The role of belief in the debate over austerity policies

By Sheila C. Dow

PKES Working Paper 1409

July 2014

The purpose of this paper is to argue that awareness of the epistemological issues arising from an open-system ontology is critical to understanding the crisis and the policy response, to challenging that understanding and to encouraging a radical policy shift. The argument is couched in terms of belief as an epistemological concept. In particular the paper addresses the misleading impression, persuasively conveyed by mainstream economists, that their argument for austerity is ‘scientific’ and independent of ideology, power and ethics. The resulting widespread belief in austerity policies as scientifically justified has prevented arguments against austerity gaining more traction. The critique of austerity policies would therefore be strengthened by a critique of this rhetorical (mis)representation of economic theorising.

Keywords: Fiscal austerity, science, belief

JEL classification: B40 E10 E62