Thomas Friedman, July 1, 2005, “Follow the Leapin’ Leprechaun”:
There is a huge debate roiling in Europe today over which economic model to follow: the Franco-German shorter-workweek-six-weeks’-vacation-never-fire-anyone-but-high-unemployment social model or the less protected but more innovative, high-employment Anglo-Saxon model preferred by Britain, Ireland and Eastern Europe. It is obvious to me that the Irish-British model is the way of the future, and the only question is when Germany and France will face reality: either they become Ireland or they become museums. That is their real choice over the next few years — it’s either the leprechaun way or the Louvre.
Because I am convinced of that, I am also convinced that the German and French political systems will experience real shocks in the coming years as both nations are asked to work harder and embrace either more outsourcing or more young Muslim and Eastern European immigrants to remain competitive.
As an Irish public relations executive in Dublin remarked to me: “How would you like to be the French leader who tells the French people they have to follow Ireland?” Or even worse, Tony Blair!
As I’ve said before, the problem with this kind of punditry is that regulating your financial sector poorly so as to generate lots of bum real estate lending really does seem to be a can’t lose path to growth in the short term. People need to check themselves against knee-jerk praise of leaders who preside over this sort of thing.