Advancing a Free Society

Plan B or not to B

Monday, October 31, 2011

Plan B was launched over the weekend to much fanfare. There was much excited analysis in The Guardian. In The Observer, one hundred economists told George Osborne that Plan A is failing.

I will focus on one small aspect, the Plan B critique of current fiscal policies. Behind Plan B is the idea that "current policies … may do the very opposite of their avowed intention, by actually increasing the deficit." The logic underlying this argument extends he Keynesian multiplier: public spending cuts put people out of jobs and reduce their incomes, so that they pay less in tax; if taxes fall by more than spending, the deficit will widen, ending in higher, not lower public debt. Turn this argument around and there would be scope, apparently, for Britain to spend its way out of debt.

Another idea behind Plan B is that "the UK national debt is not large by long-run historical standards." Judging from the historical record, it seems, Britain can easily afford a higher public debt. While debt reduction may sound virtuous, it is suggested, it is currently unecessary (and the policies designed to achieve it may be actively harmful).

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