I've been reading comment boards following stories about the Irish austerity plan. The ignorance displayed by conservative commenters is uniformly appalling. To a person, they assume that the most free market economy in Europe is a socialist dystopia bankrupted by union greed and an idle citizenry dependent on massive entitlement programs.
Possibly in a parallel universe, but here on earth the actual facts speak an inconvenient truth. The crisis in Ireland is the same as the crisis here: A failure of free market capitalism specifically brought on by a real estate bubble.
Not only is Ireland not socialist, neither is any country in western Europe. England, Italy, Spain, and the Scandinavian countries have socialized medicine, but that's because they each concluded long ago that the free market could not efficiently and equitably deliver health care access to an entire population, something that each country decided was a moral right. So, they removed the free market from the equation. That's a long way from a socialized economy.
All other nations in Europe provide health care via insurance. This system is heavily regulated because these countries very sensibly don't trust the free market to accomplish much for population health, but it's not socialized medicine.
Norway has nationalized its petroleum reserves, which, contrary to what the teabaggers might think, is not remotely socialistic. It simply means that the state (a.k.a., the people of Norway) retains ownership of the country's most valuable natural resource. Private companies extract and commoditize the oil, then split the profits with Norway. Norway gets a platinum-plated health care plan and financial security for its aging population out of the deal. If that's socialism, smite me with it.
One commenter confidently wrote that Irish crisis was a result of -- I kid you not -- Keynesian economics, a phrase he no doubt picked up from Glen Beck's whiteboard. As Ireland often ran surpluses before unregulated bank speculation defecated on people's lives and as the government is now desperately trying to balance the budget on the backs of the innocent, it's literally impossible to see where Keynes fits in.
Well, as he often does, the great Christy Moore knows the right of it. This one goes out to Pat, Ann, Ian, Mina, Declan, Mary, and all of my Irish friends: