TEMPORARY EDIT: If you are here because you googled either Morgan Kelly or Constantin Kurdgiev, welcome. I am not an economist. I just have an opinion, like everyone else. In the meantime, make some tea. Mostly I talk about crochet and books on here. And occasionally music.
Three of my strawberry plants are flowering. I think this means I might get some fruit out of them if some lardlife insect or bird doesn’t steal them first. Slugs are having a go at the leaves of the others. [insert swearword].
This morning, I woke to two pieces of news. Seve Ballesteros died overnight. As he was the first golfer I had ever heard of, and he had a passion largely absent from the boring Anglo Saxons, I feel some loss here in the way I felt a loss when Ayrton Senna exited the grid also. I never knew the man but the world was better for his existance. Certainly the world of golf was. He was one of those who give colour to the canvas of reality.
The other piece of news is that Morgan Kelly had written another piece for the Irish Times. I skimmed through it on my phone and it failed my a) is it going to make me angry and b) can I change anything about the world on its basis test. Last week I got into an argument with Constantin Gurdgiev on twitter because I didn’t agree with his conclusions absent his ability to defend how he drew them. When someone tells me that something measured badly, I like to know what they were being measured against. I don’t believe he had anything other than data. This morning, it was Brian Lucey. He was a bit surprised because no one had commented on the Irish Times story. It was well before nine when we had this conversation and I was only awake because I had been woken by work concerns. I pointed out it was early, Stephen Kinsella suggested the mods weren’t in yet.
I’m not really clued in on how the Irish Times manages comments on its stories because I don’t comment on Irish Times’ stories, mainly because I’m done with opinion – to a greater or lesser extent – in Irish newspapers because by and large, it’s generally not worth the emotional grief. Remember the Irish Times saw fit to pay Sarah Carey, John Waters, and, until some altercation, Kevin Myers (and then the wretched Independent foisted him on us). Opinion in Irish newspapers is at best, hit or miss. I’ll come to Morgan Kelly in a moment. Anyway, Brian pointed out the mods in Irish Economy were up, the mods in the PropertyPin and Politics.ie.
So I’m going to explain something briefly, albeit longer than 140 chars. If you are a registered user of The Property Pin or Politics.ie, you do not need to be premoderated. So the mods don’t actually have to be up. For Irish Economy, it’s a wordpress site, like this one, and I moderate the first comment from any computer, but after that, if you don’t clear your cookies, you’re generally in if I’ve okayed you. I imagine Irish Economy is not so different. If the Irish Times premods everything, fine – I doubt it however. I just think that most people hadn’t actually read the bloody thing yet and for the most part, those who were commentating on the other three sites were doing so because – to some extent – the formats on those sites are different; they are more interactive and less “Letters To The Editor” than the Irish Times. There’s some closer similarity in operation between comments on Irish Economy and comments on Irish Times but there is also a vastly different readership.
Anyway, so to Morgan Kelly’s piece. It does not make for pleasant reading, depressing if you like. If you actually are on a day off today, are operating under the naive perception that there is damn all you can do to immediately reverse the economic mess the country is in, then I strongly recommend you don’t read it. I woke up to a discussion on twitter about how the medicine was necessary but that it would kill the patient.
In my view, that makes it completely unnecessary. If we’re going to wind up dead anyway, we may as well go somewhere and enjoy ourselves. It didn’t get better. Stephen Kinsella will write an article for Monday’s (I think) Guardian having checked some figures which I think is a fair response.
Morgan Kelly’s reputation is – as far as the wider world is concerned – based initially on his projection that Irish property prices would fall by about 70% at a time that the property industry itself was still promoting the concept of a soft landing. He was massively and unjustifiably reviled for that. He is turning out to be not so far wide of the mark. Whether he is right on this occasion is open to debate – I think it’s hard to be certain because – differently this time – it’s not a purely economic matter. In one respect, you could argue that it’s nothing other than a huge political football and the sad and tragic reality is that no matter how much you think you know about political horsetrading, the simple fact and reality is that no one – not one person in the entire world – knows enough of it to be certain that they are describing actual reality.
So comments along the lines of “you need to know reality” to back up the feeling that you have to flagellate yourself and read Morgan Kelly’s frankly depressing column this morning are completely delusional. Morgan Kelly may know more than you but he doesn’t know it all. And reality – as people have been finding out day after day, year after year, has a horrifying habit of being ever so slightly different to how you thought it was and how you thought it would turn out. People can make all the assertions they like; but the world is awkward.
In this respect, key issues are being forgotten. We need urgently – I mean really urgently – to look at financial regulation in this country. No one is actually writing about this that I can see. The vast majority of people in this country have no faith in the financial system at present and are engaging with it only by necessity. To get around that, we need some form of New Deal not unlike FDR’s efforts to start rebuilding the US after the Great Depression. There is not one single economist coming out with this effort.
You have to remember something. If economists can really fix things, we wouldn’t be in this mess. We wouldn’t be in this mess because they could have prevented it 10 years ago when people like me said “you know, we haev a bit of a problem here”. If Morgan Kelly has any impact right now, following this piece, it is not because he has impacted on the economy, it is because he has impacted on people’s perceptions. But a lot of people are not equipped to critically assess what he is saying. Most people that I see pushing the “you have to face reality” argument on Morgan Kelly’s piece are doing so on the grounds that he is validating what they want to believe.
The world economy is actually completely screwed up at the moment and anyone who assumes that Ireland’s problems, self inflicted though they are with banking crisis and rather stupid decision not to rein in the property market, can be looked through without considering that is just wrong.
Both the UK and the US have been frantically printing money to sort out their mess. The US hid it under some sort of special funding vehicles, the UK called it quantitative easing. Neither worked exactly as designed. Europe hasn’t been wholly immune to this either. China is facing into a massive property bubble for all their denials, and most of their markets are contracting. There is more political unrest in the world than usual (not that it’s ever free of it) and a key foundation stone of the major – read supposedly wealthy – economies – namely easy access to energy – is in trouble. Because human beings are resourceful, I have no doubt that short of a meteor strike, we will work our way around these issues like we always do. Otherwise we might as all commit suicide and I’m not quite ready to do that yet.
In the meantime, there are no quick and easy solutions to the problems in Ireland. Morgan Kelly’s suggestions are alluringly easy in theory and on paper. Involving the cuts they do however, they are, from a practical point of view, impossible. That makes them effectively useless.
From what I can see, most of those rushing to push the piece don’t want to recognise this reality. They want to recognise the reality that he describes, but not the reality that what he is promoting is essentially impossible. It is nothing even remotely approaching a new deal.
So I get irate when people suggest to me I am not dealing in reality because I am at least a level of reality beyond them again.
In the meantime I don’t run the Irish Times, nor am I a member of the Government. Richard Bruton, my local TD, has never canvassed me and there is nothing I can change on the macro level. So I work on the micro level, and I deal with what I can do to improve my life. Some of those things are essentially very simple. Some of those include watering my plants and seeing that this year, for the first time in my entire life, if we skip all the herb plants I bought and raid for flavouring means, I am growing my own food.