Austerity Measures

February 4th, 2011 § 0 comments § permalink

Unspeak on the phrase ‘austerity measures’…

Take austerity measures, of the sort that “must” be imposed on countries by their own or other governments. Austerity implies a severe self-discipline of the kind that is laudable, virtuous in its serious asceticism. But who exactly is being austere in this picture? The Financial Times lexicon entry for “austerity measure” is, perhaps pointedly, ambivalent:

An official action taken by a government in order to reduce the amount of money that it spends or the amount that people spend.

Of course, these things are not unrelated, but a government that increases tax rates as part of its “austerity” programme is in the first instance asking people to spend more money – on it. I could be considerably more austere, in the sense of saving money, by refusing to pay my tax bill as well as not buying quite so many crisps. Naturally, though, we can see why a government proposing austerity measures would not want to call them “Give Us More Of Your Money And We’ll Spend It On Fewer Of The Things That You Want Measures”, or, I don’t know, wallet-fucking measures.

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