Watching “Freefall”, the documentary about the banking crisis and its effect on Ireland, it’s easy to find Bertie Ahern’s “None of dem smart fellas said nuttin” act wearing a bit thin. We paid him €400k a year plus a very tasty pension, and so he should have been asking. Having said that, there’s a nuggest of truth to his point that no one would have thanked him for cooling down the economy, and indeed, there would have been massive popular opposition. It’s easy to forget that the big issue at the time was not getting prices down or reducing demand, but how to increase supply.
If Captain Smith of the Titanic had turned his ship directly into the iceberg, and rammed it, he would almost certainly have saved it and all aboard. Yet he would have gone down in history as a nut who wrecked his own ship.
It is easy to pontificate now about why we let the banks lend so much money. But a government that had restricted access to ordinary aspiring homeowners, or attempted to reduce the massive job-creating and tax-generating engine that was the construction industry, would have gotten pretty short shrift from the Irish people.
As a people, we don’t do foresight. We do historical fingerpointing.