Ship of Fools

  • by Fintan O'Toole
  • Narrated by Roger Clark
  • 7 hrs and 47 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

Between 1995 and 2007, the Republic of Ireland was the worldwide model of successful adaptation to economic globalisation. The success story was phenomenal: a doubling of the workforce; a massive growth in exports; a GDP that was substantially above the EU average. Ireland became the world's largest exporter of software and manufactured the world's supply of Viagra. The factors that made it possible for Ireland to become prosperous - progressive social change, solidarity, major state investment in education, and the critical role of the EU - were largely ignored as too sharply at odds with the dominant free-market ideology. The Irish boom was shaped instead into a simplistic moral tale of the little country that discovered low taxes and small government and prospered as a result.
There were two big problems. Ireland acquired a hyper-capitalist economy on the back of a corrupt, dysfunctional political system. And the business class saw the influx of wealth as an opportunity to make money out of property. Aided by corrupt planning and funded by poorly regulated banks, an unsustainable property-led boom gradually consumed the Celtic Tiger. This is, as Fintan O'Toole writes, "a good old-fashioned jeremiad about the bastards who got us into this mess". It is an entertaining, passionate story of one of the most ignominious economic reversals in recent history.


What the Critics Say

“O’Toole...has produced a coruscating polemic against the cronyism and corruption that in his view helped to fuel the boom…. [H]is highly readable book is a salutary reminder that cronyism, light regulation and loose ethics can be a deadly combination.” (Financial Times)


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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

corruption and greed

With the default of Greece I thought it might be appropriate to read about some of the other troubled economies of the E.U. I saw this book by O’Toole and thought it might be interesting and I must say it sure was.

O’Toole is a commentator and columnist for the Irish Times and is an excellent writer. The book is written in a clear concise manner and is comprehensively researched. This is a serious book, it argues that financial power should be regulated, that crooks should be punished, that corruption should be exposed and not rewarded at the ballot box. O’Toole also outlines changes the Irish need to make to rebuild their country into a strong, financially viable country again.

O’Toole points out that the Irish boom came about from the outside not by changes, growth, and desire of the people. The government encouraged corporations to come to Ireland by offering little or no taxes, and lax regulations.

Wealthy land speculators had cornered urban markets, driving housing prices up 500 per cent in a decade. O’Toole points out that when the crash of 2008 came, the GDP shank, housing prices went into free fall, its banking system collapsed and gross indebtedness outstrips that of Japan. The author blames corrupt politicians, lax regulation, bankers complicit in fraud and tax evasion.

The pity of it O’Toole says is that the boom years were largely squandered. For a brief moment the county had the resources to improve its crumbling social facilities instead it blew it. Everyone should read about this subject and learn about the hazard of government debt before more and more countries follow in the wake of Greece. Roger Clark narrated the book.

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- Jean "I am an avid eclectic reader."

Never Trust An Irish Bank Again

In this audiobook, the author goes into the political, economic and financial regulatory history of the Republic of Ireland (the "Celtic Tiger" lauded in the 90s). You'll meet shady politicians, land developers, and more, some lineages stretching as far back as the 60s and 70s, and come away finding how deeply rooted and tacitly accepted these corrupt practices are.

One chapter goes into how all the big companies from America, Italy and around the globe domiciled themselves in Dublin to take advantage of tax loopholes so large, you could hide Bermuda in them. Admittedly, some of the reinsurance schemes and paper companies are a bit sophisticated to follow, but the despicable greed comes through loud and clear in the narration.

I may never trust another Irish bank again after learning all of this. I used to own shares of AIB but not anymore (fortunately I sold before the meltdown), and never again. The book will help you understand the financial reform and economic austerity that the Republic of Ireland has to go through today to pick-up the pieces of the wreckage described up through 2008 in the book, and why democratic though it may be, the electorate simply continue to accept these practices as long as their local politicians bring home the bacon.

The one detraction I felt from the audiobook were the quantity of numbers being thrown out there to the listener in the narrative (particularly in the earlier part of the book). The author moves arbitrarily from one year to another comparing numbers: GDPs, tax revenue, per capita income, real estate development measures, etc. This can be hard to follow, especially in the audio format.

Otherwise, it's a good listen for a deep and dark look into the underbelly of Irish politics and finance that the travel brochures and Michael Flatley won't give you.
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- Derek

Book Details

  • Release Date: 08-10-2010
  • Publisher: Audible Studios