Archive for February 17th, 2009


Bank guarantee likely to deal a crippling blow to the economy – The Irish Times – Tue, Feb 17, 2009

Particularly galling are the Government’s efforts to feign surprise and indignation at the behaviour of the banks, when the reality is that this is how we have always done business here. All that the Anglo affair has done is to hold up our grubby brand of crony capitalism for international ridicule.

All true, no doubt. But there are some reasons to be cheerful. First, international ridicule, whilst embarrassing for some of the more patriotically inclined, matters little since the people doing the ridiculing are for the most part equally ridiculous. By which I mean in part that any difference between crony capitalism and morally upstanding capitalism is barely worth talking about. Second, Ireland is a very small country, about which most of the world does not care. You know how Brazil is a competitor in the beef market with Ireland? Most Brazilians don’t see it that way, since for them Ireland scarcely exists. Third, the fact that Ireland is a very small country means that it is ripe for a global rebranding, which would include a name change. There is no reason to call Ireland Ireland, you could call it something else more in line with strategic economic priorities. So if the point is to build a smart economy, why not call it Smartland? This is far too obvious, of course, since the joke about Smartland would be that everyone living there is an idiot. But a new identity might do some good: we are where we are, and there’s no point in having the weight of dead generations with their old traditions of bribery and breakfast rolls stopping people from having a decent life. And don’t give me stuff about the diaspora getting all disappointed at the name change: if they’re anything like their auld sod cousins they’ll suck it up.

The Smart Economy

Most men are encouraged to assume that, in general, the most powerful and the wealthiest are also the most knowledgeable or, as they might say, the smartest. Such ideas are propped up by many little slogans about those who “teach because they can’t do,” and about “if you’re so smart, why aren’t you rich?” But all that such wisecracks mean is that those who use them assume that power and wealth are sovereign values for all men and especially for men “who are smart.” They assume also that knowledge always pays off in such ways, or surely ought to, and that the test of genuine knowledge is such pay-offs. The powerful and the wealthy must be the men of most knowledge, otherwise how could they be where they are? But to say that those who succeed to power must be “smart,” is to say that power is knowledge. To say that those who succeed to wealth must be smart, is to say that wealth is knowledge.

C. Wright Mills, On Knowledge and Power, 1954.

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February 2009