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Another hazard of blogging, the various minions of both (all?) sides are content to scream at each other, and their masters, for as long as it takes.

I don't want to get into the whole "Some people hate Gladwell and some don't, but Steve Sailer really does" debate, but at least Steve doesn't allow comments on his blog.

Zach Everson

Congratulations "Gladwell!" By rebutting a rebuttal that, which, in turn, has since been rebutted, you're officially a blogger. May your self-worth now multiply.

Maynard--do you consider President Clinton part of the "non-GOP thinking classes?" When I toured the West Wing, The Economist was at the top of his reading material on a coffee table in the Oval Office.

B.  Veneer

Request for Information:

Does anyone have a link to a study that examines Ireland's economic success and objecively takes into account Ireland as tax-haven for american companies doing business in mainland europe? How much of a miracle is left if one subtracts Microsoft, Dell, Apple and the others?


". And to neglect the true source of this argument is to trivilize and demean it. This is not Gladwell v. Jane Galt; journalist v. blogger. It's world experts v. blogger. Just so we are clear on this. And acknowledging the origins of this idea means that you can't depose of the dependency ratio argument just by dismissing Gladwell. You may actually have to read Canning and Bloom."

Malcolm, I love your work, but I have to concur with other commenters that you're being a trifle flip here. McArdle could easily come back at you with Prominent Irish Economists (or American, British, or European researchers, if you prefer) who would back up her point of view. So the argument from (derived) authority isn't a sufficient response. Not that Megan is necessarily right; a great many Irish scholars and politicians would credit their country's success to improved cooperation among labor, capital and the government. Laissez-faire, Ireland is not.

For B. Veneer: there are indeed such studies, and you can find them in Irish journals of economics. Good luck finding Irish journals of economics on the American side of the Atlantic, however ....

Jane Galt

Hey . . . for those who haven't read my response, let me emphasize that I'm not a tax nut who thinks tax cuts are the root of all good things. I'm arguing about the timing of the growth--why it did start just then--not the causes, which are multiple. The timing seems best explained to me by the tax changes (and to a smaller extent, by the other moves to make IReland business-friendly) that started in the early 1980s and continued through the early 1990s.

That doesn't mean that I think you can just go around slashing tax rates and making your country grow; for one thing, it's to some extent a zero sum game--Ireland gets a lot of GDP from companies moving their european ops there for tax purposes, a trick that can't be repeated by everyone in Europe. For another, Ireland had a very well-educated English-speaking population, high human capital from migration, and other non-repeatable endowments, plus a government/business elite that worked very hard to change the country's environment in ways that mattered. I don't mean to give any of those causes short shrift; without the tax cuts, I still think we'd have seen Ireland's economy getting steadily stronger, just without the spectacular boom we saw in the late 1980's and 1990's.


Many blogs started out with a comments section and later eliminated it -- Boingboing.net is an example.

Not only can bloggers type faster than they think, so can blog-site-visitors.

Though it's great to have a dialogue with a blogger, and potentially visaversa, it seems that most really active bloggers eventually tire of the reactions/comments.


This sentence doesn't have any purpose, but I'm hoping that one will materialise by the time I get to the end of it.

Ah well. Never mind.


I think CNR has a point! I was about to say, oh dear, this is what you get for being dismissive of anyone online, right or wrong -- blog commenters are like a pack of dogs, and they'll start barking at the first whiff of a fight no matter how civilised.

I liked this post because it was politely supercilious and peevish for all its rationality, and I find such reactions to disagreement very amusing, between people of any substance. We're all human, so why not indulge in a bit of human weakness with references to back us up? :)

But maybe there should be no comments function on your blog, Mr. Gladwell. The comments often take so long to read that by the time one is done, the original point has been forgotten.



Take it easy Malcolm. I am a great fan of yours but I also happen to be a great fan of Galt.

For starters the tone is unbecoming and defies the whole spirit of meaningful discussion. It is however fortunate that you now go all out and start a flame war. http://www.janegalt.net/archives/009425.html
Will be great to sit and watch.


It seems a lot of these responses have misunderstood the first of Malcolm Gladwell's two small points. This is not an appeal to authority. He's not saying, "I've got experts on my side, so I'm right."

Gladwell is saying that Galt belittled the argument by attributing it to a journalist instead of an expert. Proper criticism should focus on the complete case made by Bloom & Canning, and not the condensed version found in the New Yorker article.


"This is not Gladwell v. Jane Galt; journalist v. blogger. It's world experts v. blogger. Just so we are clear on this."

High class stuff.

Colby Cosh

Can I hear more about this marvelous invention called the world wide web? I'm told it comes in awfully handy when you have a hankering to condescend obnoxiously to someone.

Jonathan Dobres

Malcolm, I think it's a bit dodgey of you to entirely separate yourself from Bloom and Canning's argument in the Celtic Tiger paper, as it forms a major pillar of your article and you clearly believe in its implications. Having said that, you are certainly right to draw a line between an argument that you make versus one that you cite. Galt incorrectly states that you pin Ireland's economic boon ENTIRELY on dependency ratios, which is simply untrue (and is also untrue of Bloom and Canning, for that matter). Galt should have given The Risk Pool a more careful read before she started typing.

Unless I'm misreading you, that was the point of your post. I'm stunned that other commentors would so quickly get hung up on tangental details and lose the point. It doesn't matter who "Galt" is, who she works for, or which world leaders find the Economist to be worthless, since on this particular point, Galt is clearly wrong.

As for her other criticisms, I'm not an economist and therefore I'm way out of my league, so I won't be commenting on those.

Jessica Stone

Having blogged favorably about this site just yesterday, I was shocked by the uncharacteristically caustic tone of this post.

Thank you, Mr. Gladwell, for introducing me to Jane Galt. Her grace has been exemplary.


The new Aaron Sorkin show has this speech uttered by one of its characters:

"You can blame the blogs, but I blame The New York Times. They quote the blogs like they've found a source. CNN quotes the blogs. "Beverly, Editor-in-Chief of the BeverlyBlog, says the Fed should cut interest rates to counter the drop in consumer spending over the past fiscal--" who hell is Beverly? I don't believe in free speech, I think it should require a license. What happened to credentials. What happened to being impeccably credentialed, and when did elite stop being a good word? "


Its interesting as I would have thought that if you had posted a blog under your real name you would be more cautious as its your reputation on the line.


LOL! I loved her response. Don't you feel mighty silly ;-) I would make a good bet that the "Mr. Gladwell" blog project may soon come to an end.

Or the comments will at least be turned off..Most sane bloggers come to that point pretty quickly.


I've not yet read the paper, just the comments, but nobody seems to have mentioned Ireland's decoupling from the £ Sterling in 1979 and instead shadowing the Deutschmark/Eurozone. Important if you're attempting to export to Europe.


although i disagree with jane galt, i think you kind of made an ass of yourself by simply dismissing her opinion and findings. if you didn't find her addressing all the points you wanted her to, in order for you to consider her argument (and it is an argument), then a more professional approach would have been to ask for elaboration rather than rant about her on your blog. or maybe even to do some research on who she was ;)

all in the pursuit of more knowledge.


"Gladwell was impressed by them. He talked to them. He read their work. He was convinced by them." You may not have made the argument up on the back of your notepad but is there something honorable in defending the rationality of your opinions, regardless of their source? You were convinced by B&C, presumably because they presented you with economic arguments, now give Jane Galt and chance to convince with her economic arguments (and don't just discount her because Harvard trumps The Economist).


Lets not forget that the E.U. were a key driver in Ireland's growth for reasons that underscored the power of the collective right next door to the Unions most truculent participant. As for insulting Mr Gladwell, we should embrace one of the third millennium's earliest philosophers and leave ad homs to lesser blogs.

I'd like to highlight that The Economist (a quality newspaper with staples) endorsed the war in Iraq and has yet to concede erroneous editorial opinion.


Let's just remember that many time intellectuals and authors, college professors & professional research individuals can have insanely idealistic & hugely flawed theories b/c they don’t operate in the world of what is real, of common sense, of an actual bottom line. I appreciate Gladdy for having a higher IQ than I do and for painting his irrationally off base social theories in wonderful language that includes al manner of big words but sadly his idea about pension problems (and the majority of his books blink and tipping point) are ridiculously wrong. Check out a good counter-point below.

Math made simple
by Yvette Kantrow Posted 09:12 EST, 30, Aug 2006

Remember the adage that age is only a state of mind? Well, it doesn't seem to apply anymore, and we don't mean that in a youth-obsessed, let's-all-inject-our-face-with-botulism kind of way. Instead, age, or more specifically generation, is now being offered up by the media as a handy-dandy explanation for many of the ills that ail us. Didn't get that promotion? Your pension fund has been bled dry? Don't blame yourself or even your employer: Blame the baby boomers.
That, at least, is the impression we came away with after reading two wildly different yet weirdly similar pieces that recently crossed our desk. The first is Malcolm Gladwell's simplistically complex and much-blogged about look at the nation's pension problems and the "demographic logic" behind them in The New Yorker; the second is a Fortune story on the "Gray Ceiling," a term the magazine has coined for baby boomers who refuse to retire, thereby standing in the way of Gen X'ers manifest destiny. Both appear to be an outgrowth of the media's obsession with aging boomers — how many more insert-famous-person's-name-here-is-turning-60 stories must we endure? — which insists on treating 77 million people as a single demographic, with little regard for differences in race, class, education, income, geography, etc. And both are notable for their total acceptance of numbers, mathematics and demographics as controlling forces of the universe.

In his piece, Gladwell sets forth the "dependency ratio" — the relationship between the number of people who aren't of working age to the number of people who are — as the key to understanding pensions. To illuminate this, he whips out a study by two Harvard economists that suggests that Ireland's economic miracle is largely the result of the lifting of the country's limits on contraception in 1979, which caused its dependency ratio to plummet, freeing it of the enormous cost of supporting a large dependent population, namely, kids. Of course, that could become a problem when the current working population retires, and there are fewer workers to take their place. But as Gladwell sees it, "Getting to a 1-to-2.5 ratio doesn't make economic success inevitable. But, given a reasonably functional economic and political infrastrucutre, it certainly makes it a lot easier."

Gladwell then looks at companies like General Motors Corp. and Bethlehem Steel in the same demographic terms, which he says should change the way we view their pension problems. As technology increased their productivity in the post-war period, he argues, they didn't need to hire workers to replace the thousands who were retiring. That sent their dependency ratios — and therefore, their pension costs — soaring, as a small pool of current workers had to support a large pool of retirees.

"Looking at General Motors and the old-line steel companies in demographic terms substantially changes the way we understand their problems," Gladwell writes. "It is a commonplace assumption, for instance, that they were undone by overly generous union contracts. But, when dependency ratios start getting up into the 3-to-1 to 7-to-1 range, the issue is not so much what you are paying each dependent as how many dependents you are paying." The issue is also for how long you are paying them, but weirdly enough, the fact that people are living longer — a demographic development that clearly contributes to pension woes — never makes it into Gladwell's demographic-driven discussion.

ted kensington


I have read your article on Ireland in the New Yorker (just caught up on a plane to Europe, as well as the posts on this website. Two points.

1. I was a corporate executive who set up one of the first high tech operations in Ireland in 1964! The tax benefits were the major reason for choosing Ireland over other European sites. Other high tech companies followed (more than anywhere else in Europe, by far). This in turn led to high tech educations for countless Irish students, and to most observors minds, this combination of low taxes and excellent scientific education for the Irish student body are the overriding reasons for the Celtic Tiger and the outpacing by Ireland of their European and other competitors. The other reasons you cite are minor, at best, which leads me to Point 2.

2. Your whole argument about pensions talks about the growing absence of empoyees versus retirees. Again, as a retired senior executive of a Fortune 500 Company, I can't figure out what you are talking about. With a few exceptions, defined benefit pension plans are and were NON-CONTRIBUTORY. This means that they are totally financed and paid for by the employer. So, how can a decrease in the number of employees exascerbate the problem? In fact, the fewer number of current employees the smaller the overall problem becomes!

Your politically correct, left wing approach ignores the obvious facts necessary for an intelligent analysis of these issues.


This is not Gladwell v. Jane Galt; journalist v. blogger. It's world experts v. blogger. Just so we are clear on this. And acknowledging the origins of this idea means that you can't depose of the dependency ratio argument just by dismissing Gladwell. You may actually have to read Canning and Bloom.

--> That one demi-paragraph should be mandatory reading for everyone with access to a keyboard.

Key up the good work, Mr. Gladwell.


hear hear for free speech.

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