[…] To produce income for oneself and one’s family, to plan ahead and budget, to borrow only when it makes sense to do so (but not in order to consume beyond one’s current or near-future means), and to save some income, are all acts that are rational, selfish, and thus moral. None of them is an ascetic act of self-sacrifice performed from duty or a hatred for one’s life, self, health or wealth. The result of producing, saving, and investing is not the miser’s life nor the cartoonish life of Mr. Scrooge but the life of earned success, supreme comfort, and guilt-free happiness. “Austerity” seems much too harsh a name for this kind of wonderful life.
To live this way used to be called “economizing.” It was the life of the virtuous – and prosperous. Yet most economists today, Keynesians as they are, deride economizing. Saving, they insist, constitutes a “leakage” from the “spending stream;” saving allegedly drains an economy of its lifeblood, of that unaffordable gusher known as “consumer spending.” Consume! is their sole advise to all who will listen, consume early and often, consume on credit, if necessary, and “shop ‘til you drop,” then pick yourself up and shop yet again. Somehow, all of this will revive a weak economy. If it’s weak, we’re told, it’s because there’s “insufficient demand,” insufficient consuming, too little senseless shopping. Households, businesses and governments alike should spend more, say these anti-economizing economists, not save more; they should spend beyond their means, and somehow that will create the means. If all must borrow to spend beyond their means, then banks must lend more; if they don’t, they must be “induced” to lend more; if needed, they must be forced.