Economy

From Dire Land With Love

Back in the boom days, Chamber of Commerce boosters wanted to copy the Celtic Tiger. Whoops.

By Eric Scigliano August 31, 2009

Sometimes musty documents say the darndest things. Looking for something else online, I came across this figuratively musty one today: the official report of the Greater Seattle Chamber of Commerce’s 2005 Leadership Conference, “Competing in a Flat World: How the Puget Sound Region Can Succeed in an Integrated Global Economy.” Of course “integrated global economy” doesn’t quite have the same ring, now that we know a subprime lender in Phoenix can beat its wings and cause hurricanes on the trading floors of Tokyo, London, Bombay, and New York. Since the recent bout of economic flatlining, the purveyors of hardhitting conventional wisdom no sound so oracular.

Still, the 2005 report still contains one resonant global economic nugget. In it, the Chamber conferees go gaga over what was then the most celebrated economic miracle west of Shenzen: Ireland, aka “the Celtic Tiger,” with Europe’s fastest growth rate. “The obvious question before the conference,” the report intoned, was “Can Washington State imitate the Celtic Tiger” by boosting higher education and reforming (i.e. cutting) business taxes?

Maybe, but will we want to? The Celtic Tiger is stuck in the worst recession in the developed world, with GDP pegged to fall 8.4 percent this year even as other European economies start growing again. The Financial Times calls it Dire Land. Be careful what you wish for.

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