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on 8 August 2009
The book's subtitle explains its raison d'être: why was Ireland so poor for so long? Drawing on the work of the American political scientist Mancur Olson, Garvin argues that the economic and social reforms necessary for Ireland to become a rich country were stymied for over thirty years by a `blocking coalition' of interest groups, including the Catholic Church, the trade unions, the medical establishment, the Irish language lobby, and employers' organizations. The Church feared that economic growth would precipitate a more liberal, and therefore, pagan culture. The trade unions were more interested in the redistribution of a small economic pie than supporting reforms to increase the size of that pie. Seemingly, purely for reasons of status, the medical establishment supported the Church in its efforts to prevent state involvement in the provision of health care, while the Irish language lobby ensured that more and more school time was devoted to Irish - at the expense of economically useful technical education - in a futile and ineffective attempt to revive the language. Employers' organizations, which mainly represented small family shops, were obsessed with preventing `unfair' (a catch-all term) competition from large department stores. The activities of this `blocking coalition' were broadly supported by the populace, who, riddled with deference, seemed to accept that Ireland would always be a poor little country. Meanwhile, politicians, many of whom were cultural nationalists, wanted Ireland to be a Catholic, traditional and idealist land, rather than (the only alternative apparently) a pagan, modern and materialistic one.
Nevertheless, argues Garvin, it was politicians, especially Fianna Fáil's Sean Lemass, who began implementing reforms, particularly with relation to economic and educational policy, that began Ireland's dalliance with modernity. Such a momentous break with tradition was motivated by the economic sclerosis of the mid-nineteen fifties, attested to by the high level of emigration. This contrasted unfavorably with the rest of Western Europe: even countries which had been defeated in the war were reveling in the unprecedented economic expansion of the `thirty golden years'. The Irish national project, it seemed, had failed. This new realism on the part of Ireland's political leadership was supported by an increasingly restive lay intellectuals, academics, and senior civil servants. What would have happened if such a volte-face had not been implemented? Garvin suggests the development of a 'post-de Valera `Peronisation' of the polity, with an anti-intellectual populist politics dismissing the ordinary wisdom of economic science in favour of an emotional redistributivism combined with a new explosion of Anglophobe irredentist nationalism. A vicious circle of populist irrationalism in political life might have driven the economy into free fall - the Republic of Ireland as a Latin American country, Europe's answer to Uruguay'. (p. 195)
The book's thesis is very interesting. Yet, the thesis itself could have been presented in a much better fashion. There's a lot of repetition, and many of the quotes are unnecessarily long. In other words, the work could have done with a good deal of editing. All in all, however, it's a good read.
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on 10 October 2009
history as analysis of choices rather than a simple chronologue of events, my only criticism & the reason for withholding a fifth star is that the author appears to me to be most comfortable & fluent in his examination of the dept of education. nevetheless, it answers the question it poses in the subtitle in a readable & thought provoking fashion.
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on 17 November 2006
Far from being part of the rebuilding and wealth generating part of the European economy Ireland at this time turned inwards and turned into a quasi-dictatorship modeled on North Korea.

Home rule WAS Rome rule.

The Catholic church needs to be closed down and its special relationship outlawed. The people of this island suffered enough pain and misery as a direct result of their wannabe fascist and joyless policies.

This is an excellent book. For anyone interested in how Ireland made itself poor at the behest of vested interests this is a must read.

This must never ever happen again. We deserved better than what we got.
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on 25 November 2009
The choice between Dynamic, inclusive and Rational State or one that is Stagnant, Sectional and Prescriptive.
As a department of the Vatican the Irish (confessional - free?) State may have Existed but the Republic did not Live.

This disappointing and confused book provides a mixed melange of items without much structure or analysis.
For those nationalists who wish to inform themselves of their tribal religious affiliations (as distinct from wide brush statements of this book) look at Ó Cadhain (pages 19 & 44) or Keogh below, for a good insight into the rooots of the anti-republican & anti-Gaelic language relationship. In fact the last religous institution to insist on Gaelic fluency for it's clerics was the Presbyterian congregations of Ireland.

To reivew the thinking on the Irish State (needed more so now as the debate restarts) look at the people who influenced the founding fathers of the USA, namely Irishmen -Toland, O'Connor and Hutchinson below.
For those myopic enough to think of Dev's vision as being somehow idyllic or realistic see Diamond's Collapse below (note in particular Haiti & Rwanda).

Any knowledge based economy will inevitably have a dispute with those dogmatists who cannot conceive/accept those rationalists who question the assumptions of their beliefs, from Toland who escaped being burnt as a heretic in Dublin 1695 (instead they twice burnt his book 'Christianity Not Mysterious') to Socrates in the Athenian republic.
A shame this author lacks a more coherent/structured/analytical approach to his topic.

Tone - inné agus inniu' by Ó Cadhain [Coisceim & [...] - in Gaelic] ASIN: B0018NI56E,
'History of the Druids by John Toland 0766192849; The French Disease by Daire Keogh ISBN: 1851821325; Francis Hutchenson by Brown 1851826378;

John Toland - Christianity Not Mysterious' by Philip McGuiness et al [Lilliput]1874675953
Francis Hutchinson by W.R. Scott [CambridgeUP]ASIN:B0014DADL8;
Nature of the The State of Ireland by Arthur O'Connor 1901866122;
The Head and Heart of Thomas Jefferson by John Dos Passos ISBN-10: 1125884460
Adams & Jefferson by M.D. Peterson [OxfordUP]0195023552
Thomas Jefferson by Hardt 9781844671571

Collapse by Jared Diamond 0143036556;
Introducing Plato by Robinson & Groves 1840461136
The Trial and Death of Socrates by Plato , John M. Cooper 0872205541
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