Fifth Kilkenomics festival attracts bumper line up of speakers

Peter Antoni pictured before speaking at Kilkenomics in Kilkenny this weekend. Photo: Pat Moore

Gavin McLoughlin

"The financialisation of the economy is basically parasitically draining … the profits out of the system when those profits should be going back to the government and the people for public purposes."

Ellen Brown, a co-founder of the US-based Public Banking Institute, doesn't mince her words.

She's among the speakers at the fifth Kilkenomics festival, which began yesterday.

"My purpose in being there and what I hope to introduce is that you can fix a lot of your economic problems by having some publicly owned banks."

It's not about nationalising the system, says Brown. Rather the idea is to have a number of banks that can return profits to the public rather than to shareholders.

"It's a no-brainer once you get it," she says.

A mixture of comedy and economics, Kilkenomics is the brainchild of economist and Irish Independent columnist David McWilliams, and Kilkenny Cat Laughs festival founder Richard Cook.

"The central focus of the festival was to try and take economics away from the classroom and away from academic perspectives," Mr Cook told the Irish Independent.

"The way we approach economics is that it's the business of ordinary people's lives.

"It's not like we're inserting jokes into these discussions, what we say to the comedians is: 'We want you take these big ideas, quite heavy ideas and make them accessible to an audience'."

Oxford-educated Peter Antonioni, a regular at the festival, is back this year, with his take on the financial side of sport and the economics of sin.

Also speaking at the festival is award-winning author John Lanchester, who'll explore the theme of his latest book, 'How to Speak Money'.

"I got very interested in the fact that normal people, like myself, a lot of the time you literally don't know what [economists and politicians] are talking about."

"I saw Mario Draghi the other day talking about the European Central Bank buying these assets, and the ECB was announcing a programme of buying ABS, with detailed modalities to follow. He kept saying 'detailed modalities'. It sounds like a new wave band.

"But actually of course what it is, when he says 'detailed modalities' what he really means is 'how we'll do it'.

"'Detailed modalities to follow' means 'we'll tell you later how we're going to do it'.

"But if he actually says 'we'll tell you later how we're going to do it,' somebody's going to stick their hand up and say, 'Excuse me Mario, I don't mean to be rude, but it sounds a bit like you haven't actually worked it out yet'."