Britain vs America on austerity

In: Uncategorized

20 Sep 2010

Anne Applebaum, a foreign affairs columnist for the Washington Post, made some fundamental errors in her piece last week headlined: “For the US, Britain’s austerity is a foreign concept”.

First, it is not true that in Britain austerity “has a deep appeal”. I am willing to bet a large sum that the British are generally unhappy about the prospect of austerity. She is probably confusing the attitudes of the elite figures she mixes with it – who are more than happy for austerity to be imposed on others – with those of the general public. It is also arguable that the British public is resigned to austerity but not that it relishes the prospect.

Second, there are already underlying trends towards austerity in America. Despite the sometimes bullish rhetoric about “abundance” and “plenty” the key growth sceptic themes are not far beneath the surface. The mainstream American discussion frequently links economic growth to problems such as environmental damage, inequality and unhappiness.

It is true that the debate of austerity has become more open in Britain but that is only really since the 6 May election. Until then British politicians were more guarded about calling for extensive public spending cuts or tax rises.

American and British attitudes towards austerity are more similar than Applebaum assumes.