The high unemployment that we have today in Europe, the United States and elsewhere is a tragedy, not just because of the aggregate output loss that it entails, but also because of the personal and emotional cost to the unemployed of not being a part of working society.

Austerity, according to some of its promoters, is supposed to improve morale. British Prime Minister David Cameron, an austerity advocate, says he believes that his program reduces “welfare dependency,” restores “rigor” and encourages “the doers, the creators, the life-affirmers.” Likewise, U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan says that his program is part of a plan to promote “creativity and entrepreneurial spirit.”

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