Austerity – briefly

In the last post on TBTF, I described austerity as more of a quasi-religious ritual, closer to a kind of mortification of the flesh intended to expiate sin than a valid economic strategy.  You see, we have spent too much and consumed too greedily and now we must suffer for it.  Though who exactly this “we” is who must feel the pain is an interesting, and often unanswered, question.  I’ve found a good article and video on the topic and thought they would provide a solid follow up.

The first is a piece by Philip Pilkington, commenting on a NY Times article extolling the success of austerity in Latvia.  Pilkington finds the article far closer to a morality tale than a serious piece of economic analysis.

Next is a video of a talk by Mark Blyth, Professor of International Political Economy in the Department of Political Science at Brown University.  He gave the talk at Google, and the subject is the same as his newest book “Austerity: The History of a Dangerous Idea”.  Boing boing describes him as a “delightfully sweary Scottish economist”, and he is.  Words like bullshit need to be used far more often in economic discussions.  He does talk very fast though, covers a lot of ground, and makes lots of references to numbers and dead philosophers, so it can be pretty hard to follow at times, but pausing and googling can help.  Even without googling though you should get something out of it.  I’ve embedded it below, and added a few notes.

  • Why did he write the book? – “I got really really pissed of with people with lots of money telling people that don’t have any money that they need to pay shit back.”
  • Why do you need a state?  To create markets in the first place, they don’t just pop out of the ground.
  • “Reignhard and Ragoff 90% my ass.”

If you don’t have the hour for the video, here is a much shorter podcast he did covering the same basic topics, and he speaks at a less frenetic pace.  It also includes this great quote:

So when people talk about the idea that we all need to tighter our belts, I’m all in favor of that the minute we’re all wearing the same pants.

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