Napoleon famously called the English a nation of shopkeepers. We are now to be a nation of property speculators. This is not a rhetorical exaggeration. The principal activity of this State, for this generation and probably the next, is to be the management of the biggest property company on the planet. Everything else health, education, security, job creation will be a side issue. We now live in Developerland of which Ireland is a wholly-owned offshore subsidiary.
The State is taking on not just the debts of the property developers, but their habits of mind. Were going for a grand, heady gesture: the 90 billion thats at stake here is the same as the entire amount the Spanish government, in a vastly bigger economy, is spending on its entire bank bailout. And were channelling the developers adrenaline-fuelled love of risky behaviour.
Remember all that stuff about the wisdom of the market, which decided what things (and people) were worth and it was wrong, wrong, wrong to interfere? Scratch that. The market may think that virtually every property in what is to be the peoples portfolio is worth a fraction of what madmen paid for it at the height of the boom.
But were not going to buy the stuff at market rates, were going to buy it at some notional future value, determined by a raft of assumptions. These include the notion that the depression is a short period of readjustment and things will get better. Were gambling on the future or, in other words, speculating.