How will we burst this bubble in Irish economists?

The fact the State has its own Woodstock for economists shows just how obsessed Middle Ireland has become with fiscal matters

So many bubbles are popping up in the Irish economy that it’s in danger of turning into an Aero bar. Another one clearly emerging, which policymakers should address before it gets out of control and destroys us all, is the bubble in economists.

They’re everywhere, these dismal scientists, and the country is fêting them like celebrities. They even have their own festival. Somebody save us.

The line-up was announced this week for the Kilkenomics festival, a three-day mash-up of economics and comedy that takes places in Kilkenny next month. Its founder is David McWilliams, the Bono of Irish economics.

The fact that the country has its own Woodstock for economists shows just how obsessed Middle Ireland has become with fiscal matters.


McWilliams will be joined at a variety of events across the city over one weekend by hordes of his peers, and if McWilliams is the Bono, then Colm McCarthy must be the Ronnie Drew. The endearingly grumpy but razor-sharp UCD boffin takes part in an event called Who is actually paying Ireland's bills?

Other Irish economists starring, if that's the word, at the festival include Trinity College and wonk Ronan Lyons (the Shane Filan of Irish economics?) and UCD's Karl Whelan, who might pass for a young Paul Brady if he grew his hair and dyed it ginger.

Constantin Gurdgiev, the straight-talking Russian, will also be there, together with some well-known foreign economists such as Megan Greene from Maverick Intelligence and Paul McCulley of Pimco.

The lay participants include comedians Ardal O’Hanlon and Des Bishop, who will no doubt rip into them all.

Economic bubbles are usually characterised by irrational exuberance, which will surely abound in Kilkenny over the weekend, particularly once the pints start flowing.

Another element to the fully fledged bubble in Irish economists is the recent feverish one-upmanship among economic forecasters. Now that the Dracula economists of the crash are back in their coffins – Morgan Kelly had fangs, but at least he was mostly correct – Irish economists are falling all over each other to put out ever more positive projections on growth.

Davy, to its credit, was bullish before it was fashionable, and is now forecasting growth for 2014 of about 5 per cent. The Central Bank, the ESRI, Goodbody, Merrion – they have all made similar positive predictions recently. Ibec this week raised the stakes, predicting 6.1 per cent.

Mostly, however, economists are just upgrading their less optimistic forecasts from earlier in the year. Which makes you wonder what is the value of forecasting at all, if everybody changes their predictions all the time.

“It was right at the time,” must be the gas keeping this economist bubble afloat.