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In what way is you spending less of my money ‘austerity’?

The first problem I have when I read of ‘austerity’, meaning less state spending… is that the amount the state is spending is not really going down at all, it is just getting moved around a bit.

But there is a second definitional problem I have with this term ‘austerity’ as it is being used.

When I see members of the kleptocratic classes, the receivers of appropriated state largess, describe less public spending as ‘austerity’, I often wonder if such people regard the steadily lessening rates of burglary in the UK as also being a long term trend towards ‘austerity’.

Look at it this way: people are (allegedly) having less of their property appropriated by burglars, which means the burglars have less of your money to spend. So clearly this means society is experiencing ‘austerity’, as you, in your un-burgled household, get to keep more of your own property and spend more of your own money, rather than having it spent by someone else.

So… less people having their stuff taken away from them by the state, and by burglars (but I repeat myself)…. that is ‘austerity’, right?

23 comments to In what way is you spending less of my money ‘austerity’?

  • Richard Thomas

    A third issue is that even if they were to spend less, they wouldn’t tax less. So it’s not like you’re going to see any more in your paycheck.

    Though I am one that thinks that spending is the issue, not so much taxation. However, with the wild borrowing that’s going on… It’s all ineffective anyway. There’s simply not the political will to actually fix things because no one is dying in the streets (yet) and backhanders are still moving as they “should”

  • Of course you are right. Convincing people that tax is theft is harder than it should be. Their thinking is woolly and confused by semantics and social conditioning.

  • Mr Ed

    It is not as if spending is going down, it is just not going up as fast as the thieves can fantasise. The ‘austerity’ is a reduction in planned increases, whilst the national debt shoots skywards like a TSR 2 on double re-heat.

  • Laird

    Mr. Ed is correct, of course, that it’s merely the rate of increase which is slowing, not actual spending. But to Perry’s point, the slowed rate of increase isn’t cutting back on the spending of your money; it’s merely reducing the amount they print. They’re still taking all of yours that they can get.

  • The first act of a Socialist/Keynesian is to steal value from some or most people. Then, he plays Mother Theresa when he hands out the money to grateful, voting recipients. It is not relevant that he creates some bit of good, when his program starts with a theft.

    The amazing Keynesian argument is that, despite the theft, he creates more value than he stole. This is like a bankrobber claiming that he created work for restaurants and hotels when he enjoyed the money, rather than let it sit there in the bank.

    If the 1935 economist Keynes were correct, then all would be glorious. Unfortunately, the Keynesian multiplier is a mistake, counting transactions as if the entire value of each transaction creates wealth instead of merely valuing or identifying wealth.

    If there were a multiplier such as the 1.5 multiplier claimed by Team Obama, then we could Counterfeit Our Way to Wealth.

  • Nick (nice-guy) Gray

    Look, Guvmint prints the money in the first place, so it all belongs to the Guvmint, don’t it? It can do what it likes with it, can’t it? Oh, sure, some individuals think that money simply reflects real value made by someone somewhere. If they’re so smart, why aren’t they in government?
    If the guvmint wants to thin your wallet down to a healthy size, it’s only doing it for your own good. So there!

  • RRS

    For another look at the Rubik’s cube of the politicians attitudes toward taxation – a true anecdote:

    I think it was in 1967, or sometimes not long after John Sparkman had become Chairman of the Senate Finance Committee or whatever it’s name was back then. We wound up flying together from Atlanta to DC and he deigned to converse with me (I was only 43 at the time) perhaps because I had been very effective as a lawyer in protecting certain financial interests of Walter will Bankhead; perhaps because of some other factors as well.

    Sparkman did practically all of the talking, mostly about the rising problems of potential inflation, and of the opinions of economic experts, Committee staff members and some people in the financial community about the need to prevent something I think he called “excessive consumer demand.” He talked about proposed legislation that would increase taxation in order to “soak up” the potential for excess consumer spending and its potential impetus for accelerating inflation. It all seemed to make marvelous sense to him until I asked him a simple question which ultimately gained more notoriety:

    “Why is it going to be less inflationary for Congress to spend my money than it will be if I spend my own money?”

    he did not have an answer but went on further with the assurances that the economic experts who were guiding them had already considered all of the alternatives, etc.

    It was not long after that when the Birmingham newspapers carried lead articles about the fact that Sparkman had made a speech on the floor in which he posed almost exactly the same question I had but phrased it in terms of government spending. The generation of politicians who could and will do that is gone; Gone with the Wind.

    Track has been lost of the roots of the “Great Society” which began in that era. It did not “grow” from nothing.

  • Lee Moore

    As Mr Ed and Laird say, government spending is still rising. So even if lower government spending did equate to austerity, it’s still bollocks.

    What puzzles me is this. Why does the left always win the propaganda battles, like calling budget deficits of 10% of GDP “austerity” – and why is the right so crap at it ? OK, in the UK there’s a state financed pro big government behemoth which sets the tone, but that’s not so in the US. What happened to all those right wing press barons ? Surely the right still has more money than the left and should be able to hire money grubbing hacks to push its themes.
    There’s Murdoch who shows that it can still be done. But I still don’t understand why the left has won all the framing battles. Or rather, I don’t understand why the right has not even engaged in this battle, and so has lost by default.

  • Snorri Godhi

    Actually, the burglary metaphor is wrong: the analog of less burglary is lower taxes; the analog of less gov. spending is the burglars spending less money.

    “Austerity” btw is used perhaps more often to mean higher taxes than lower spending; so the correct analogy would be to *higher* rates of burglary.

  • Lee, Ed, Laird: that was my first objection: state spending is not going down in reality, it is just being used as an excuse to move around who gets the plunder. But the term ‘austerity’ is still being used to describe what is, at best, a lower rate of overall increase than might otherwise have been the case.

    But even if it was true and states really were spending less and taking less of my money, that would in fact be the opposite of ‘austerity’.

    Snorri: No.

  • PaulH

    Lee – I don’t agree that the left always win the propaganda battles. I think it’s much more likely that when you listen to right-wing framing you often hear common-sense ideas plainly put, whereas when you hear left-wing framing you hear left-wing framing! That’s not to say that the left doesn’t do it, of course; they do, and they’re often very good at it. As a centrist I tend to perceive a mix of framing and common sense from both sides, tempered by the assumption that if a politician said it it’s almost certainly just bollocks.

    A good example of right-wing framing (though supported by some/many on the left in the past) is ‘Defense of Marriage’. Whether it’s a good idea or not (it’s not, but that doesn’t matter here), it’s not about the defense of marriage, it’s about the defense of certain traditional views of society. Similarly just about any organization with ‘Family’ in its name (e.g. Focus on the Family) is not about family, it’s about a certain sort of family.

  • Lee Moore

    Not sure I buy your marriage example, PaulH.

    “Defense of Marriage” is about objecting to a new meaning of “marriage” and against the policy consequences of the new meaning. Whether such “defense” is good idea or not, the concept of marriage, whether monogamous or not, has until now always required participation from members of both sexes. Because it has always had procreation as a central, though not omnipresent, feature. Gay marriage may be a jolly good thing, but it is only marriage if you change the meaning of marriage.

    I don’t think it’s “framing” to call a hammer a hammer. One can point out the functional similarities between nail guns and hammers, and start using the word hammer to describe nail guns. But until your new usage acquires general acceptance, it would be unreasonable to argue that hammer traditionalists were “framing” by refusing to accept “hammer” as including nail guns.

  • PaulH

    Taking the Defense of Marriage Act as an exemplar of what the movement represents, can you point out where it explains the repellent nature of, and penalties for, divorce? The Bible, and various social codes since then, have been pretty clear about the (sometimes fatal) consequences of divorce, and yet an act intended to defend marriage made no mention of it. In fact it’s restriction of marriage to one man and one woman could be considered a redefinition of marriage as you point out with your mention of ‘monogamous or otherwise’.

    I’m sure there are practical defenses that could be made about choosing your battles, etc., but ultimately the point wasn’t to defend marriage, it was to defend a particular social tradition and stop ‘the gays’ from being normalized. That might be a good idea (again, it isn’t, but let’s pretend), but it was called the Defense of Marriage Act, not the Keep the Icky Gays Out Act, because it was an exercise in framing; it’s an easier sell to ‘defend’ marriage than oppress a minority.

  • Paul Marks

    Sadly neither government spending or taxation have gone down.

    It would indeed be silly (and worse than silly) to call such a policy “austerity” – but I would not mind what they called a policy of cutting government spending and taxation.

    As long as they actually followed such a policy – which they are not.

  • Lee Moore

    Not very convincing. Some hammers are big, some are small. Some have a wooden shaft, some don’t. Some have a forky type thing at the other end of the head that you can pull nails out with, some don’t. They’re all hammers, and a forky type appendage is neither essential nor disqualifying. But a hammer that screws in screws but doesn’t bang in nails isn’t a hammer, or at least won’t be a hammer until normal usage changes to accept screwdrivers as hammers.

    Some users of “marriage” have traditionally insisted on the wickedness of divorce, some haven’t. Since Henry VIII was getting a divorce nearly five hundred years ago, it can hardly be pretended that marriage including the possibility of divorce is a new and perverse usage. Whereas there has never been any usage of marriage, until the recent campaign, that entertained the possibility of two members of the same sex getting married to each other. Note that even if all definitions of marriage as at 2500BC adamantly excluded the possibility of divorce, if usage has since changed to admit the possibility, then current usage admits the possibility. Likewise if marriage comes to be generally understood (as is very likely now that the present campaign has more or less succeeded) as encompassing same sex unions, then a Restoration of Marriage Act, passed in 2035, will very likely be a good example of framing. But at present (and even more so in the 1990s) a Defense of Marriage Act to Keep the Gays Out, at a time when general usage did not accept that Gays could be In, is not framing.

    Had the Defense of Marriage Act been, in reality, an act to restrict the meaning, and legal application of, marriage to say marriage within religious groups, to prevent inter-religion marriage and procreation, then it would be reasonable to accuse the legislators of framing. For even if some traditional definitions of marriage don’t approve of inter-religion marriage, it’s certainly not the case that inter religion marriage is a novel concept . But if the Defense of Marriage Act is really a Keep the Icky Gays Out Act, that’s not framing, because it is (or was until the present campaign) an essential feature of anyone’s definition of marriage that you needed combatants of opposite sexes. Congress could also have legislated to Keep the Icky Animals Out to prevent people marrying their pets, without adverse framing accusations.

  • Lee Moore

    I got a bit sidetracked. The real point of PaulH’s “marriage” and “family” framing examples is …..the defeat of the right in the framing wars.

    On “marriag”e, however you slice it, the right has lost comprehensively and humiliatingly. Within a couple of decades, schoolchildren will be puzzled by the very idea that anyone ever thought you needed people from different sexes.

    On ‘family values” – that may be an ancient right wing framing triumph, but if so it’s at least sixty years old and probably older. And it is still vigorously contested. Hardly a current affairs TV programme will go by without contemptuous references to “so-called family values.” In the great framing-ruck of life, the left are the All Blacks and the Right are the Old Carthusians.

  • Tedd

    Why does the left always win the propaganda battles, like calling budget deficits of 10% of GDP “austerity” – and why is the right so crap at it?

    I’m not sure I agree that they always do but, to the extent that they do, I think there are two closely connected reasons. The first is that left-ish ideas about money and economics are more in line with what most people (including many conservatives) choose to believe about money and economics. Banks are evil, someone else is getting part of my fair share, the rich get richer while the poor get poorer — that sort of thing. The other reason is that the majority of people who are in a position to influence public opinion on economic matters — media and education people — is also disproportionately predisposed to believe or agree with left-ish economic ideas. Obviously, those things are connected in a chicken-and-egg cycle.

  • Mr Ed

    As regards the ‘battle of ideas’ the media and political class may often simply ignore ideas or facts that they find disagreeable. It seems to me that in the UK, the political class is often concerned with looking at itself in a concave mirror and shifting only when the reflection is too hideous to contemplate.

    As examples, there is a great deal of recent chatter in the British media about Twitter trolls and generally, ‘Twitterstorms’, where someone might get flamed for making a slightly ‘controversial’ remark. It is difficult to think of a more childish preoccupation of no relevance to millions of voters, whose concerns might be paying fuel bills or having relatives slaughtered in NHS hospitals, like Mid-Staffs.

  • Paul Marks

    Tedd – there is nothing wrong with honest money lending.

    However, there is something wrong (radically wrong) with lending out “money” that DOES NOT EXIST. Creating a credit bubble and then, when it inevitably collapses, screaming for a bailout.

    Just as there is something wrong (radically wrong with “selling gold” that DOES NOT EXIST.

    The consequences of modern “banking” are certainly “evil”.

    And, unsurprisingly, they are pushed (every step of the way) by “cheap money” loving governments and their Central Banks (although, to a more limited extent, they can exist even without such intervention).

  • Lee Moore

    Steady on there Paul.

    1. We can agree that screaming for a bailout is a bad thing. Though screaming for one is nothing like so bad as actually handing one out, composed of other people’s money. The screamer definitely stands behind the taxer and spender in the queue for the firing squad.

    2. Selling things that don’t exist or that you don’t own. Nothing wrong with it :

    (a) so long as the person who’s buying from you is not misled by you into imagining that the thing exists or that you own it. If the buyer understands that all he’s really buying is a promise by you to go out and create or acquire the thing in time for the agreed delivery date, then he can form his own judgement about the likelihood of you defaulting. After all there’s lots of things that get sold before they exist – bridges, airplanes and so on; and as for services well they never “exist” at all, they just get performed and pretty much by definition after the contract has been struck

    (b) and so long as the short seller does not, by undertaking the short sale, recklessly increase his chances of defaulting on other contracts (to the extent that his recklessness involves misleading the parties to those contracts about his financial intentions – eg if I run a regular retail business and buy stock on credit from suppliers, and sell for cash to customers so that my basic trading brings in cash before I have to pay it out, then if I suddenly take my temporary cash float and start writing naked call options on the stock market, come a cropper and default on my suppliers bills, that’s naughty.

    Fractional reserve banking deceives only the ignorant.

  • Quite so Lee. I more or less made a career out of short selling, but there is nothing fraudulent about it. Indeed many of my clients were physical producers who were using short positions to hedge things that did not necessarily exist *yet*. It is not the same thing as a credit bubble at all, which is more akin to counterfeiting than shorting.

  • Paul Marks

    Lee the financial system depends on bailouts (normally hidden ones – Central Banks producing money, and getting it to banks and other such who then lend it out a higher rate of interest) – it is the foundation of the (utterly corrupt) system.

    As for selling gold that does not exist.

    And when the buyers demand PHYSICAL DELIVERY (which they are) where does the clever (and government backed) scam stand then?.

    No doubt a few flashy traders will be thrown to the wolves.

    But the people who are really behind this scam (the Central Bankers and other such) go to prison?

    Not a chance.

    By the way it is not really “shorting”.

    Because it involves Central Banks saying (privately) “we back this trade with the gold we physically hold”.

    But these government Central Banks DO NOT HAVE the physical gold they have pledged (they have pledged the same gold MANY TIMES OVER).

    Almost needless to say…..

    The Central Banks are not physical producers of gold – they (like the rest of government) produce nothing.

    Nothing but scams.