Low Taxes, Less Government Make ‘Celtic Tiger’ Roar

Published August 1, 2007

In the past two decades, Ireland has turned from a poverty-stricken economic backwater into the “Celtic Tiger” of Europe.

The lessons of Ireland apply to the United States as well, according to Chris Edwards, director of tax policy studies at the Cato Institute. Here in part is how Edwards described the causes of Ireland’s amazing transformation in the March 16 edition of National Review Online.

Ireland has boomed in recent years, and it now boasts the fourth-highest gross domestic product per capita in the world. In the mid-1980s, Ireland was a backwater with an average income level 30 percent below that of the European Union. Today, Irish incomes are 40 percent above the EU average.

Was this dramatic change the luck of the Irish? Not at all. It resulted from a series of hard-headed decisions that shifted Ireland from big-government stagnation to free-market growth. After years of high inflation, double-digit unemployment rates, and soaring government debt that topped 100 percent of GDP, Irish policymakers began to cut spending in the late 1980s in a desperate bid to recover financial stability.

Irish government spending fell from more than 50 percent of GDP in the 1980s to 34 percent by 2005. For Europe that is a triumph of restraint, given that the average size of government across 25 EU countries today is 47 percent of GDP.

And Ireland has steadily reduced its tax rates. The top individual income tax rate was cut from 65 percent in 1985 to 42 percent today. The capital gains tax rate was cut from 40 to 20 percent in 1999.

… Ireland established a flat 12.5 percent tax rate on all corporations–one of the lowest rates in the world, and just one-third the U.S. rate. Low business tax rates have helped Ireland attract huge inflows of foreign investment.

… Inspired by the Celtic Tiger, many Eastern European nations have gone one step further and installed both low corporate taxes and simple, flat-rate taxes on individuals.

For more information …

The full text of “Emerald Miracle,” by Chris Edwards, is available at National Review Online, at http://article.nationalreview.com/?q=NzUzMzA0N2UxM2E0MTg4Mzk5YmI1Zjk3YzU4ZGVlZmE=