By Julia Posca
Originally published on January 26 2015
See original French text here: http://www.journaldemontreal.com/2015/01/26/lausterite-ou-la-democratie-confisquee
Austerity is on everyone’s lips since the Liberal’s return to power in Quebec in April 2014. Our current political climate is resonant with the “debt crisis” which has been rocking Europe since the economic and financial crisis of 2008.
Yet fiscal austerity measures on both sides of the Atlantic are not simply a response to the economic crisis. In spite of the extent of austerity’s claim on the political landscape over the past seven years, the imperative of the balanced budget has been around since long before the subprime bubble burst, sweeping the global economy along with it. Austerity is simply the current manifestation of the question of balanced public finances.
One must turn back the clock to the mid-1970s in order to find the first battles waged by governments against public debt (at least in its neoliberal version). In those days, climbing inflation and global unrest put the breaks on economic growth, depleting state coffers. Those who intend to narrow the scope of public spending set their sights on social security spending, considerably on the rise since World War Two. The welfare state is traded in for the commodification of public services and the privatization of various state functions. Neoliberal doctrine is on the up swing, while politicians critical of social security nets are globally brought to power (Tatcher in the United Kingdom, Reagan in the United States, Mulroney in Canada, Bourassa in Quebec) or “installed” (Pinochet in Chile or Videla in Argentina).