The Internet makes it easy for me to read the Irish newspaper coverage of the recession. Irish coverage focuses on laying blame on the Irish government and on property developers who borrowed money. As Orla Mulcahy puts it in the Irish Times today, "Resentment and suspicion bloom in recession". The US press seems to focus more on how people can pull through - for example this Boston Globe article about how people are determined to find new jobs, and less about apportioning blame.
But, if blame is to be apportioned, maybe the culprits in Ireland are not only property developers and the government. What about the fact that the general population spent the last 5 years spending crazily? I spoke to German visitors who were shocked at the amount of new BMWs and Mercedes in Dublin. I was personally embarassed at the gigantic shopping sprees of Irish people I encountered here in the US on weekend shopping trips. Maybe this wild crazy spending was part of the problem? Maybe the fact that Ireland's nouveau riche culture made Russian oil barons look restrained by comparison? I always used to notice that Tommy Hilfiger and Abercromie and Fitch labels were much more prevalent in Dublin than anywhere in the US (and there was not even an Abercrombie and Fitch store in Ireland!), since Ireland is more "label conscious" than the US. I also used to be amused to overhear people say in Dublin that "This pair of jeans cost me 140 euro", or "I am spending 4000 euro on a trip to Australia". I would be more inclined to say "This pair of jeans cost me $18 at Old Navy in Dedham".
And still it goes on: Compare these two motoring articles this week:
The Irish Times: "Outrunning the recession in the Audi A8" - glorifying an expensive car:
The Boston Globe: A Boston Globe journalist describes how he happily drives a 1997 car, saving money:
A few years ago, I mentioned in Ireland that I had bought a freezer cheaply because it was dented on the side. The reaction was as if I had peeled bubble gum off the floor, put it in my mouth and chewed it. That was unthinkable in Ireland, we were beyond that. But, here in frugal New England, that was laudable.
Was it the government, or indeed property developers, who forced people in Ireland to spend all this money? I wonder....
The Economics of Empathy
1 week ago