Krugman surveys a vast sweep of European austerity measures so anxiously coveted by our homegrown deficit scolds, and he concludes:
We learn that the doctrine that has dominated elite economic discourse for the past three years is wrong on all fronts. Not only have we been ruled by fear of nonexistent threats, we’ve been promised rewards that haven’t arrived and never will. It’s time to put the deficit obsession aside and get back to dealing with the real problem--namely, unacceptably high unemployment.
Yet Krugman knows you can't trump ideology with reason. Nothing fazes the politically pious mind, which knows--it just knows--that an utter fidelity to theoretical purity will lead to the mountaintop. Indeed, irrefutable evidence that the many steps leading to the mountaintop would only inflict greater suffering and accelerated ruin is merely a kind of ideological validation that the best medicine always tastes the worst.
Yet there's a practical side to American austerity advocates, and it is elegantly straightforward: They've simply no other argument to make. Were they to bow to reason and those Keynesian mountains of empirical evidence which reduce austerity policies in times of recession to the blithering incoherence they are, austerity advocates would lose their partisan raison d'etre. And they'd rather look like Hayekian fools than sound like Keynesian Democrats--and besides, as luck would have it, their base positively adores foolishness.