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Are the British Practicing "Austerity"?

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Unread 01.31.12, 03:13 PM
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Are the British Practicing "Austerity"?

On 01.31.12 12:00 PM posted by David Weinberger

Some prominent left-wing commentators have devoted weekly columns and blogs to the notion that Great Britain has misguidedly pursued harsh spending “austerity” and that doing so has left the country lingering in unnecessary anguish.

In the opinion pages of The New York Times, Paul Krugman inveighs that:
Britain, in particular, was supposed to be a showcase for “expansionary austerity,” the notion that instead of increasing government spending to fight recessions, you should slash spending instead—and that this would lead to faster economic growth.

Such invocations of the confidence fairy were never plausible; researchers at the International Monetary Fund and elsewhere quickly debunked the supposed evidence that spending cuts create jobs.

Similarly, Brad DeLong, a distinguished economist, fulminates about Britain’s concern that “public-sector spending and investment was ‘crowding out’ the private sector.”

He concludes that the “failure of expansionary austerity in Britain should give all of its advocates around the world reason to reflect on and rethink their policy calculations.”

Neither Krugman nor DeLong offers any numbers for these assertions, so economist and professor Don Boudreaux bothered to fact check them. He found that far from pursuing austerity, British spending has actually increased:
I logged a few minutes on the Internet to discover that British-government spending—adjusted for inflation—has risen every year since the start of the financial crisis. This spending in 2011 was 16 percent higher than it was in 2007, and is projected to be even higher in 2012.

If spending increases qualify as “austerity” for Professors Krugman and DeLong, one wonders how they would describe spending cuts.

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