There's more wisdom in Simon Wren-Lewis's casual comments than there is in many people's considered thoughts. Discussing the "absurd" idea that the recovery validates fiscal austerity, he says: "Next time you get a cold, celebrate, because you will feel good when it is over!"
Such celebration is a common psychological phenomenon. When I used to get attacks of gout, I would feel euphoric as they faded away because mere discomfort felt wonderful after extreme pain.
However, this euphoria can distort our judgments. Daniel Kahneman has pointed out (pdf) that our memory of painful experiences follows what he calls a "peak-end rule"; we judge them not by the moment-by-moment experience of pain, but by a comparison of the worst pain with the end-point. If we experience severe pain followed by discomfort - as in an attack of gout - our memory of the episode is not as unpleasant as it would be if we experienced ever-increasing levels of pain and then a sudden stop.
This pattern fits in with George Osborne's rising approval ratings. Living standards are still squeezed, but less so than a few months ago. Pain has thus given way to discomfort, which means the peak-end rule makes austerity feel good.
Although this rule describes our retrospective assessment of pain, it is irrational in two ways.
First, one corollary of the rule is duration neglect; our memories of painful episodes aren't well correlated with the length of such episodes.
Secondly, the rule implies that adding discomfort to the end of a period of pain can actually improve our memory of that period - even though the discomfort is unnecessary. As Kahneman wrote: "adding a period of diminishing discomfort to an aversive episode makes it globally less aversive." This means that, in retrospect, we look favourably upon gratuitous discomfort.
Public approval of Osborne isn't based merely upon bad economics, therefore. It's founded in psychological mechanisms which distort judgments. "Bourgeois" social science corroborates the Marxian claim that political beliefs can be subject to false consciousness.
One other thing. Kahneman's theory is based upon a study (pdf) of colonoscopy patients. In this sense, George Osborne is very much like a pain in the arse.