Monday, April 20, 2009

Three Cheers for the Irish

According to Paul Krugman, the world economy generally may come to look like Ireland right now:

And it's that closing off of policy options that I'm afraid might happen to the rest of us. The slogan "Erin go bragh," usually translated as "Ireland forever," is traditionally used as a declaration of Irish identity. But it could also, I fear, be read as a prediction for the world economy.

Even though the 16th century Irish slur for British colonists in their midst was "Huguenot," we have long admired them. So despite Krugman's dire portrayal of a world gone Irish, we think there is a bright side.

One of the pillars of medieval Irish civilization was the Brehon Laws. These laws gave structure and meaning to tribal, resilient, transnational Celtic civilization. These laws were administered by Brehons, legal scribes similar to Celtic bards. If, as Krugman fears, we shall all go Irish, perhaps we might best adapt by reviving the Brehon laws.

While providing a rich cultural environment, Brehon laws fail to provide the commercial facilities that modern legal systems provide. But then, if Krugman is correct, there isn't going to be much commerce anyway.

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