Mr Hollande says that he will replace austerity with growth. Why didn’t anybody think of that before?
…If building great roads and trains were the route to lasting prosperity, Greece and Spain would be booming. The past 30 years have seen a huge splurge in infrastructure spending, often funded by the EU. The Athens metro is excellent. The AVE fast-trains in Spain are a marvel. But this kind of spending has done very little to change the fundamental problems that now plague both Greece and Spain – in particular, youth unemployment.
Worse, in some ways, EU funding for infrastructure has created problems. In Greece, milking the EU for subsidies became an industry in itself: and political connections were a surer route to wealth than entrepreneurial flair.
…Even in France, the centre of the revolt against austerity, it is hard to argue that the problem is that the state is not doing enough. This is a country where the state already consumes 56 per cent of gross domestic product, which has not balanced a budget since the mid-1970s, and which has some of the highest taxes in the world.
Mr Hollande, who is not an idiot, knows all this. That is why, behind all the feel-good rhetoric about ending austerity, the small print is less exciting. In fact, all the Socialist candidate is promising to do is to take a year longer than President Nicolas Sarkozy to balance France’s budget. In Europe, even the left cannot pretend that deficit-spending can continue for ever. So they are reduced to arguing that governments are cutting, “too far and too fast”, in the words of Ed Balls, Britain’s shadow chancellor. This is small-scale quibbling – masquerading as a major doctrinal dispute.
Do read the whole thing.