Paul Krugman: Austerity Europe


Some readers have been asking me for the data source for Paul De Grauwe’s measure of austerity. I’m working on it. Meanwhile, however — and partly for my own reference — I discovered that I can do a similar exercise over a somewhat longer time horizon, which I’m posting in large part as a note to myself.

Now, measuring austerity is tricky. You can’t just use budget surpluses or deficits, because these are affected by the state of the economy. You can — and I often have — use “cyclically adjusted” budget balances, which are supposed to take account of this effect. This is better; however, these numbers depend on estimates of potential output, which themselves seem to be affected by business cycle developments.

So the best measure, arguably, would look directly at policy changes. And it turns out that the IMF Fiscal Monitor provides us with those estimates, as a share of potential GDP, for selected countries from 2009 to 2012 (Table 15). What I’ve done is to plot those estimates (horizontal axis) against changes in real GDP from 2008 to 2012 (vertical axis). Here it is:

The implied multiplier is 1.2; the R-squared is 0.84.

In normal life, a result like this would be considered overwhelming confirmation of the proposition that austerity has large negative impacts. Yes, you can concoct elaborate stories about how it could be wrong; but it’s really reaching. It seems safe to say that what we have here is a case in which rival theories made different predictions, the predictions of one theory proved completely wrong while those of the other were totally vindicated — but in which adherents of the failed theory, for political and ideological reasons, refuse to accept the facts.

Austerity Europe –

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