Ann Pettifor

Comment on “The Economic Consequences of Mr Osborne”

Thank you all those that commented on this paper, which was pulled together by a small group of economists and  published below by Prof. Victoria Chick and myself, on 6th June, 2010.

The comments were on the whole supportive. However, one commenter, Mark Porthouse,  asked why “our conclusion (namely that public ‘expenditure creates its own income’) –   did not work over the period 2003-2009?”  As Mark notes “an increase in public expenditure” over this period leads “counter to the conclusion of your paper”  to ” an increase in public debt (…. except for 2005 where we see a 1% point decrease in public debt – but Mark notes that this is the year with only the slimmest increase in public expenditure).”

My personal response to this is as follows: first, the government in 2003 was spending to prevent the economy spiralling deeper into recession, after the collapse and bursting of the dot-com bubble in 2001. Second, much of UK government spending was not well aimed, and instead of acting as a stimulus went into non-productive expenditure on quangos, the PFI etc. We are clear that the fiscal stimulus must be aimed at productive expenditure.  Finally, there was and still is, the evolution of a massive industry in tax evasion.  This coincided with the expansion of the private finance sector, where it is relatively easy to evade taxes.

So, as we argued in the paper, the impact of a fiscal stimulus must be considered within the “wider considerations of financial architecture and monetary policy.”

These factors combined made it difficult for government spending to ‘create its own income’ over the period 2003-9.


3 thoughts on “Comment on “The Economic Consequences of Mr Osborne””

  1. I agree that this is a valuable and an excellent paper for which the authors must be commended. For more empirical support to the argument, see also Richard Koo’s presentation ‘The Age of Post Balance Sheet Recessions: What Post-2008 US, Europe and China can learn from Japan, 1990 – 2005’, and the 24 minute video on

    However, essential though winning the argument is, what Michael Hudson calls ‘junk economics’ is an ideological programme. Public deficits serve as the pretext for a further erosion of the social protection and redistributive functions of government (‘shrinking the size of the state’) and the hard won social gains of the last 100 years.

  2. Ann, Thanks very much for your response explaining the recent variance from the point that you are making. It does make sense that particular conditions can make an exception to the ‘rule’ that you are promoting. The fact that virtually all other periods promote your hypothesis is pretty convincing.
    Yours, Mark

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