by cabals to dupe and control the masses. That these civilisations pre-dated Christianity and Islam by so many millenia and had their own gods and religious rituals that suited their purposes but those of nobody subsequently, evidences surely just how ephemeral and contrived religions are – here today, superseded tomorrow, simple succuor for the dupable.

And on that’s a great note upon which to question our collective intelligence as “the public”. Why do we tolerate all this religious nonsense and the concommitant conflict and crime committed under its guise? Are we that insecure? Yes we are – remember this is the same public so addicted to political tribalism that we’re incapable of selecting anything but mediocre and inadequate political solutions – continually and in the face of evidence-based policy prescriptions that exist.

And we wonder why liberal democracy is fading, even though it clearly hasn’t delivered on its promises, we now have a large emerging underclass of those who don’t and won’t own property, are at the butt-end of rising wealth inequality, whose work is mundane and so inadequately remunerated that sick contrivances like “Working” for Families are required – and increasingly are regarded by the elite as the “useless class”. Little wonder our world of liberal democracies is descending into a hard right / hard left dichotomy.

Sounds like I’m ready to come home and confront the political inadequacies that have driven NZ so far down the income ranks. Then again I might just go fishing until it’s time to ride again.

 

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