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Austerity

The History of a Dangerous Idea
Narrated by: Fred Stella
Length: 11 hrs and 2 mins
4.5 out of 5 stars (169 ratings)
Regular price: £21.09
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Summary

Governments today in both Europe and the United States have succeeded in casting government spending as reckless wastefulness that has made the economy worse. 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 100 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 recognize austerity for what it is, and what it costs us.

©2013 Oxford University Press (P)2014 Audible Inc.

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  • Steve
  • United Kingdom
  • 08-04-15

An enlightening read

This is something that that everyone of the voting public should be aware of. The author pulls no puches ans cites each one of his points with a valid reference. His conclusions are logical and feasible and delivered in plain and explained language.

6 of 6 people found this review helpful

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Economically heavy

I gave this book a go, as I was interested in the subject matter. I would only recommend to a serious follower of economic theory as it is too in depth and jargon heavy for the dabbler like myself.

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

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Hugely enlightening.

Was expecting quite a dry factual story. Found the whole book hugely enlightening with excellent cross referenced examples to prove thesis. Very well narrated keeping my attention through some very complex issues throughout.

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

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politicians should hang their heads in shame

very good content, dubious delivery but not distracting enough to stop you listening.

book has an obvious bias but then so does the policy of austerity

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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Really interesting but definitely not entry level.

The content is very enlightening and well thought out. However, as someone who hadn't read much on economics before the learning curve was rather steep.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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Still not convinced that austerity is bad

The author honestly states in the beginning what his views are and further argues against austerity listing why it doesn't work.

Chapters focusing on history are interesting but not entirely convincing that liberal economic theories are wrong even though these are seeing frugality and austerity in terms of moral values- even so, what's wrong in this - is simple consumption better just because it means people are employed?

Following chapters get even more technical as author disputes particular articles by selected economists.

To summarise - author gives good points against austerity and proves that crisis starts with private banks and is than paid by governments but the bottom line is your opinion about the role of the state and responsibility of the individual for his / her choices.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Not for the layman

This book may be interesting to specialists in the field but for a layman with a general interest in economic theory, this book is way too technical and complicated, and I got completely lost. It is filled with too much detail and facts and figures used to evidence the points being made, which made it hard for me to grasp the core thread of the arguments. About three hours from the end I gave up, having learned almost nothing.

3 of 4 people found this review helpful

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Great book

Really enjoyed this book. The technical explanations are aimed at economics students, but were well explained for the uninitiated (me). Chapters 1-3 are breath taking. Mark Blyth has lectured on this topic at the RSA which is an excellent synopsis of his theory on Austerity do check it out,

2 of 3 people found this review helpful

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Extremely interesting but a bit technical

Great narrative but I had to keep reminding myself what economics terms meant. Super interesting.

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  • D.
  • 01-01-19

Mark Blyth is one of the few experts strongly arguing

against mainstream neoliberal economy religion (which is in my opinion nothing else but legalized and enforced madness). Mark Blyth is explaining the economy politics with convincing, common sense arguments and the historical results in the real world, not in some neoliberal fantasy. For me it is particularly interesting the part of the book which is describing how the gold standard was damaging and deflating the economies creating prosperity only for rentier class and devastation for everybody else. Book is also good historical overview of idiotic economy ideas which have still such strong influence in today’s economy policies, particularly in EU. I also like his ideas about taxation. I follow Mark Blyth lectures/ interviews on YouTube and I’m just missing his humor in this book. If you are laymen in this area like me, for self education I also strongly recommend other 2 authors: Michael Hudson and Steve Keen.

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  • JJ
  • 07-08-15

Every politician needs to read this book

Any additional comments?

This book explains the history of economic austerity and how it has never worked and why it will never work. The author uses in-depth and sometimes complicated economic rationale to explain why but I think that is what lends so much legitimacy to his argument. I will admit it is not for the feeble minded but it is also not so complicated that the average concerned person can’t understand.

He gives the reader a complete analysis of why public spending cuts never lead to economic growth and typically fuel rising debt instead of lowering it. He further details how the global financial crisis is really a private crisis of the banking sector and not a problem of public spending run amok. It is glaringly obvious that governments have allowed the finance industry to needlessly gamble and in many cases, have been forced to bail them out with public money.

This book allowed me to finally understand the real reasons behind the European debt crisis and how much of it extends from several structural flaws in the Euro. I have read a number of books on the 2008/2009 financial crisis and I would say this is the best one yet. This really brought everything together for me as it really gets to the "why" behind a lot of the problems we see today.

I like his analysis of Iceland at the end and I wish he had written much more on the topic. My only complaint is that the author quotes a number of economic theorists and sometimes it is hard to determine if he is still talking about their opinion or his own.

Every politician should read this book and understand how cuts to public spending almost never produce the desired economic growth.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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  • Will Szal
  • 22-12-18

Biting Rhetoric; Short on Answers

I learned about this book from my mother, who heard an interview with the author on NPR.

Blyth grew up in Scotland, and is a professor of political economy at Brown. Oxford University Press published this title in 2012.

You may have heard of the concept if you’ve been following current events in Europe. In short, austerity is the curtailment of government spending, often resulting in large cuts to the welfare state and other social expenditures. It is often justified by the aim of reducing government debt, although this claim is almost always fraudulent in practice (if not in intention).

As the subtitle suggests (“The History of a Dangerous Idea”), austerity isn’t just uncomfortable, but could be blamed (indirectly), for such inhumane incidents as World War II. Blyth meticulously tracks the history of austerity globally, going back to the roots of the concept with Adam Smith and John Locke, tracing it’s evolution over the past century, and then offering a current-day analysis. If anything, his refutation of research done over the past thirty years in support of austerity is too rigorous, verging on obsessive.

Ultimately, this book is an economic text, and you should be prepared for technical literature (although there isn’t any math in the book) if you’re considering picking up this book.

One refrain in the book is that austerity is an ideology too compelling to be dispelled by a century of misery, destruction, and abject failure. Although Blyth repeatedly admits the inability of facts to have any impact to discredit austerity, he blunders on with a relentlessly fact-based rhetoric throughout the text. The book leaves two vital questions unanswered:

1. If austerity fails to accomplish its stated aims so consistency, what affords it such credence?
2. What ideology of superior ethic and utility has the temerity to unseat austerity?

In the book, Blyth valiantly strives to unpack some of the underlying fundamentals that drive a healthy economy. Such a feat is not to be scoffed at; few academics or economists make it this far, tending to fumble about with mechanisms rather than getting to the pattern level. It is a question that has been driving much of my inquiry for many years now. He does so by illustrating relatively simple maxims, rather than getting into the complex metaphysics underlying the social technology we call money (also a fascinating arena, but less approachable).

Where is the inquisitive reader to go from here? I’m looking forward to reading histories of Japan and China, as well as Yanis Varoufakis’ two most recent books. Unfortunately, I have yet to encounter a paradigm that encompasses ecological economics while preserving a high quality of living. Currently, the faster our economy churns, the more destruction is borne. And yet, depressions more commonly result in fascist dictatorships than socialist anarchies. How we bridge economic and ecological health is one of the existential mandates of our times, and the more I learn, the further I realize we are from a pragmatic solution. Regenerative economics continues to be elusive.

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  • jonathan munster
  • 20-03-19

good read boring at times.

lots of information, found it hard to absorb all of it will listen to again.

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  • Jason
  • 30-11-18

Instant classic

A review of the 2008 financial crisis, historical economic theory, and the story of austerity.

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  • PatrikH
  • 17-11-17

Great explanation of the concept

Both the written and the audibook versions are great. It goes into great detail as to why economically austerity is not a good idea, and why country sized economies cannot be run like a household budget. The author does a great job of building up on concepts and showing how the idea of austerity can hinder, not help an economy.

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 10-05-17

Brilliant

I'm somewhate familiar with Mark Blyth thanks to youtubin action. Wish he would have narrated it personally with his Scottish accent. Oh well. Still a great listen.

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  • Katherine Peterson
  • 07-03-17

A good overview

This can get a little hard to follow if you're not up on the last few decades of EU monetary kerfuffles, but the book isn't setting out to be an intro to international monetary policy. I thought his arguments were well laid out and supported with real world case studies, though I'm predisposed to agree with his conclusions. The writing style is accessible and not too dry, and the narrator is pleasant.

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  • Mandy Do-Joh
  • 01-01-17

wonderful

Mark Blyth is the man! his wonderful expliantion makes it easy for regular people to understand complicated subjects and enjoy doing so.