Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Friedman on Ireland

NY Times columnist Tom Friedman addresses how Ireland came to be "the richest country in the European Union after Luxembourg".

Anyone who's been paying attention will find nothing new here. What's interesting is noting what he includes and doesn't include in his list of policies that fueled Ireland's dramatic economic improvement. For instance, he never mentioned European Union structural funds, which have been substantial.

He also mentioned free education – twice – despite the fact that he undermined his case for free secondary education by illustrating that Ireland's economy was still a basket case nearly twenty years after its introduction. I'm not sure what role free second level education may have played in the boom, but I'm even more doubtful about free college/university level education, which he also cites as a growth factor.

He dropped in a reference to National Health Care, something that many here would say we don't have. I don't think National Health Care, such as it is here, played any role whatsoever in the turnaround.

He says Ireland's advice is "simple".
Make high school and college education free; make your corporate taxes low, simple and transparent; actively seek out global companies; open your economy to competition; speak English; keep your fiscal house in order; and build a consensus around the whole package with labor and management - then hang in there, because there will be bumps in the road - and you, too, can become one of the richest countries in Europe.
I think this list should read:
  1. cut taxes – especially corporate taxes
  2. be open to trade
  3. join the EU, get loads of money from bigger, richer nations who hardly notice how much you've taken them for
  4. at the same time compete aggressively against those same EU members for foreign direct investment and (a real plus here) ensure that other EU members adopt anti-competitive tax policies, which help make you even more competitive.