The great thing about individual states, as well as separate countries, is that they're all laboratories of government conducting experiments in social and economic policies -- and in the marketplace of government ideas, the most successful ones can be copied by everybody else. That's why the United Kingdom's experiment with austerity should be of great interest to Americans as we approach the presidential election. I've seen several commentators weigh in on this, but one of the most clear-headed analyses can be found today on Al Jazeera.
- Dean Baker, co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research in Washington, demonstrates why the U.K. austerity program -- an idea paralleled in the U.S. by plans from Republicans in Congress, not to mention GOP presumptive presidential nominee Mitt Romney, to sharply curtail government spending in order to reduce the deficit -- has been a monumental failure. There's one important point Baker doesn't mention: In Great Britain, spending cuts were combined with tax increases, while U.S. Republicans aim to reduce taxes and spending at the same time. But the program has failed on nearly every measure, with the economy pushed back into recession and unemployment rising. The conclusion is the same one most of the world reached during the Great Depression, which is that government spending can help pull a country out of the economic doldrums. With the U.S. recovery at its nascent stage, now isn't the time to pull the plug.
Other provocative punditry from around the globe: