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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 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 austerity for what it is, and what it costs us. As Blyth documents, this idea 'spread like wildfire. 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.

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. Pardee and Helen N.


Mark Blyth shows how austerity created the disasters of the s, 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 , 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.

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. 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.

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