Monday, October 19, 2009

Economics 19/10/2009: A proud member of National Mediocrity

Sunday Sunday Business show on Today FM. Minister Lenihan commenting on the anti-NAMA economists (podcast here):

"What I notice about them is that there’s about forty of them. There is about two hundred economists in the state. Most of the rest of them have approached me privately and said that these gentlemen and ladies are wrong. But of course they are not prepared to say so publicly because in Irish academic class, people don’t criticise other people’s books. That’s part of our national mediocrity. ...If you look at the press in the United Kingdom or the United States, you’ll see robust academic criticism of others works but we’re reluctant to do it."

Karl Whelan has his view on this - read it here.

My view is a simple one. Want to have some criticism - compare publications records of Mnister's advisers to that of, ough, say Karl Whelan or Brian Lucey. Want to have some criticism - compare supporters and critics of Nama:
  • Stockbrokers and Irish Banks' economists - all with a major conflict of interest implied in their positions as their respective organizations will be the intended beneficiaries of Nama. In my books, this does not invalidate their points and analysis, but it does raise a question or two;
  • EU Commissioner who actually negotiated with Minister Lenihan Nama solution;
  • Ghosts of other - possibly independent - economists who have spoken to the Minister in private?..
  • 4 Nobel Prize winners, several senior faculty members from the top 5 Finance Departments in the world, and one former SEC Board Member;
  • 46 academic and practicing economists and finance specialists;
  • 4 authors of comprehensive analysis of Nama proposals (myself, Brian Lucey, Ronan Lyons and Karl Whelan - in alphabetic order) that provided more detailed and more accurate costings of Nama and alternatives than the one supplied by Minister's own staff;
  • 1 former banker - Peter Mathews - who has extensive experience in managing bad loans within a special division for such loans set up by ICC bank in the 1980s;
  • A range of independent economic commentators some with extensive finance experience in the past;
  • A number of top class finance entrepreneurs, including Dermot Desmond;
  • Hundreds of people from finance, international finance and economics who comment on this blog and the Irish Economy blog;
  • One Governor of the Central Bank who proposed significant changes to Nama that were subsequently taken out of context by His Intellectual Excellence's Government colleagues and reshaped into an unrecognizable watered-down versions to suit original Nama.
Not that excellence is measured in numbers (as Gallileo and Copernicus and many others have proven before), but you get the point.

As far as Minister Lenihan has a stomach to talk about mediocrity, I wonder how he feels sitting at the Cabinet table. Or how he feels about the Nama analysis being pushed forward by his staff - analysis that has been time and again proven as:
  • coming after the mediocre Irish economists put forward their figures; and
  • turning out to be wrong and proven to be wrong by the mediocre Irish economists.

One real sign of intelligence and excellence is ability to listen, seek truth and change your views/plans in response to overwhelming evidence that disputes one's original proposition. To date, after months of factual analysis by many of us, this Government has been showing complete lack of ability to do either one of the above.

Let us all be judged, then, alongside Minister Lenihan, as to where the real mediocrity in this country resides.
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