With French and Greek voters rejecting austerity, politicians are once again taking the government spending debate seriously. This column argues that the voters are right – it is a bad idea to tighten fiscal policy when growth is so feeble. But the column adds that, wherever one looks, the road away from austerity looks desperately blocked.
Charles Wyplosz, 14 May 2012
Marco Annunziata, 14 May 2012
In Greece and Spain, around half of all workers under 25 are now unemployed. In Italy, Ireland, and Portugal, the rate of youth unemployment is around one in three. But this column argues that we shouldn’t go blaming austerity; even when these countries were booming, youth unemployment was still painfully high. The problem is far deeper.
Francesco Daveri, 08 May 2012
Voters in France, Greece, Italy, and Germany rewarded politicians who opposed austerity. This column argues that attempts to fulfill campaign promises will run up against a hard constraint. The countries whose voters are calling for looser fiscal policies are those where public spending rose fastest since the birth of the euro. The only way out of today’s difficulties is to use the flexibility already in the fiscal compact and continue with bold implementation of the economic reforms that are under way.
Charles Wyplosz, 02 May 2012
Mindless austerity is losing policy credibility in some Eurozone nations. This column suggests governments shouldn’t mix long-term growth and fiscal discipline nor produce another Lisbon strategy. Instead, they should adopt a framework for fiscal policy cooperation, restructure debts, and remember that fiscal discipline is for the long run.
John Van Reenen, 27 April 2012
Many policymakers in Europe seem to stick to the idea that fiscal consolidation might inspire confidence and help the economy to grow. This column argues these sentiments may be understandable but are basically wrong. For countries like the UK where borrowing is relatively cheap and sovereign default unlikely, slowing down the pace of fiscal consolidation would be a rational response. The obsession over the fiscal stance is a distraction from sustainable long-run growth.
Ugo Panizza, Andrea Presbitero, 22 April 2012
Countries with high public debt tend to grow slowly – a correlation often used to justify austerity. This column presents new evidence challenging this view. The authors point out that correlation does not imply causality – it may be that slow growth causes high debt. They argue that policymakers should be wary – the case for cutting debt to boost growth still needs to be made.
Marco Buti, Lucio R Pench, 20 April 2012
Most economists agree that European economies share the need to reduce public deficits and debts. This column stresses that while gradual consolidations are in general more likely to succeed than cold-shower ones, the superiority of a gradual strategy tends to evaporate for high levels of debt and is also less pronounced for consolidation episodes following a financial crisis.
Carlo Cottarelli, 20 April 2012
As with austerity itself, the austerity debate shows no sign of disappearing any time soon. This column argues that the last thing that the world economy needs at this uncertain moment is a knee-jerk reaction from fiscal policy. While the column agrees that governments need to make cuts, it stresses they should not lose sight of the bigger picture.
Manfred Neumann, 17 April 2012
Debt finance of public consumption has clearly gone too far in several countries, reaching the borderline of sustainability. Have austerity measures now gone too far as well? This column argues it seems too early to sound the alarm. First, the global economy is likely to grow by 3.3 % this year, and second, reversing the fiscal stance or exiting the euro are worse options than austerity.
Giancarlo Corsetti, 02 April 2012
Is austerity self-defeating? Is it keeping Europeans underemployed for years and destroying the very growth needed to pay off the debt? Or is it steering nations clear of Greek-like tragedies? So starts a new debate on Vox on austerity, introduced in this column.
Gianluca Cafiso, Roberto Cellini, 20 March 2012
As fiscal-consolidation policies are being implemented across the EU, a debate has been developing concerning the effects of such policies on the dynamics of the debt-to-GDP ratio. This column examines past episodes and finds that following fiscal adjustment may have favourable effects in the short term but that the two-year cumulated changes have been mainly adverse.
Daniel Gros, 29 November 2011
With European governments cutting back on spending, many are asking whether this could make matters worse. In the UK for instance, recent OECD estimates suggest that ‘austerity’ will lead to another recession, which in turn may lead to a higher debt-to-GDP ratio than before. As the debate heats up, this column provides some cool economic logic.
Alberto Alesina, Francesco Giavazzi, 13 September 2011
As Italy’s Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi announces a new austerity bill based on tax rises, this column argues that the country’s leaders are in denial – it is as if they are trying to take aspirin to hide the symptoms of pneumonia. The authors predict that, with the current political class in power, Italy will soon enter another recession and, eventually, another crisis.
Joachim Voth, Jacopo Ponticelli, 10 August 2011
Governments cutting budget deficits have to consider not just the political reaction of the opposition and the media. A backlash on the streets, in the form of unrest and politically-motivated violence, is a real possibility. This column shows that since 1919, the level of instability has typically risen at the same time as budget cuts are implemented.
John Van Reenen, 07 March 2011
The recent announcement that Pfizer will close its main UK research lab (where Viagra was created) is the latest bit of bad news to bite the British economy. This column argues that the UK government’s austerity programme is only making growth prospects worse. Instead of Plan B, it says that the government needs the economic equivalent of Pfizer’s little blue pill – a “Plan V”.