Sunday, March 15, 2015

Austerity Sucks: Mark Blyth on the follies of US budget policy

The following is from a presentation before the US Senate by Mark Blyth, author of “Austerity: The History of a Dangerous Idea” It is a scholarly rebuke of mainstream notions about public debt and investment in social welfare that are driving domestic economic policy.
My name is Mark Blyth and I am the Eastman Professor of Political Economy at the Watson Institute for International Studies and Brown University in Providence RI. I am also the author of a book entitled Austerity: The History of a Dangerous Idea (Oxford University Press 2013) a book, which oddly just received a national award in Germany, the country most associated with budgetary austerity. Given that irony is not a German national trait, it might be the case that even the Germans are re-thinking their stance on balanced budgets. As I shall show you today, it’s really not working out so well in Europe and it would be a disaster if it were tried here too.

And yet balancing the budget as a matter of principle is intuitive. After all, you can’t spend more than you earn. It is also appealing. After all, people want more money in their pockets rather than less, so spending ‘other people’s money’ now so that they would have less in the future because of debt interest repayments seems to be the height of folly. But balancing the budget because of these arguments is also folly. While they are intuitive, these arguments are systematically wrong, because they are based upon two faulty analogies: one drawn between households firms and states and another between savings always being good and spending always being bad. I begin by taking each in turn before giving more specific examples.
Read rest here. Blyth’s presentation is viewable here, starting at the 46:20 mark.


  1. About the award he mentions, here is the link to his speech, which was fantastic, even more considering the audience of SPD politicians.

    1. Thanks for the jacobinmag link.

      Regarding austerity policy Blyth says: " German (and French) politicians know only too well, there are no votes in talking about Europe, only costs . . ."


Trade and Finance

Teaching a course on international economics (trade and finance) for international relations students. More on that later. Just wanted to p...