This is bull. The austerity is not necessary or unavoidable. It is the outcome of a choice, a judgment: should we risk damaging economic growth in order to placate the markets, or should we risk a sell-off in gilts to nurture the recovery? By all means argue that the government has made the right choice. But don’t pretend there wasn’t one.
Samuel Brittan hit the nail on the head here:
The trick of the British establishment is to turn discussion from "whether to" into "how to" questions. The media debate is on which government services to cut or on the balance between spending cuts and tax increases. Once the discussion has been channelled into these trenches the establishment has won. The real argument, however, should be on whether we need unparalleled fiscal austerity or not.But as Sir Samuel says, the coalition is playing an old game here. It was Thatcher who coined the phrase “there is no alternative.” And Alan Finlayson has described how Tony Blair used rhetoric about modernization to “render ‘natural’ and incontestable that which is not necessarily so.”
What’s going on here was described by Alasdair MacIntyre in After Virtue. Our managerialist rulers claim to possess scientific knowledge of society - of a sort which renders policies “necessary.” But such knowledge does not exist. It’s just a fig leaf with which to hide a lust for power:
What purport to be objectively-grounded claims function in fact as expressions of arbitrary, but disguised, will and preference.The language of necessity is a means of legitimation - an attempt to justify what is in fact questionable. It’s also a means whereby rulers can set themselves above others. I mean, if Osborne were merely to try to show that he’d made the right choice, he’d have to debate with his opponents on equal terms. But by claiming is actions are “unavoidable” he is claiming an especial insight into fine-grained laws of movement of economics that mere mortals don’t have (because such laws don’t exist).
But this raises the question: why do our rulers - not just the current coalition but their predecessors too - want any further legitimacy beyond that given to them by winning a plurality of the vote? Could it be that they instinctively feel that the mandate given by actually-existing democracy is insufficient?