There’s virtually nobody left who credibly argues that austerity is a good remedy for a weak economy.
But there is still some debate as to why, in the aftermath of the economic crisis, a number of smart people/business leaders/politics/etc. jumped aboard the austerity bandwagon, when the most conventional textbook economics said that that was a bad idea.
In a recent New York Review of Books piece, Paul Krugman laid out his Grand Unified Theory, which is basically that people see a moral requirement of inducing pain to suffer for past sins. They view the collapse of the economy as some sign that we’ve been wicked, and that the only way to cure wickedness is to lash ourselves in the back.
Now Dan Drezner at Foreign Policy points us to a bizarre “rebuttal” to Krugman in The New Republic by Michael Kinsley, which inadvertently proves all of Krugman’s arguments that the austerians see the debate as being a moral question.
This is an actual line from Kinsley:
I don’t think suffering is good, but I do believe that we have to pay a price for past sins, and the longer we put it off, the higher the price will be.
The fact that Kinsley actually uses the word “sins” proves Krugman’s point entirely, that what the Very Serious People of Washington DC think is that the suffering is the result of us being bad, and that what we need is punishment to absolve ourselves.
Then the final line of Kinsley’s piece does it again:
When Krugman says he’s only worried about “premature” fiscal discipline, it becomes largely a question of emphasis anyway. But the austerians deserve credit: They at least are talking about the spinach, while the Krugmanites are only talking about dessert.
This is crazy talk. Krugman doesn’t want desert. He wants people to eat again. And the answer to get people eating is not: here, you get spinach (which is actually delicious, but code word for eating something miserable).
So as Dan Drezner points out, Michael Kinsley has proved everything Krugman has argued about why people want spending cuts.
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