The Irish economist doffed his Copeland suit and tie and dropped manfully if a little droopily into the bath. Why couldn’t everything be like irisheconomy.ie he wondered. Right and in writing and with lots of economists, even Colm McCarthy sometimes, and no other people. He loved Colm McCarthy. Big and gruff and no nonsense. All Man really. Not that economic man wasn’t quite manly himself, he noted, in the bubbles (he wondered fleetingly if you could meter bubbles). He’d once had a funny dream about Colm McCarthy and Dan O’Brien otherwise he was generally fairly normal. He hated women. They couldn’t understand economics. Endogenous growth theory. Money. That’s why there were no women economists. Except Marian Finnegan and Marie Hunt he reminded himself. Counting things and putting them up in graphs. Did he think about tax too much? That’s what all his girlfriends had said, before they er moved on. And the latest one was beginning to complain whenever he said austerity. Still, where were they now, he simpered, catching a flash of the Rolex below, tight on his manly arm in the bubbles. He had membership rights on irisheconomy.ie and three times every day he’d find somewhere, using different names, to write “as usual another great piece from Colm McCarthy”. Always the same: three times a day. His wiener poked over the fusty waters. Well, hello. David McWilliams, what must it be like to be David McWilliams? Everything, the books, the hedge-fund, perfect family, Dalkey Book Fair, named everything: Breakfast Roll Man, Bouncy Castle Man, Pope’s Children. He also loved Gurdgiev. Funny Russian Man but brilliant. He’d once asked the barber on Merrion Row to “give him a Gurdgiev” and had been thrown out. Now he got his mother to do it – so proud of him – and kept what was actually not a bad mane of hair: more Ronan Lyons than Ben Bernanke, in between a Gurdgiev and a McWilliams. How big was McWilliams’ Rolex though, he laughed, his floppy hair matted through the Head’n’ Shoulders. Despite his intellectual security the potage below kept bringing him back to bubbles and what he’d used to believe about them. We are not on course for a crash. The fundamentals are sound. All those expensive reports he’d produced in the boom. The holidays in Phuket. A helicopter was flying in his head. Would anyone read them, catch him out? All will be well – if we don’t meddle in the property market. Marc Coleman had actually said that and he’d been ok by just keeping on saying he’d not been completely and foolishly wrong. He’d never said anything as bad as that, or at least not put it in writing, not for his current employer anyway. At least not for years. He’d once been attacked on Kildare St by the dregs of a Socialist Workers Party rally after he’d been at a symposium in the Great Room in the Shelbourne about Milton Friedman where he’d shared a cigarette with Colm (though he hadn’t at that stage actually got his name right). The worst thing about and you and him mate, one of them had blared, hot and furious in his face, is you’re just wrong. Nasty. Some people just didn’t get austerity. Had to be done. Confidence. Markets. Reality. His real ambition was to get on to a state board, something manly like the Dublin Airport Authority. What if they offered something like the Abbey or the women’s council? What was it Colm had said? Anger is not an Option. No is a leap in the dark that we can’t afford. All Man. No multi-syllables or foreign words. Was austerity a foreign word? Richard Tol now there was someone who spoke truth to power (albeit his beard thing was too much), though Irish economist had a lot of respect for the ESRI. You had to. “It is likely that Ireland’s standard of living, which is already one of the highest in the world, will show some further relative improvement in the coming decade. As the very substantial investment in infrastructure begins to come on stream, this too will enhance the quality of life for many residents. With the prospect of a return to full employment after the current difficulties and a substantial rise in the resources available for household consumption, the next decade should see relatively steady economic progress in terms of living standards”. If only everyone thought like economists, he thought. Measure everything. At least everything that economists understand. Money really. If you can’t measure it I don’t want to hear about it. The science that measures human behaviour as a relationship between ends and scarce means which have alternative uses. Except if the ends are about the environment or quality of life. You can’t measure a bleeding heart he mused. Sell it off. Money, money , money that’s all he could think of; ends: what a bleedin rubbish concept. Money. Counting it and getting more of it for him and the people he knew. Everything else was just handbags really. Our forecast for real GDP growth in 2008. Five percent. It was his boss the Professor who’d made him say it. He’d said it was possible it would be much less. Admittedly he’d called it an infinitely unlikely scenario but he’d said it. That was five years ago now. Nobody had caught him out and now nobody would. Austerity. Markets. Confidence. He pulled the plastic plug and watched his dirtied waters first pitch, and then slurp and gyre into the vortex and out into oblivion. His face convulsed in a thick-lipped rictus smirk. No man in any bath in Ireland was again more confident. Or more wrong.