IT FEELS LIKE Christmas in Ireland, now that we're only a few days away from the big event. Most of my world is clearly realigned with Ireland, based on the headlines I will remember from mainstream media this weekend. The jabbering in the Sunday newspapers is mostly soft news, including continuing speculation about how the current leader of the Irish government managed his money without resorting to a current account, a checking account or an electronic payment of his wages. Why didn't he have a bank account? 
Watch Ireland Once. A lot of things have changed about Ireland since I started watching things about the country first-hand. I wandered off the boat just before Christmas 1994 and in some ways, Ireland is a teenager for me now. Even though I'm not a big fan of Glen Hansard, his take on modern Ireland is worth considering. Ireland to Hansard "is going through this teenage phase. It always had an old soul but not Dublin is like the teenage niece of London, who is this glamorous and beautiful and flamboyant aunt. Ireland is the teenager wearing too much make-up and high heels and she doesn't need it because she is so beautiful naturally. The whole nation doesn't feel comfortable in its own skin at the moment."  Maybe not, but Glen Hansard has the same kind of irritating attitude that I read on posts shared by many of the nattering Irish bloggers I read throughout the week. And if you don't like Hansard in print, you might make some time to listen to him once.
Enjoy a consumer surplus. We enjoy an economist's perspective during every Christmas season, especially when buying my mom an annual supply of Irish Mist and Mint Chocolate Baileys. Both cost more than I would normally spend, but they're for mom. Whenever I load up my shopping trolley with Baileys, I remember the analysis shared by my economist friend who told me that a customer might be willing to spend EUR 25 for a botle of Mint Chocolate Baileys but it retails for just EUR 20. Tim Harford, the undercover economist, explains "buying the bottle nets the mint-chocoholic a sort of psychic profit" of EUR 5, often called a "consumer surplus."  Supplying a million such mint-choc Baileys lovers would produce a surplus of EUR 5m. This convoluted economic analysis works for me--and for mom too--as I disguise my bottles of alcohol to the US Postal Service.
Figure out the carbon price. The next-door neighbour sells new cars and his January 2008 numbers look good already. In fact, he believes that he will achieve 80% of his annual sales quota by the end of February. That's because Ireland will invoke a carbon tax on new cars starting in July 2008, so many people have pushed forward the time they will buy their next car. Buy now and you avoid a carbon price. Buy large, help my neighbour earn a bigger commission and take an early summer holiday. In England, "ministers have been instructed to factor into their calculations a notional carbon price when making all policy and investment decisions covering transport, construction, housing, planning and energy. That price--which will increase annually--is intended to frame all day-to-day policy and investment decisions for the next 30 years" in England.  I wonder why the Greens haven't pushed for such an accounting item while seated in the Irish government.
Watching Ireland at its airports. Like David McWilliams, I enjoy spending a few hours at a time watching people at Irish airports, often while my friends watch the screens of their laptops. McWilliams writes, "The girls are most Slavic--pretty, long-limed with high cheekbones, sallow skins and green eyes. They are the closest thing to supermodels that Mulhuddart has ever seen. Behold the next TV3 weathergirl. It's amazing how the lads all look so downbeat and the girls could have stepped out of the pages of Italian Vogue. There is a disturbing amount of stonewashed denim and a few trademark Slovakian mullet-and-moustache combinations. Meet our future." 
Watching money escape tax. Everyone in Ireland knows one of the most reliable methods of laundering money also doubles as a way of avoiding the tax net when you have a trustworthy estate agent to guide you through the mess of legal documents required to buy and hide property titles. There are millions of untaxed proceeds in this sector and now "Ireland's estate agents are prepared to provide the Revnue with the names of thousands of clients who have bought overseas properties, if they are given legal immunity." Irish people own about 60,000 foreign properties worth €5.5 billion, according to new research by Datamonitor and OPP Knowledge. 
0. Mark Tighe -- "Why didn't he have a bank account?" in The Sunday Times Focus section, 23 December 2007.
0a. Matt Cooper -- "It was the Year of the Brass neck, when nobody admitted to anything" in The Sunday Times Comment Section, 23 December 2007.
1. Roisin Ingle -- "Falling Slowly" in The Irish Times Magazine, 22 December 2007.
2. Tim Harford -- "Not just a matter of taste" in The Financial Times Magazine, 23 December 2007.
3a. Patrick Wintour -- Ministers ordered to assess climate cost of all decisions" on the front page of The Guardian, 22 December 2007.
3b. Dick O'Brien -- "Car buyers set to beat the VRT blues" in The Sunday Business Post, 23 December 2007.
4. David McWilliams -- "We must begin the culture debate" in The Sunday Business Post, 23 December 2007.
5. Niall Brady -- "Give us immunity and we'll tell all, say estate agents" on the front page of The Sunday Times, 23 December 2007.
Last Week: Resolutions from the Sunday News