Reviving Austerity: Populist Support for Unpopular Economics in Canada
Journal of Accounting, Ethics & Public Policy 21(4): 451-479 (2020)
29 Pages Posted: 3 Dec 2020
Date Written: October 28, 2020
Critics of austerity argue that it is a failure, yet there remains a high level of political and public support for it as economic policy. Using evidence from Alberta, Canada, a neoliberal democratic economy, this paper aims to explain the apparent paradox of the popularity of austerity by disaggregating the publics into the government, the opposition party, organized interests, public sector employees, and the Public. We find that the organizations opposed to austerity measures often purport to advocate in the public interest but have a conflict of interest and ethical dilemma as the Public believes that there is a time for austerity, just as there is a time for consumption. Moreover, governments that implement “unpopular” austerity measures while maintaining popular political support may simply be reflecting public sentiment about the appropriateness of austerity for that time. Reviving austerity is relevant to policy-makers who need to manage economic policy in periods of sustained fiscal crises and cycle shocks, as has been the case in Alberta and many other jurisdictions in the past decade.
Keywords: austerity, neoliberalism, Canada, Alberta
JEL Classification: D72, E20, G38, J51, J58, M48, P16
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