Between 1995 and 2007, the Republic of Ireland was the worldwide model of successful adaptation to economic globalisation. The success story was phenomenal: a doubling of the workforce; a massive growth in exports; a GDP that was substantially above the EU average. Ireland became the world's largest exporter of software and manufactured the world's supply of Viagra. The factors that made it possible for Ireland to become prosperous - progressive social change, solidarity, major state investment in education, and the critical role of the EU - were largely ignored as too sharply at odds with the dominant free-market ideology. The Irish boom was shaped instead into a simplistic moral tale of the little country that discovered low taxes and small government and prospered as a result.
There were two big problems. Ireland acquired a hyper-capitalist economy on the back of a corrupt, dysfunctional political system. And the business class saw the influx of wealth as an opportunity to make money out of property. Aided by corrupt planning and funded by poorly regulated banks, an unsustainable property-led boom gradually consumed the Celtic Tiger. This is, as Fintan O'Toole writes, "a good old-fashioned jeremiad about the bastards who got us into this mess". It is an entertaining, passionate story of one of the most ignominious economic reversals in recent history.
©2010 Fintan O'Toole (P)2010 Audible, Inc.
“O’Toole...has produced a coruscating polemic against the cronyism and corruption that in his view helped to fuel the boom…. [H]is highly readable book is a salutary reminder that cronyism, light regulation and loose ethics can be a deadly combination.” (Financial Times)
In this audiobook, the author goes into the political, economic and financial regulatory history of the Republic of Ireland (the "Celtic Tiger" lauded in the 90s). You'll meet shady politicians, land developers, and more, some lineages stretching as far back as the 60s and 70s, and come away finding how deeply rooted and tacitly accepted these corrupt practices are.
One chapter goes into how all the big companies from America, Italy and around the globe domiciled themselves in Dublin to take advantage of tax loopholes so large, you could hide Bermuda in them. Admittedly, some of the reinsurance schemes and paper companies are a bit sophisticated to follow, but the despicable greed comes through loud and clear in the narration.
I may never trust another Irish bank again after learning all of this. I used to own shares of AIB but not anymore (fortunately I sold before the meltdown), and never again. The book will help you understand the financial reform and economic austerity that the Republic of Ireland has to go through today to pick-up the pieces of the wreckage described up through 2008 in the book, and why democratic though it may be, the electorate simply continue to accept these practices as long as their local politicians bring home the bacon.
The one detraction I felt from the audiobook were the quantity of numbers being thrown out there to the listener in the narrative (particularly in the earlier part of the book). The author moves arbitrarily from one year to another comparing numbers: GDPs, tax revenue, per capita income, real estate development measures, etc. This can be hard to follow, especially in the audio format.
Otherwise, it's a good listen for a deep and dark look into the underbelly of Irish politics and finance that the travel brochures and Michael Flatley won't give you.
I am an avid eclectic reader.
With the default of Greece I thought it might be appropriate to read about some of the other troubled economies of the E.U. I saw this book by O’Toole and thought it might be interesting and I must say it sure was.
O’Toole is a commentator and columnist for the Irish Times and is an excellent writer. The book is written in a clear concise manner and is comprehensively researched. This is a serious book, it argues that financial power should be regulated, that crooks should be punished, that corruption should be exposed and not rewarded at the ballot box. O’Toole also outlines changes the Irish need to make to rebuild their country into a strong, financially viable country again.
O’Toole points out that the Irish boom came about from the outside not by changes, growth, and desire of the people. The government encouraged corporations to come to Ireland by offering little or no taxes, and lax regulations.
Wealthy land speculators had cornered urban markets, driving housing prices up 500 per cent in a decade. O’Toole points out that when the crash of 2008 came, the GDP shank, housing prices went into free fall, its banking system collapsed and gross indebtedness outstrips that of Japan. The author blames corrupt politicians, lax regulation, bankers complicit in fraud and tax evasion.
The pity of it O’Toole says is that the boom years were largely squandered. For a brief moment the county had the resources to improve its crumbling social facilities instead it blew it. Everyone should read about this subject and learn about the hazard of government debt before more and more countries follow in the wake of Greece. Roger Clark narrated the book.
Assistant Professor of Economics, University of Tokyo, Japan
If you would like to get a view on what is going in Irish politics and economics (and demystify the celtic tiger phenomenon), this book is a good source. The problem with the story is that the author didn't separate two things: corruption and cronyism on the one side, and market economy and small government on the other side. It looks like he implicitly assumes that the lack of regulation is a very bad thing per se. While defending this stance might take another book, he should have explicitly articulated his views in this book. It is important, because it is an accepted view that the Irish economy grew so fast due to the small government. Which means that not everything was that bad in the deregulated Irish economy.
Hilarious! Author's fetish for government and regulation is amusing and funny, given his morbid-serious-moralistic tone :-) Enjoyed this work very much, with detailed color and flavor of modern Ireland.
Yes. Having Roger Clark narrate in his gentle brogue was a great touch.
Berty Ahearn; the crooked Irish ward healer who exemplified the feckless, hare-brained attitude of the Irish government.
Roger Clark gives a wonderful turn with this narration. You can catch the flavour of the author's justifiable ire concerning the whole sordid mess.
A government of the crooks, by the crooks and for the crooks!
My only quibble is the authors equating crookedness with conservatism. This is Ireland, after all. A liberal government in power would have just robbed the cookie jar under a different banner.
"Measured, balanced and easy listening"
Fintan presents a well balanced view of what went wrong in Ireland. We all want a simple story, the banks caused the crisis. But, he paints a picture of a crisis waiting to happen in a country the kept voting in openly corrupt politicians who allowed unregulated banks and financial institutions to run wild, and sqandered money through the boom times. Worse still the government just kept borrowing to keep it all going for the last 7 or 8 years.
It's a nicely narrated book that moves along quickly and kept me engaged. Tone of the book is conversational.
I really enjoyed it.
"Lazy Narrator or Wrong Choice"
Very structured and informative and a book that I may actually buy to read. However, as I am Irish I find the inability of the narrator to properly pronounce Irish place and family names correctly must infuriating. To my mind this is an unnecessary frustration. Was it not possible to get an Irish person to narrate or for your chosen narrator to do some research / checking. Too lazy ? Unprofessional and, for me, spoils an otherwise excellent book.
"Smoke and Daggers"
Having missed the whole of the Celtic Tiger project and only watched in wonder from the sidelines as the Ireland that I knew in my childhood and my early twenties changed completely before my returning eyes, Fintan O’Toole makes an excellent left-wing job of bring the picture shockingly up to date. It is in the main a logical step by step voyage through the last twenty years of Irish history - roughly the 1990’s to 2009 - in which more happened in Ireland than at any time since the heroic 1913 to 1922 period on which so much of the sensitivities which underpin politic life in Ireland are built. When he widens his considerations, there is a little more inconsistency in targeting and hitting the home truths. Absolutely correct to say that Ireland is a society where sin equals sex and money has no sinful value. Wrong to equate the imperative to creativity with the motive to conceal the nature of truth in Ireland - Beckett and Joyce reached deep down into the emotions and taught us all more about ourselves, River Dance and Flatley’s Celtic Tiger are universally understood for what they are and abhorred by Irish people. Joyce himself understood that Leprechauns, smoky peat fires and toothless grannies dragged Ireland back to what others wanted it to be - it is enough to say that Michael Flatley was born in Chicago without wasting time dissecting the choreography and sets of his dance show. Wrong also to spend so much of the book re-hashing well trod ground in respect of Charles Haughey - odious as his sins of money were, they are well known and dead and buried with The Boss. The main job in hand is to determine how the axis of Bush-Blair-Bertie-Bankers managed to ruin the lives of the 75m inhabitants of the British Isles. Good man yourself, Fintan for pointing out the structural shortcomings on which the Irish bubble was allowed to inflate before the inevitable burst, but what role did American and Britain play?
"Wrong choice of narrator"
Like others, I enjoyed the content but it was completely the wrong choice of narrator. I was determined to hear what Fintan O'Toole had to say but was driven to distraction by the narrator and his pronunciation. It was a real struggle to get past that but worth it. Please use a different narrator for your next book!
"Great content, disappointing listen."
A great book, with a 'What!!!' moment every 10 minutes. A catalogue of deliberate error and sheer cynicism. Don't listen in a public place, people will stare at you as you react with exclamations of disbelief and amazement. What a pity the narration was so unprofessional and badly prepared: mispronunciation ( louche as lauche), misplaced emphasis ( something was 'dirt. Cheap') are the most basic errors, Irish names and titles could surely have been researched or at least mispronounced consistently.
"Great book, disappointing narration"
Fintan O'Toole explains clearly how the people of Ireland have been robbed and duped by a small band of greedy bankers and politicians who believed themselves to be outside the bounds of the law and of common morality. It's a pity he didn't narrate the book himself because the reader chosen sounds a bit like a robot or a 'speaking clock'. There are a lot of weird errors of emphasis that I found irritating. Still, It was great to hear the book while I was working and wouldn't have time to read it.
"Bone Crunching Number Munching"
This book is really quite dry. I'm Irish but haven't lived there for 8 years and grew up in the 80s so I sort of understand what is going on. God help you if you are not Irish and are looking for an explanation. I don't think it would be easy to follow.
It's mostly a collection of arbitrary numbers. 1 billion this, 90 million that so actually it doesn't remain very relevant. At one point, early on, the author, drones ad nauseam on the relative size of different things compared to various US states. Population same as X state, GDP same as Y state, people who poked themselves in the eye with a pencil in any given year the same as Z state. If you have never been to Maryland and don't care to either then the fact that it's Gross National Product is the same as Irelands is not useful.
Sometimes the Irish way of speaking or writing can be hilarious and full of crackling wit. Not so in this case. Perhaps O'Toole, a leading columnist and newspaper editor, is just better in short form journalism. I found this tome a bit dreary and despite being originally disappointed at it only being short (about 7 hours unlike some of the longer un abridged titles) and therefore bad value, I am now glad.
"READ'S LIKE A THRILLER"
Fantastic! I bought this right after finishing Michael Lewis's Boomerang (sequel to The Big Short) seeking more detail on Lewis's decent but unsatisfying Irish chapter, and found Fintan O'Toole was an equal match to Lewis terms of detail and accessibility.
O'Toole has the same mixture of insight and incredulity that makes Lewis's books so readable, and it's definitely made me more wary of overstretching my mortgage.
With London house price inflation now approaching Irish inflation prior to the catastrophic crash, this book may be more than just a historical curiosity.
"Corruption Endangers Survival Of Any Economy"
An exemplary story of how an economy weakened by corruption can exhibit irrational growth based upon speculation until a financial epidemic exposes the abuses of the elite. Makes me want to research the parallels in the other European bail out nations. Made compulsive listening. The euro will not survive if corruption in some Euro Zone countries is left unchecked. Fintan O'Toole's sarcasm is phenomenally amusing. I will listen to more buy this author and buy a print version of Ship of Fools to study the detail in depth.
"Brilliant tale of eye-popping corruption"
The source material is fascinating; a largely corrupt political class in bed with a comprehensively bent community of bankers and property developers conspiring to bankrupt an entire country. The narrator's fine by the way. It doesn't sound like he's been allowed to re-record any errors but it didn't bother me nearly as much as it did some other listeners. If you want to hear a narrator really struggle with pronunciation then check out Barry Cunliffe's "Druids".
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