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If we cut our spending to pay off our credit cards today, we’ll be happier tomorrow. But is the same true of nations? The consensus of policymakers across much of the developed world is that economic slumps should be accompanied by belt-tightening and austerity. A nation living within its means will inspire investor confidence and a recovery—“prune and grow,” as one pundit has called it. In reality, argues Brown University political economist Mark Blyth, author of Austerity: the History of a Dangerous Idea, the historical evidence in favor of a gain-through-pain approach to economic policy is minimal to non-existent. The countries that have embraced austerity have seen their economies go from bad to worse, while those that have taken on deficits or defaulted on debts have seen much improvement. So how did the consensus in favor become so powerful? Blyth visits Zócalo to discuss the history and present of the cult of austerity and its effects on our lives today.
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