Do Austerity Measures Increase the Risk of Social Chaos?

by Henry Farrell on August 9, 2011 · 7 comments

in Comparative Politics,Protest

In a spectacularly well-timed paper, Jacopo Ponticelli and Hans Joachim Voth argue yes.

Expenditure cuts carry a significant risk of increasing the frequency of riots, anti-government demonstrations, general strikes, political assassinations, and attempts at revolutionary overthrow of the established order. While these are low- probability events in normal years, they become much more common as austerity measures are implemented. … We demonstrate that the general pattern of association between unrest and budget cuts holds in Europe for the period 1919-2009. It can be found in almost all sub-periods, and for all types of unrest. Strikingly, where we can trace the cause of each incident (during the period 1980-95), we can show that only austerity-inspired demonstrations respond to budget cuts in the time- series. Also, when we use recently-developed data that allows clean identification of policy-driven changes in the budget balance, our results hold.

Via Kevin O’Rourke.

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