It now may be clear to readers of this blog that I am not really in favour of austerity economics. Perhaps this is due to my naive or idealistic perception of the world but perhaps austerity has basic problems that no one seems to want to tackle.
Published in the Financial Times, this piece by Gillian Tett did really uncover some of these problems:
“There’s a lot of little kids going hungry round here,” explained one friend, who works in a local community centre. Indeed, just the other day she had spoken to a family where the child had been chewing wallpaper at night. “He didn’t want to tell his mum because he knew she didn’t have the money for supper,” she explained. “We hear more and more stories like this.”
To many readers of the Financial Times, such tales may seem hard to believe. After all, if you live in the more pleasant parts of southern and central England today, the idea of children chewing wallpaper seems far-fetched. To be sure, the “squeezed [English] middle” is howling about government austerity, inflation and stagnant wages – but life feels bearable for most Home Counties dwellers. And for the jet-setting international cadre in central London, austerity is just a theoretical word.
The problems are, in my humble opinion, excruciatingly simple. Kids are hungry and they do not understand why. They are human beings who lack food in some of the most developed countries in the world (a useless title if you can’t feed your children) and even though they might not inevitably become angry towards government, the transition to adulthood is not going to be all jolly and nice. They are not going to look back and say “the government did that for our own good”; one of their relatives might die from hunger and this will be the end of their hoped for exemplary citizenship.
Although one must always think about the long term and therefore accept sacrifices in the short term, sometimes the weight of these sacrifices are simply too heavy to bear.
The rationale that people will be better off suffering now from the lack of public spending (less education, less health care) in order to enjoy their lives in the foggy future is not appealing to anyone, even those who theorise it.
The solution surely cannot be as dramatically simple as erasing debt wholly. But it cannot be as dramatically simple as asking people not to eat anymore—because this is really what it is.