Category Archives: Articles for Irish Times

Book review: ‘Identity’, by Francis Fukuyama

Regarded as prescient in heralding the collapse of communism in 1989 as the ‘end of history’, Francis Fukuyama has since become something of an intellectual piñata.

His thesis then was that the triumph of liberal democracy, buttressed by a market economy, represented the ‘end of history’ in the Hegelian sense that other modes of organizing society had been tried, and failed, leaving the strongest standing. Eventually, he expected that it would become ubiquitous. The European Union was hailed as an aspirational model, having put an end to the continent’s centuries of internecine conflict.

So convinced was Fukuyama of the superiority of liberal democracy that, though a Democrat, he aligned himself with the neoconservative movement that provided the intellectual underpinning for George W. Bush’s disastrous invasion of Iraq.

*** A version of this book review was first published in The Irish Times on 24 October 2018 ***

His two most recent books, The Origins of Political Order and Political Order and Political Decay, were an attempt to clarify and rebut criticism of his ‘end of history’ thesis. Most notably, he dropped the pretense of the finality and inevitability, if not the desirability, of universal liberal democracy. He adapted his thesis to fit the facts on the ground.

Identity, his latest offering, was written for the age of Trump. Addressing the zeitgeist at both ends of the political spectrum for ‘identity politics’, particularly in the U.S. but also across Europe, he does a deep dive into what he sees as one possible mortal threat to liberal democratic institutions – ‘political decay’.

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When the quake hit

Victor Duggan and his Mexican wife Ixchel in the park in Mexico City that they headed to when Tuesday’s earthquake struck. Photograph: Tom Griffen

My wife, Ixchel, and I moved from Paris to Mexico City late last year for work. Although born here, and having lived here most of her adult life, my wife’s family had moved to the north of the country only weeks before the earthquake that hammered the city in 1985, killing nearly 10,000 people.

Even she had never felt anything like the mega-quake that struck this past Tuesday, September 19th, nor the one that hit the south of the country a dozen days earlier. This was a new and terrifying experience for both of us.

We live in Roma Norte, a newly-hip neighbourhood that has only in recent years been reclaimed and restored, having been devastated and depopulated by the 1985 quake.

My wife, Ixchel, and I moved from Paris to Mexico City late last year for work. Although born here, and having lived here most of her adult life, my wife’s family had moved to the north of the country only weeks before the earthquake that hammered the city in 1985, killing nearly 10,000 people.

Even she had never felt anything like the mega-quake that struck this past Tuesday, September 19th, nor the one that hit the south of the country a dozen days earlier. This was a new and terrifying experience for both of us.

*** This article was first published in The Irish Times on 21 September, 2017 ***

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Beyond 2020: tweaking Ireland’s growth model

Ireland’s policymakers were authors of our home-grown “Celtic crash”, their errors exposed and compounded in brutal fashion just as the global financial crisis struck. From the Honohan and Regling-Watson reports to the banking inquiry, we have been treated to seven years of introspection.

It is critical we learn the right lessons, and there have been some encouraging changes to how we formulate economic policy: a highly-respected economist as Central Bank governor, an injection of economic expertise into the Department of Finance, incremental improvements to the budgeting process.

For all the focus on “what went wrong”, however, it’s easy to lose sight of what went right – what gave rise to the pre-2002 vintage, export-driven Celtic Tiger.

To continue reading on the Irish Times website, click here.

Definitive take on Ireland’s boom and bust

Insightful if controversial book sets out a hierarchy of blame, with joyriding politicians at the top…

Click here to read my Irish Times review of The Fall of the Celtic Tiger: Ireland & the Euro by Donal Donovan and Antoin E. Murphy.

A Clarion Call to Reject the ‘Axis of Austerity’

This is my review of Gene Kerrigan’s latest book, “The Big Lie: Who Profits From Ireland’s Austerity?”, published in today’s Irish Times.