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CEO of ING Insurance to Woods: Who Cares about Austria’s economy?

from Mises blog: [Archived comments below]

Tom Woods spoke last night at the UConn School of Business, opposite Tom McInerney, ING Chairman & CEO Insurance Americas (which received $3 billion euros in bailout money from the Dutch government). The topic was “Too Big to Fail?: Perspectives on Government Intervention During Economic Collapse.” Reports from audience members overwhelmingly agree that Woods absolutely wiped the floor with McInerney. Woods, of course, was well prepared and presented a coherent economic case for his position, and was entertaining to boot. McInerney, by contrast, ate up some of his time on personal anecdotes about the school, like a typical Dale Carnegie back-slapping schmoozer, before getting to a dry and boring Powerpoint obviously prepared by some lackey. McInerney reportedly played lip service to the idea that no company should be bailed out–but, of course, “this was a special circumstance.”

The extent to which he was outmatched, though, was revealed in this almost embarrassingly funny episode. McInerney had mentioned that Bernanke was a diligent and knowledgeable student of the Great Depression. So, when it came time for the Q&A, one audience member asked Woods to briefly explain the Austrian view of Great Depression and how it might differ from Bernanke’s view. After Woods did this, McIerney took the stage, and as if he were about to unload a devastating blow against Woods, said to him, “this might seem like a bit of an attack. Don’t take it too personally.” And then…. he began to rant about … the relatively small size of the country of Austria. I kid you not.

Some audience members began to laugh; others cringed, as McInerney dug his hole deeper while under the illusion that he was unleashing a deadly zinger. Woods kept trying to stage whisper that Austria had nothing to do with the school of Austrian economics, but McInerney, undeterred, plowed on. Thus, when Woods took the stage he said, “this might seem like an attack, but don’t take it too personally…” And then Woods commented that we may as well say we shouldn’t listen to Milton Friedman, since the GDP of Chicago is pretty low.

[Mises cross-post]

Archived comments:

Comments (70)

  • Robert Brager

    Dear Lord.

    Published: October 22, 2009 12:07 AM

  • Pierre

    The emperor has no clothes…

    We need a video asap because this the funniest anecdote I have ever heard.

    Published: October 22, 2009 12:16 AM

  • PMix

    There probably are a number of people in the library’s quiet study room that are not very happy with me after I just laughed at this story.

    Published: October 22, 2009 12:19 AM

  • mhamlin

    We need a video of this thing.

    Published: October 22, 2009 12:22 AM

  • Anthony J

    Agree..We need a video ASAP. HA!

    Published: October 22, 2009 12:26 AM

  • EotS

    That’s just ugly. Epic ugly. And yes, someone, video please! I’ve got to see the sarcasm in Tom’s Friedman / Chicago remark.

    Published: October 22, 2009 12:49 AM

  • Nuke Gray

    Did he also promise to throw a shrimp onto the barbie? And throw a boomerang? What does he have against Paul Hogan, and Nicole Kidman? and that other Australian, Arnie, the one who rules Kalifornia?

    Published: October 22, 2009 12:52 AM

  • Joel Pettit

    I was there. That was exactly how it happened. Tom’s retort was cool and calculated. I was laughing like a hyena in heat when McIerney made the gaff and my wife kept elbowing me in the side–trying to get me to shut-up.

    Published: October 22, 2009 12:59 AM

  • iamse7en

    This is comedy gold.

    I feel bad for McIerney just in hearing this episode.

    Please, video. Please.

    I smell a YouTube phenomenon.

    Published: October 22, 2009 1:13 AM

  • Niko

    God, I have money with ING.

    Published: October 22, 2009 1:31 AM

  • Adam Frost

    Please tell me there is a video.

    Published: October 22, 2009 2:24 AM

  • Zach Bibeault

    haha, this may be one of the biggest epic fails in recent memory.

    Published: October 22, 2009 2:46 AM

  • Paul

    Please, please, please, please tell me someone taped it!

    I….want to laugh hysterically and throw up at the same time.

    Published: October 22, 2009 2:47 AM

  • James

    I am shocked, shocked that Tom McInerney, an econ major from Colgate in ’78 and an MBA from Dartmouth in ’82 that went on to handle $81 billion in assets under Aetna had not heard of the Austrian school of economics, now where sir are my gambling winnings?

    Published: October 22, 2009 2:56 AM

  • Luke M

    You Austrians have *nothing* on Rand McNally business cycle theory!

    Published: October 22, 2009 3:09 AM

  • Rusty_Shackleford


    Published: October 22, 2009 3:38 AM

  • Daniel


    I’m shocked, ooh wait, I’m not…


    Tom J. McInerney, member Management Board Insurance, chairman & CEO Insurance Americas


    Published: October 22, 2009 6:00 AM

  • KP

    The relative size of the Austrian school compared to the freshwater and saltwater views (for those who don’t know, economic schools of thought on either coast ie saltwater or chicago school ie freshwater) cannot be ignored. Top universities and their students hardly venture into any of these topics let alone read anything from Mises, Rothbard or Hayek. So it doesn’t surprise me one bit.

    Published: October 22, 2009 6:36 AM

  • Richie

    KP, I am not at all surprised as well. While pursuing my Bachelor’s in Economics, I accidentally stumbled across the Mises Institute’s website and that’s how I was introduced to Austrian economics. Of course, my economics training was overloaded with Keynesianism with a little freshwater thrown in. So yes, no surprise at all.

    Published: October 22, 2009 7:00 AM

  • Eq

    I was there as well and unfortunately there was no video camera that i am aware of, so no video. But the above story is 100% true; one could feel the collective cringe when McInerney was spouting off about Austria. And it wasnt short. He spent a good 5-7minutes in his diatribe, trying to get audience participation by asking “Does anyone know the GDP of france…How about Italy….and austria….” It was very sad because people were snickering and he had no idea it was at him.

    Published: October 22, 2009 7:01 AM

  • Artisan

    ROFL. I have a distant acquaintance who is directing a major credit risk department at ING … and I don’t expect him to be aware of Hayek’s teachings at all, of course.

    Some of his less important colleagues did listen at parties to the idea that inflation was hell for the economy. All I ever got from him though is a faint bored smile I think and a look saying “let’s talk about something else please”. Well into the crisis (at the time his bank was being bailed out with tax money) he was offering a whole bunch of expensive anniversary jewels in public to his wife. I remember some of us thinking it was quite tasteless. I heard he had been a bit scared he would loose his job in the tumult later though. But now as everyone officially knows, “the crisis is over” and it’s “business as usual”. I’m happy I could get rid of this anecdote here though.

    Published: October 22, 2009 7:22 AM

  • jimc

    im 90% sure toms email address is Tom.McInerney@ing-usa.com if anyone wants to send him a reading list

    Published: October 22, 2009 7:44 AM

  • Madhusudan Raj

    This is nothing new for me because it happens with me every now and then here in India. Most of my senior professors confuse Austrian economy with the Austrian school of economics whenever I take them for a debate on Austrian school.

    Once in a conference one health economics professor from Aberdeen University told me that he has never heard about the AUSTRALIAN (and NOT AUSTRIAN) school of Economics!

    The mainstream economics profession has ignored Austrian school to such an extent that many simply don’t know about it.

    Published: October 22, 2009 8:07 AM

  • John D

    After McInerney gave his answer, the moderator replied with this:


    Published: October 22, 2009 8:25 AM

  • Tom Woods

    The room was L-shaped, so some people would not have been able to see the camera, but there was one, and two of the organizers tell me it was indeed recorded. I am finding out right now about getting a video.

    Of course people are right to observe that relatively few people get exposed to Austrian economics. The point here is that I had just finished a 40-minute presentation on the subject.

    Published: October 22, 2009 8:41 AM

  • Brad

    This is not surprising as anyone who is going to succeed in this corporo-fascistic economy – to its highest levels – has to be stripped of any knowledge such as Austrian Economics. It proves just how successful the collectivist, statist mind control has been. THIS is what one should expect to happen – to rise up in the ersatz-private sector one would have to have a mind tuned into the “correct” frequencies and a forty minute treatise on the subject is tuned out as incomprehensible static.

    It’s not funny, it’s sad and alarming.

    Published: October 22, 2009 8:57 AM

  • AJ Witoslawski

    John D., how sad but true. “Mr. McInerney, what you’ve just said is one of the most insanely idiotic things I have ever heard. At no point in your rambling, incoherent response were you even close to anything that could be considered a rational thought. Everyone in this room is now dumber for having listened to it. I award you no points, and may God have mercy on your soul.”

    Published: October 22, 2009 9:00 AM

  • J Cortez

    In my opinion, there’s nothing more entertaining when fools like McInerney hang themselves with their own ignorant words.

    Published: October 22, 2009 9:31 AM

  • Brodie


    Will this be loaded up onto the Mises channel on youtube?

    Published: October 22, 2009 9:35 AM

  • Richie


    That means two things: He did not have the intellectual capacity to comprehend your speech, or he just was not listening.

    Published: October 22, 2009 9:55 AM

  • Bob Roddis

    I say with a high degree of certainty that the opponents of the Austrian School do not have the slightest familiarity with its basic concepts (although Mr. McInerney may be unusual in having never actually heard of the school even after a 40 minute lecture).

    From the various recent attacks on the Austrian School (Yglesias, Krugman, DeLong, Quiggin etc.), it is clear that there isn’t a single critic who understands, for example, Cantillon Effects or the time structure of production. They don’t really reject those concepts. They don’t even get that far. They’ve never bothered to even try to understand what those concepts are if they’ve even heard of them at all. However, I think they understand that a fair and open debate on these topics might be damaging to their religious-like State-as-God worldview.

    Which means we will win in the end, right?

    Published: October 22, 2009 10:43 AM

  • Tom Woods

    They are going to let me know as soon as the video is ready. I’m told there may be some audio problem, but they’re trying to fix it.

    Published: October 22, 2009 11:21 AM

  • Mike


    Perhaps. The Internet may be our ace in the hole. The religious (you are absolutely right that statism is a religion) folks who need to have their wisdom spoon-fed to them are always more numerous than those who are mentally awake and not in love with their own thoughts.

    In the past, the way the real thinkers were brought together was institutions of higher learning. Since those are long-corrupted, you don’t see large concentrations of real thought anymore. Until now.

    The cool thing about being right is that you can be sincere in spreading your ideas; that is, you don’t have to go into salesperson mode. That, and if someone puts enough genuine thought in your idea, they will see that it is right too. So while we still have a job to do in getting the word out, our job is made easier by the fact that we are right, at least on all the obvious fundamentals.

    It would be interesting to see if, while the world goes to hell all around us, there are little intellectual pockets of Austrianism in various parts of the world, unified through the glorious thing that is instantaneous communication. When things start to get dicey for the statists, as is inevitable, we may even be able to get us some territory someday.

    Published: October 22, 2009 11:43 AM

  • Ohhh Henry

    Good thing you didn’t mention the School of Salamanca, he might have gone off on a tangent about Don Quixote.

    Published: October 22, 2009 12:28 PM

  • Daniel

    Tyler Cowen has commented on ABCT, and at least he understands it. Incidentally, his criticism was one of the most hilariously ironic articles I have ever seen

    Published: October 22, 2009 1:00 PM

  • DixieFlatline

    I think Tom’s point is important here. He just finished a 40 minute presentation on AE, and this guy didn’t get it.

    I’ve shared Tom’s talks via articles and YouTube many times with friends, and they get it. And they don’t speak at conferences, or CEO multi-billion dollar firms.

    What’s sad is that McInerney thought he was being smart. If he had done an iota of research on Tom (which I would have done prior to appearing with him, this is why CEOs have PAs) then he would have had a clue that AE is not about a country, but a particular method and tradition.

    Is it any wonder folks like this stuff their faces at the public trough after mismanaging their companies?

    Published: October 22, 2009 1:18 PM

  • BN

    NFL teams should not run the Wildcat offense because wildcats are terrible at football, in fact, they don’t even play it… idiots.

    Published: October 22, 2009 2:05 PM

  • DF

    Hi All,
    I consider myself lucky to have Tom Woods come visit us in Connecticut for this event. I was so embarressed for Mr. McInerney when this exchange took place that it actually pained me – awkward! It’s also pretty disturbing!
    Thanks Tom Woods for your perseverance and hard work. I don’t know how you keep from banging your head against the wall. It was a real pleasure finally meeting you and an honor shaking your hand.

    Published: October 22, 2009 2:39 PM

  • Michael Maier

    The worst thing about this story is that even if someone asks why I was howling with laughter here at work, it would take too long to explain.

    BN: that’s a great analogy.

    Dixieflatline: I think you give too much credit to the common folks. I agree that’s the way it SHOULD work, but I am often surprised by the vehemence of those denying AE ideas and ideals.

    Published: October 22, 2009 2:50 PM

  • KP


    Its not that they deny it but rather they are not familiar with Austrian Economics. Keynes and Friedman and there followers make up a large portion of academic interests. If you want to make a comparison its like comparing a giant like IBM or Microsoft that everyone is familiar with or used; with a small operating system or computer manufacturer out of someone’s garage.

    It doesn’t matter if that OS or computer from the garage is superior most people won’t know about it.

    Published: October 22, 2009 3:48 PM

  • Deckard

    Wife: What’s so funny?
    Me: Ah, well in a debate about government intervention during economic collapse, –
    Wife: Actually, never mind.

    Published: October 22, 2009 4:06 PM

  • Deckard

    Published: October 22, 2009 4:07 PM

  • Steve

    I don’t feel sorry for the buffoon one bit.

    It’s tragic that someone who is obviously thought by many to be a “success” in life and therefore at least somewhat intelligent is actually so stupid and came so unprepared for an important discussion.

    We need more of these “tragedies” and we need them publicized as much as possible. Let’s bury these idiots!

    Published: October 22, 2009 4:09 PM

  • Ryan

    LOL. I need to see this video.

    Published: October 22, 2009 4:30 PM

  • Ben Bernanke

    Instead of making a fool out of himself like that when he hears someone mention Austrian Economics he should just smile condescendingly, pick on a tiny, inconsequential technical aspect of the presentation, and then veer off into an irrelevant discussion of the savings rate in developing Asian countries.

    Published: October 22, 2009 5:19 PM

  • John H.

    Thanks, this made my day!

    Published: October 22, 2009 5:46 PM

  • Matt

    Who cares about Keynesian economics. Kenya is a small country so why should we care what its economists have to say?

    Published: October 22, 2009 6:46 PM

  • e_goldstein

    This is a perfect example of too big to fail, too dumb to succeed.

    Published: October 22, 2009 7:13 PM

  • JasonTVMH

    We need more of these “tragedies” and we need them publicized as much as possible. Let’s bury these idiots!

    I think they’re doing a fine job burying themselves. 😀

    Published: October 22, 2009 8:14 PM

  • Octane

    Oh man I busted up. I have to add my vote to the pool of people asking for a video of this buffoonery.

    Published: October 22, 2009 8:51 PM

  • K.C.

    He can’t be that ignorant. He’s obviously pulling an Obama by pretending his critics don’t exist or are unworthy of debate. He’s probably playing the game that most people are too stupid to know the truth or find it out for themselves. He knew he had no leg to stand on against Tom. It was probably meant in jest – at least the ING stockholders hope so.

    Seriously though, you could not make up something that funny.

    Published: October 22, 2009 8:52 PM

  • Ball

    Published: October 22, 2009 11:40 PM

  • Tracy Saboe

    That’s hilarious LOL


    Published: October 23, 2009 12:33 AM

  • TokyoTom

    Thanks for this report, Stephan.

    And well, said, Tom!

    Published: October 23, 2009 1:55 AM

  • Terri K

    Michael Maier, I think DixieFlatline has a good point.

    In my experience, many of those formally trained in economics in any way, shape or form, but especially those with credentials from the most highly regarded schools, hang on to their little paradigms like a pit bull with lock jaw.

    In contrast, plain ol’ common folks like me, with a healthy case of intellectual curiosity, but with neither preconceived notions nor fancy economics degrees, easily “get it” because AE makes so much logical sense and is easily provable at least a zillion times a day in Real Life. So what if it doesn’t involve complicated mathematical equations and other theoretical BS that makes most people’s eyes glaze over?

    The former group simply will not (cannot?) admit that everything they’ve been taught might not be 100% correct. Seems to me, most of them can’t even do even a little critical examination of what they “know to be true”.

    Tom Woods explains it all with such clarity, I would think that his words would make someone at least ponder the possibilities. McInerney is a fool.

    Published: October 23, 2009 8:22 AM

  • GilesS

    It’s funny how people here just don’t get it.

    Published: October 23, 2009 2:47 PM

  • Lord Buzungulus, Bringer of the Purple Light


    Get what?

    Published: October 23, 2009 3:13 PM

  • GilesS

    People here are missing quite a bit really.

    But what’s really telling is how somebody outside of academia makes a mistake to which people here reply “look how stupid and corrupt mainstram academics are!”.

    Published: October 23, 2009 5:26 PM

  • Lord Buzungulus, Bringer of the Purple Light


    Give it a rest. Who are you, anyway, that people here should take your opinion seriously?

    Published: October 23, 2009 6:19 PM

  • D

    GilesS strikes me as an arrogant prick.

    That it is all.

    Published: October 23, 2009 7:29 PM

  • Bala


    I wonder who is not getting it. Looks like you have failed to comprehend the main point of the article – to highlight how
    1. the mainstream is completely ignorant of the Austrian School of Economics. That’s rather sad because the Austrian School of Economics is the only one that gives a coherent and easy to understand explanation for the occurence of Business Cycles. It’s so simple even laymen like me can make sense of it. It’s even more sad that as a result, the only real solution to the crisis is not going to be implemented in the near future.
    2. how mainstream education dumbs you down to the extent that even if someone takes 40 minutes to explain something in very simple language, all he can do is to completely fail to understand it and instead pompously spew out a load of rubbish.

    Published: October 24, 2009 2:07 AM

  • GilesS

    “1. the mainstream is completely ignorant of the Austrian School of Economics. That’s rather sad because the Austrian School of Economics is the only one that gives a coherent and easy to understand explanation for the occurence of Business Cycles. It’s so simple even laymen like me can make sense of it. It’s even more sad that as a result, the only real solution to the crisis is not going to be implemented in the near future.
    2. how mainstream education dumbs you down to the extent that even if someone takes 40 minutes to explain something in very simple language, all he can do is to completely fail to understand it and instead pompously spew out a load of rubbish.”

    So now every “mainstream economist” who doesn’t understand the ABCT (there’s a lot them) is an idiot? Or at least, they’re “dumbed down”. Perhaps he didn’t understand the argument because before Roger Garrison nobody ever put it in a way that mainstream economists would understand.

    The “mainstream” is only ignorant of the Rothbardian branch of Austrian economics, for good reason.

    Published: October 24, 2009 7:51 AM

  • Giles

    For what it’s worth, a quick Wikipedia check reveals that Chicago has a higher GDP than Austria!

    GDP of Chicago: $ 460 Billion
    GDP of Austria: $330 Billion

    Published: October 24, 2009 8:57 AM

  • Chad

    I am a history major and I do not know a whole lot about economics in general, but I am pretty sure that I understand the Austrian School (I have never been confused listening to Dr. Woods, anyway). This had me rolling and I cannot wait to see the video!

    Published: October 24, 2009 9:37 AM

  • Tom Woods

    GilesS, you actually think Man, Economy, and State is pretty unimpressive, huh?

    And no, no one was saying people are stupid for not knowing about the Austrian School. The point was that (1) you might expect someone to look into it before a debate, knowing your opponent will be talking about it, and (2) I had just spoken about Austrian economics for 40 MINUTES.

    You’re saying it’s super-smart to think Austrian economics involves the country of Austria, event after you’ve listened to a 40-minute presentation on the subject. I’d love to hear you try to debate that one.

    Published: October 24, 2009 11:32 AM

  • Brian Macker


    You are not stupid. Just ignorant. Also foolish for not recognizing your ignorance.

    Published: October 24, 2009 12:31 PM

  • Ireland

    People mix up economy and economics a lot, but only rarely it results in such an entertaining performance.
    Another nice thing is to read Tom in action — there’s more of us waiting for GilesS’s answer …

    Published: October 24, 2009 2:25 PM

  • GilesS


    Perhaps the guy is an idiot, perhaps he was just not listening. I never disputed this, although I don’t think a single (highly embarassing) mistake such as this is grounds for making such claims.

    Now, I don’t know what topic you’ve been reading, but above there’s plenty of comments making statements that just don’t follow from this one guy being an idiot. The idea that “mainstream” academic economics are stupid or dogmatic may also be true (I don’t think it is), but the statements made by the CEO of ING don’t prove this one bit.

    (For the record, I thoroughly enjoyed MES).

    Published: October 24, 2009 4:15 PM

  • D


    You thoroughly enjoyed it; but people ignore it for good reason.

    Keep digging….

    Published: October 24, 2009 6:47 PM

  • Lord Buzungulus, Bringer of the Purple Light


    Exactly, GilesS is full of crap.

    Published: October 24, 2009 8:07 PM

{ 1 comment… add one }
  • Dobropet October 22, 2009, 10:01 am

    Did anyone take the time to think of video taping, or recording, this dialogue? Would’ve been revealing and affirming.

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