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Monday, December 13, 2010

THE BEST PLACES IN THE WORLD (Part 22: Honorable Mention--United Kingdom and Ireland)

The following continues my serialization of the final chapter from SIMPLE SOLUTIONS FOR HUMANITY (updates in bold italics):



           


 United Kingdom / Ireland

 The United Kingdom of Great Britain (also known as Britain or UK) is a parliamentary democracy and constitutional monarchy. Northern Ireland (1.8 million people), Scotland (5 million), Wales (3 million) and England (50 million) are constituent countries within the kingdom. A reasonable case can be made that the UK in the 19th Century was greater than the US today, having stimulated the Industrial Revolution, expanding into a world-wide British Empire where the Sun never set.

The urban area of London, having been founded 2000 years ago by the Romans, alone has a larger population than Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland combined. Buckingham Palace, Big Ben, Piccadilly Circus, Hyde Park, London Eye…the city has everything to offer. Cambridge and Oxford are in the top ten of best world universities. Stonehenge, St. Andrews (where golf was invented in 1552), Welsh rarebit (no, not rabbit, but cheese on toast), Richard Burton (Welsh actor), the Highlands, Dolly (the cloned sheep, named after Dolly Parton), Tattoo (Scottish military music festival), Fat Duck (currently a London restaurant), Stilton (lighter than Gorgonzola, richer than Danish blue and somewhat goldish, it is a blue cheese), claret (a British name for the French Bordeaux wine), Lagavulan (my favorite single malt scotch)…there is much to see and consume in the UK.
The Republic of Ireland (officially declared in 1949, now with a population of around 4.5 million), with Dublin as the capitol, occupies five-sixths of this third largest European island, with Northern Ireland (most populated city, Belfast) still part of the United Kingdom. After three decades of Protestant-Catholic unrest with 3600 deaths, a cease fire came to the North in 2005. To make a complicated story simple, Northern Ireland is aligned with the UK because the majority are Protestants.  In Ireland, 80% are Catholic. While the entire island has 6 million people, in the early 1800’s, before the great famine, it was over 8 million. Known as the Emerald Island, it is, indeed, green.

Druids, St. Patrick, Gaelic games and music, Boyle’s Law, Blarney Kilkenny Castles, Molly Malone (fictitious, but a statue to the right), Jamison Whiskey (worth a tour), Guinness (although the beer was originated in London, with headquarters there, and, yes, they started the world records book) stout, pubs, Trinity University, satirist Jonathan Swift, James Joyce and a host of Nobel literature laureates, Bono and U2, expanding high tech economy, cow statues…there is something distinctly Irish about the country.

In 2005, Ireland was ranked as the best place in the world to live by Economist magazine. Once a country of out-migration, it is now just the opposite. Opportunities are available, as immigrants from Romania, Nigeria and China are coming in larger numbers. This welcome mat is why the UK/Ireland is ranked high.  

(But since the above writing, Ireland came very close to bankruptcy.    Once the darling of foreign investors, something went wrong.  Read Patrick Honohan's exposition on the problem.   The 2010 UN Human Development Index has the country at #5, a place Ireland has occupied for several years, but this was BEFORE the real crisis.  Watch for a significant drop in 2011, as Iceland was #1 in 2008, #3 in 2009 and #17 in 2010.)


In case you were wondering what those cows are doing above, Dublin has a lot of life-sized cow statues.  Whoops, just learned that those Dublin cows were there only in 2003.  They get moved around, and will be in Santa Catarina, Brazil in 2011.  No wonder people I asked did not know why the statues were there.

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The Dow Jones Industrials edged up 18 to 11,428, while major world markets also went up.  The Shanghai  Composite jumped almost 3% on Monday, but signs are that it will drop on Tuesday because of future tighter monetary policies.  Food prices are still inflating.  Gold rose $8/toz to $1395, while crude oil remained at $88/barrel.

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