Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 19 April 2014

Ireland set to go bust, claims economic historian

A dire warning that the Republic is a prime candidate to go bust has come from one of the world's leading economic historians.

"The idea that countries don't go bust is a joke," said Niall Ferguson, Harvard professor and author of The Ascent of Money.



"The debt trap may be about to spring" he said, "for countries that have created large stimulus packages in order to stimulate their economies."



His chosen prime candidate to go bust is "Ireland, followed by Italy and Belgium, and UK is not too far behind".



Argentina is top of his list of shaky countries but "the argument that it can't happen in major western economies is nonsense".



Professor Ferguson believes the economists are ill qualified to analyse the current economic situation since they lack the overview of historians such as himself.



"There are economic professors in American universities who think they are masters of the universe, but they don't have any historical knowledge. I have never believed that markets are self correcting. No historian could."





The historian does not subscribe to the theory of the "Great Depression" repeating and says this scenario is unlikely because the Federal Reserve has "massively expanded the monetary base which is the opposite of what happened in the 1930s".



The problem now is what happens when current monetary policy collides with a policy of "vast government borrowing" on a scale unknown since the 1940s.



"We have the fiscal policy of a world war without a war."



Referring to the clash between inflation and deflation he added: "I don't know who is going to win but we know that while the struggle goes on ordinary people will get trampled. There will be more economic volatility and ordinary people will pay."



He has also warned that in Britain he expects "more riots in major cities this year" because of the economic situation and says the recent "drip feed" of the peccadilloes of British MPs and their expenses is "just the beginning of a crisis of political legitimacy that will be played out over the next 18 months".



Ferguson, a native of Glasgow, specialises in financial and economic history as well as the history of the British empire.