Making “nicer” cuts

In: Uncategorized

20 Jun 2010

Will Hutton, one of Britain’s best-known economics commentators, shows how limited and conditional opposition to austerity will be in his column in today’s Observer.  He starts by arguing the public should be persuaded of the need for sacrifice before going on to argue that cuts “have to be extremely skilfully implemented and seen to be fair”. Hutton also contends that spending reductions should be extended over a longer time period.

By “fairness” he seems to mean that more tax rises should be imposed on the rich and the poor should be protected from the worst of the cuts. He also contrasts Britain unfavourably with Canada and Sweden where cuts were made by centre left governments who believed in public spending rather than by Conservatives.

Hutton is wrong on several counts. For a start he is living in the past in assuming that there are significant ideological differences between Britain’s main parties. He fails to see that they have all shunned politics for a technocratic outlook.

It is also striking that, like most others involved in this debate, he apparently has no conception of promoting economic growth. The economic discussion in Britain today is overwhelmingly about exactly where and how to cut.

We need a genuine opposition to austerity rather than a debate about exactly where to wield the axe.