A Century of Fiscal Squeeze Politics: 100 Years of Austerity, Politics, and Bureaucracy in Britain
Christopher Hood and
Rozana Himaz ()
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Christopher Hood: All Souls College, University of Oxford
in OUP Catalogue from Oxford University Press
This volume identifies and compares 'fiscal squeezes' (major efforts to cut public spending and/or raise taxes) in the UK over a century from 1900 to 2015. The authors examine how different the politics of fiscal squeeze and austerity is today from what it was a century ago, how (if at all) fiscal squeezes reshaped the state and the provision of public services, and how political credit and blame played out after austerity episodes. The analysis is both quantitative and qualitative, starting with reported financial outcomes from historical statistics and then going behind those numbers to explore the political choices and processes in play. This analysis identifies some patterns that have not been explained or even recognized in earlier works on retrenchment and austerity. For example, it identifies a long term shift from what it terms a 'surgery without anaesthetics' approach (deep but short-lived episodes of spending restraint or tax increases) in the earlier part of the period towards a 'boiling frogs' approach (episodes in which the pain is spread out over a longer period) in more recent decades. It also identifies a curious reduction of revenue-led squeezes in more recent decades, and a puzzle over why blame-avoidance logic only led to outsourcing painful decisions over squeeze in a minority of cases. Furthermore, the volume's distinctive approach to classifying types of fiscal squeezes and qualitatively assessing their intensity seeks to solve the puzzle as to why voter'punishment' of governments that impose austerity policies seems to be so erratic.
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