Perhaps [Osborne] does not have a coherent economic framework. Instead he has a clear political framework, which has so far been remarkably successful. The goal is to reduce the size of the state, and because (with his encouragement) mediamacro believes reducing the deficit is the number one priority, he is using deficit reduction as a means to that end.
I'm tempted to side with Rick here.
For one thing, whereas the arguments for austerity are plain daft - talk of the "nation's credit card" is sub-literate drivel - arguments for shrinking the state are at least reasonable. It's odd to use rotten arguments as a cover for better ones. Yes, Simon's right to say the media has bought into austerity. But what's chicken and what's egg? It could be that the media have, as Adam Smith said, "a disposition to admire, and almost to worship, the rich and the powerful" and would accept anything proposed by Osborne and his cronies.
Let's put this another way. What would I do if I were a Chancellor wanting to shrink the state when there was little popular demand to do so?
What I'd do is create the demand - shift the Overton window. I'd get junior MPs to campaign to reduce government functions. I'd encourage sympathetic journalists - of which Osborne has many - to write about excessive or wasteful spending. I'd commission management consultants and civil servants to show how to improve the efficiency of each government department. And I'd find some economists to show that a smaller state tends to promote growth.
In short, there'd be a cacophony of voices calling for a smaller state. Economists such as Vito Tanzi would be as fashionable as Thomas Piketty. "The Chancellor has done well so far, but must go further" would be the cry.
But this is not happening. Sure, the usual suspects are making the usual noises, but no more so than normal. The "shrink the state" amp hasn't been turned up to 11. The Britannia Unchained mob are quiet, and one Tory advocate of limited government has buggered off to Ukip. Yes, there's some (silly) welfare-bashing, but there isn't the ideological clamour for a smaller state.
In fact, in one respect there's the opposite. One aspect of Theresa May's plans for a surveillance state is that they create an atmosphere conducive to big government; if the government should be watching us watching internet porn, shouldn't it also do more useful stuff too?
I'm inclined, therefore, to the cock-up theory.
But I have my doubts. It might be instead that Osborne really does want to shrink the state, but his means of doing so are an example of a bi-partisan phenomenon - cargo cult management, or the assumption that "leadership" will achieve change without inquiring into the precise mechanisms. Maybe he believes the social and cultural change required by a reduction in the state can be achieved without a favourable ideological climate, or maybe he thinks that cuts will somehow create efficiency gains.
And herein lies my problem. Given the Tory party's history as the stupid party, and the atrociously low standard of modern politics, it's just so damned difficult to spot the difference between cock-ups and conspiracy.