Now along comes Theodore Dalyrmple, my favorite conservative commentator, warning of the misuse of the "loaded word" austerity. In so doing he uses an excellent household analogy:
Suppose that, for a number of years, my spending had been larger than my income, so that I had accumulated a large debt. Suppose also that I had nothing to show for my excess expenditure, which has all gone to increase my level of current consumption. Interest payments on my debt now exceed my outlays on such items as food, clothing, and shelter. The bank to whom I owe the money tells me that things cannot continue like this.
I agree that things cannot go on in the same way, and, as a token of my seriousness, I promise that henceforth, I shall not drink my nightly bottle of Meursault but only half a bottle of Chablis. This will reduce my excess expenditure from, say, 6 percent of my annual income to 4 percent. I call this sacrifice of Meursault for Chablis “austerity.” Would anyone take me seriously?