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Austerity: The History of a Dangerous Idea Paperback – 2 Jan 2015
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excellent... timely... illuminating (Political Studies Review, Liam Stanley)
A must-read (ACEMAXX-ANALYTICS)
One of the especially good things in Mark Blyth's Austerity: The History of a Dangerous Idea is the way he traces the rise and fall of the idea of 'expansionary austerity', the proposition that cutting spending would actually lead to higher output. As Blyth documents, this idea 'spread like wildfire.' (Paul Krugman, The New York Review of Books)
An important polemic... valid and compelling. (Lawrence Summers, Financial Times)
Mark Blyth has written a clever, well-argued book that we should all read. (The Friend)
Essential reading... The economy is much too important to leave to economists. We need to understand how ideas shape it, and Blyth's new book provides an excellent starting point. (Washington Monthly)
Splendid new book. (Martin Wolf, Financial Times)
Austerity is an economic policy strategy, but is also an ideology and an approach to economic management freighted with politics. In this book Mark Blyth uncovers these successive strata. In doing so he wields his spade in a way that shows no patience for fools and foolishness. (Barry Eichengreen, George C. Pardee and Helen N. Pardee Professor of Economics and Political Science University of California, Berkeley)
Of all the zombie ideas that have been reanimated in the wake of the global financial crisis, austerity is the most dangerous. Mark Blyth shows how austerity created the disasters of the 1930s, and contributed to the descent of the world into global war. He shows how European austerity policies have prevented any recovery from the crisis of 2009, while rescuing and protecting the banks and financial institutions that created the crisis. An essential guide for anyone who wants to understand the current depression. (John Quiggin, author of Zombie Economics)
Most fascinating is the author's discussion of the historical underpinnings of austerity, first formulated by Enlightenment thinkers Locke, Hume and Adam Smith, around the (good) idea of parsimony and the (bad) idea of debt. Ultimately, writes Blyth, austerity is a 'zombie economic idea because it has been disproven time and again, but it just keeps coming. A clear explanation of a complicated, and severely flawed, idea. (Kirkus Reviews)
Informed, passionate. (Dissent Magazine)
Mark Blyth's fascinating analysis guides the reader through 'the historical ideology which has classified debt as problematic.' In doing so he outlines the relevance of century-old debates between the advocates and opponents of laissez faire, and explains why, after a brief reemergence in 2008-09, and despite the lack of evidence supporting austerity, the world turned its back on Keynesian policies. (Robert Skidelsky, author of Keynes: The Return of the Master)
Among all the calamities spawned by the global financial crisis, none was as easily avoidable as the idea that austerity policies were the only way out. In this feisty book, noted political scientist Mark Blyth covers new territory by recounting the intellectual history of this failed idea and how it came to exert a hold on the imagination of economists and politicians. It is an indication of the sorry state of macroeconomics that it takes a political scientist to expose so thoroughly one of the economics profession's most dangerous delusions. (Dani Rodrik, Rafiq Hariri Professor of International Political Economy, The John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University)
About the Author
Mark Blyth is Professor of International Political Economy at Brown University. He is the author of Great Transformations: Economic Ideas and Institutional Change in the Twentieth Century.
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Top Customer Reviews
As is apprent from the title, there is not a neoliberal bone in the author's body. While some may call him an unashamed Keynesian, he has the (to some) annoying characteristic of working both the economic literature and the real life factual examples down to the bottom line, which often leaves the austerity arguments severely wanting. He also clearly points out the redistribution aspects of the austerity message - and not in a Marxist manner - and how those affect the popularity of the policy.
The book is built up around several main facets. The first one being that the current predicament came about as a result of a banking crisis and not of public spending running amok (with the exception of Greece). This then led to the 'too big to fail' meme in the US and the consequent state bailout. In Europe some countries drew the same conclusion, however the banking sector is different - being accoridng to the author very much in the 'too big to bail' category.Read more ›
He sets out the intellectual claim for austerity argued by the Bocconi University of Milan economists Alberto Alesina and Francesco Ardanga. Their core argument is that `when spending cuts are perceived as permanent, consumers anticipate a reduction in the tax burden and a permanent increase in their lifetime disposable income' (p172). Alesina delivered this diagnostic to the ECOFIN meeting in Madrid in 2010, labelled by Bloomberg as `Alesina's Hour'. The claim is very weak theoretically, and Blyth shows that the country economy data Alesina and Ardanga quote rejects rather than confirms their austerity hypothesis. So far, so good, in fact very good, and therefore 5 stars.
Blyth's weakness is that his diagnostic does not go far enough. He is content to prove that austerity doesn't work and then rather lamely propose forced government bonds and high tax as the alternative remedy.Read more ›
Austerity (the book) seems to be a bunch of Keystone Kops in dark suits, madly running around accomplishing very little. They rationalize, they contradict themselves and their policies, they make the same dumb moves over and over, they make up incredible formulas that cannot work even in theory, they take down the economies of the world - and they blame their governments for the mess they leave. The result is bankers continuing to pay themselves obscenely, while governments are saddled with assumed banking debt and the ugly prospect of austerity, as Blyth puts it, that "constitutes the greatest bait and switch in human history."
Blyth proves repeatedly that austerity is "zombie economics" - no matter how many times it is disproved, it just keeps coming back for more. No amount of mere fact disconfirms a good ideology, he tells us.
He hammers the point that in essentially every national case except maybe Greece, government spending was not behind the current financial collapse. Government was not overspending, not creating inflation, not distorting the economy. It was the bankers doing that, with theories of efficient markets and off the books vehicles.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
An alternative view on Public Financing that many ought to take seriously into consideration...Published 4 months ago by P. Baziotopoulos
Brilliant, challenging, passionate, myth busting!
Little bit repetitive and uneven in its analysis but a right riveting read.
Clear, objective and highly structured basis for a the strong views presented. A fundamental read for anyone trying to understand today's European economical / political context.Published 5 months ago by Jose
If you wish to understand why intelligent people and politicians prattle nonsense like 'we must live within our means' this is the book to read. Read morePublished 9 months ago by aks
superb analysis of austerity. Written in a way that allows different readers to access different levels of detailed information. Read morePublished 10 months ago by Sisyphus
Good, well written book, giving the Keynesian perspective on so called Austerity Economics. An interesting and informative read.Published 13 months ago by JamXman
This is a clear and concise account of the complete failure of austerity economic policies which have been tried and tested over the last 100 years throughout the western world. Read morePublished 13 months ago by P J H Allen
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