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Austerity: The History of a Dangerous Idea (edition 2013)

by Mark Blyth

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9015134,128 (3.84)12
Member:DavidWineberg
Title:Austerity: The History of a Dangerous Idea
Authors:Mark Blyth
Info:Oxford University Press, USA (2013), Hardcover, 304 pages
Collections:Your library
Rating:****
Tags:economics, money, austerity, economic theory, recession, depression, history

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Austerity: The History of a Dangerous Idea by Mark Blyth

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» See also 12 mentions

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Joe Hockey's first budget as Federal Treasurer has been generating a flurry of discussion in the media in Australia over the last week or two. His approach seemed to be cut straight from the European phenomenon of "austerity", so I decided to read more about it. I started from a poor and rather amateurish understanding of economics, and understood, clearly, perhaps 30% of this book. My mind was saying "ummm ok?" about 40% of the time, and I had no idea what was going on for about 30% of the content.

As the author says umpteen times: cutting government spending to grow the economy does not work and is counter-productive, and sometimes (always?) backfires badly. He really has it in for the general financial policies of the EU, and seems to think it will fall apart at some point. The part I enjoyed the most was his discussion of the effect that imposing austerity had on European nations in the Great Depression. Perhaps what I hadn't previously appreciated was the extent to which the depression was created as a result of governments' economic policies, rather than a guaranteed consequence of a bust in the financial markets in the U.S. He makes that clear, and puts it in a different context, that of 'austerity', which -- despite being at pains to point out it hasn't really been a coherent discipline of thought or policy until recently -- he traces through history in both practice and theory.

Although I know if I really wanted to understand I should read an economics textbook, I think I'd rather read John Maynard Keynes -- or an actual history of the Depression or something. This is a little bit of both, and falls a little short on both fronts.
  seabear | May 21, 2014 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
I only read part of this book, then paged through the rest. Greed, too-big-to-fail, no-fault-fraud, too depressing.... Common sense says that foxes and unguarded chicken coops leave lots of scattered feathers. ( )
  Schallon | Oct 17, 2013 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
This book is not for the faint hearted among us that do not wish to question our cherished economic notions. Not being trained in economics myself I did find the book tough going - but well worth the effort!

Mark Blythe has done an excellent job in tracing the philisophical underpinnings of Austerity as an Economic policy and why the politicos are flocking to it - and why it is not the path that should be taken. He has also done a very good job of tracing the evolution of financial institutions that have the capability of destroying the fiscal underpinnings of the world and why the Corporations were "saved", were not penalized and the people who created the crisis were not also penalized.
Unfortunately, the book was threaded throughout with phrases thT could be used as sound-bites that taken out of context that used by career politicians and economic analysts to prove individualandcontrasting points of view.

All told, an excellent book and worth the effort for non-economists to read! ( )
  clintonosites | Aug 27, 2013 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
Very good introduction to an important contemporary issue. ( )
  bkd | Aug 14, 2013 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
Mark Blyth's Austerity challenged some of my most cherished economic beliefs. He converted me on some, but not all, points. His depth of scholarship in economics is impressive. The tour through historical cycles of wealth, poverty, spending and austerity was well researched and annotated. Although I am a frequent critic of our government's "well intentioned" fiscal interventions, he brought up some new points that I hadn't taken into consideration. Let's send copies of this book to our elected representatives who are fumbling in the dark. ( )
  justicefortibet | Jun 3, 2013 |
Showing 1-5 of 15 (next | show all)
If you only read one book about the current state of the world’s economy—and the reasons for it—Austerity should be the one. Mark Blyth, a political economist at Brown University, has written a short history of austerity that ought to put a stake through the heart of the idea that we can rescue a recessionary economy by cutting back on government spending.
added by KelMunger | editLit/Rant, Kel Munger (Jul 12, 2013)
 
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For Jules

This book has cost you as many hours as it has cost me, possible more. I really could not have written this without your love and support. Thank you.
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On Friday, August 5, 2011, what used to be the fiscally unthinkable happened.
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. . . the greatest bait-and-switch operation in modern history. What were essentially private-sector debt problems were rechristened as ‘the Debt’ generated by ‘out-of-control’ public spending.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 019982830X, Hardcover)

Conservatives today in both Europe and the United States have succeeded in casting government spending as reckless wastefulness that has made the economy worse. In contrast, they have advanced a policy of draconian budget cuts--austerity--to solve the financial crisis. We are told that we have all lived beyond our means and now need to tighten our belts. This view conveniently forgets where all that debt came from. Not from an orgy of government spending, but as the direct result of bailing out, recapitalizing, and adding liquidity to the broken banking system. Through these actions private debt was rechristened as government debt while those responsible for generating it walked away scot free, placing the blame on the state, and the burden on the taxpayer.

That burden now takes the form of a global turn to austerity, the policy of reducing domestic wages and prices to restore competitiveness and balance the budget. The problem, according to political economist Mark Blyth, is that austerity is a very dangerous idea. First of all, it doesn't work. As the past four years and countless historical examples from the last 100 years show, while it makes sense for any one state to try and cut its way to growth, it simply cannot work when all states try it simultaneously: all we do is shrink the economy. In the worst case, austerity policies worsened the Great Depression and created the conditions for seizures of power by the forces responsible for the Second World War: the Nazis and the Japanese military establishment. As Blyth amply demonstrates, the arguments for austerity are tenuous and the evidence thin. Rather than expanding growth and opportunity, the repeated revival of this dead economic idea has almost always led to low growth along with increases in wealth and income inequality. Austerity demolishes the conventional wisdom, marshaling an army of facts to demand that we recognize austerity for what it is, and what it costs us.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:42:27 -0400)

Politicians today in both Europe and the United States have succeeded in casting government spending as reckless wastefulness that has made the economy worse. In contrast, they have advanced a policy of draconian budget cuts--austerity--to solve the financial crisis. We are told that we have all lived beyond our means and now need to tighten our belts. This view conveniently forgets where all that debt came from. Not from an orgy of government spending, but as the direct result of bailing out, recapitalizing, and adding liquidity to the broken banking system. Through these actions private debt was rechristened as government debt while those responsible for generating it walked away scot free, placing the blame on the state, and the burden on the taxpayer. That burden now takes the form of a global turn to austerity, the policy of reducing domestic wages and prices to restore competitiveness and balance the budget. The problem, according to political economist Mark Blyth, is that austerity is a very dangerous idea. First of all, it doesn't work. As the past four years and countless historical examples from the last 100 years show, while it makes sense for any one state to try and cut its way to growth, it simply cannot work when all states try it simultaneously: all we do is shrink the economy. In the worst case, austerity policies worsened the Great Depression and created the conditions for seizures of power by the forces responsible for the Second World War: the Nazis and the Japanese military establishment. As Blyth amply demonstrates, the arguments for austerity are tenuous and the evidence thin. Rather than expanding growth and opportunity, the repeated revival of this dead economic idea has almost always led to low growth along with increases in wealth and income inequality. Austerity demolishes the conventional wisdom, marshaling an army of facts to demand that we recognize austerity for what it is, and what it costs us.… (more)

(summary from another edition)

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