I was listening to Philip Adams on the drive home to work and he was speaking to an economist whose name I didn’t catch. I know that Adams is an unabashed ‘lefty’ – whatever that means in today’s day and age – and most people would argue that he’s hardly impartial about things like the economy and politics in Australia. That’s not particularly a deal breaker for me – I don’t think any of us are ever impartial – we have a whole world and lifetime of experience that clouds our judgement, and the best that we can do is hope to be honest about our known predispositions.
Regardless of all that, that wasn’t what I was particularly interested in. Instead, Adams and this unknown economist were talking about the austerity measures that are so beloved of conservative government and whether they were actually effective in cutting debt. The economist (YannIs?) argued that actually, this was the worst approach to have, and actually led to increased debt. Yannis could explain a number of places where this had happened – US, UK, Greece and he was cautioning us that that’s exactly what was going to happen to Australia. Certainly, it appears that he’s correct at the moment – debt is ballooning, and while the Tories want to blame that as a legacy of Labor, their decisions regarding the budget have certainly contributed to it.
So then, Phillip asked, if that’s the case, why do conservative governments embrace austerity? That’s simple, Yannis replied. It’s class war and ideological struggle masquerading as economic policy. In other words, it’s state-sanctioned oppression. Let’s implement austerity measures so that less people can afford a living wage, a university degree, a house and a home. It’s an attempt to concentrate capital in the hands of the few, while limiting the freedom of everyone else. It’s an attack on the fundamental nature of democracy.
A little further research – ‘Yannis’ is Yanis Varoufakis, Professor of Economics at the University of Athens.