Must-read: Simon Wren-Lewis: “The Dead Hand of Austerity; Left and Right”

Must-Read: There is an alternative branch of the quantum-mechanical wave-function multiverse in which we reality-based economists got behind the “safe asset shortage” view of our current malaise back in 2009. Savers, you see, love to hold safe assets. And in 2007-9 the private-sector financial intermediaries permanently broke saver trust in their ability to create and credibility to identify such safe assets. If, then, we seek to escape secular stagnation, the government must take of the task of providing safe assets for people to hold and then using the financing for useful and productive purposes. That could have been an effective counter-narrative to demands for austerity–not least because it appears to be a correct analysis…

Simon Wren-Lewis: The Dead Hand of Austerity; Left and Right: “Those who care to see know the real damage that austerity has had on people’s lives…

…The cost on the left could not be greater. Austerity and the reaction to it were central to Labour losing the election. The Conservatives managed to pin the blame for Osborne’s austerity on Labour, and as the recent Beckett report acknowledges (rather tellingly): ‘Whether implicitly or explicitly (opinion and evidence differ somewhat), it was decided not to concentrate on countering the myth…’ It was also central in the revolution of the ranks that happened subsequently. Austerity is a trap for the left as long as they refuse to challenge it. You cannot say that you will spend more doing worthwhile things, and when (inevitably) asked how you will pay for it try and change the subject. Voters may not be experts on economics, but they can sense weakness and vulnerability….

That dead hand… touches the reformist right… as [well]…. There were genuine hopes on all sides that Universal Credit (UC) might achieve the aim of simplifying the benefit system…. But as a result of austerity, and those cuts to tax credit that the Chancellor was forced to postpone, UC will now be seen as a way of cutting benefits and will be either extremely unpopular and/or be quickly killed…. The years of austerity will be seen as wasted years, when no new progress was achieved and plenty that had been achieved in the past setback. Recovery from recessions need not be like this, and indeed has not been like this in the past. They can be a time of renewal and reform…. In the UK that dead hand continues, seen or unseen, to dominate policy and debate. And with its architect set to become Prince Minister and large parts of the opposition still too timid to challenge it, it looks like another five wasted years lie ahead for us.

January 21, 2016


Brad DeLong
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