Word Origins: “Austerians”

Sometime over the past two weeks, the word “Austerians” burst onto the blogosphere.

A play on the fiscal reserve of the “Austrian” school of economic thought (Friedrich Hayek or Ludwig von Mises) the phrase Austerians referred to the desire to slash government spending and cut deficits during a time of economic weakness or recession.

Economix credited the term to Mark Thoma (who blogs at Economist’s View). His first mention appears to have been on Thursday, June 17, 2010 at 04:23 AM in “Paradox of Thrift” versus “Confidence in the Markets”.  I mentioned Thoma and the word coinage in Martin Wolf’s FT discussion “When Should Fiscal Tightening Begin?“.

That started an email deluge as to the origin of the word. Several readers told me it was much older than June 17, 2010. So I pinged Professor Thoma, and he said he had no idea about the origin —  he was just trying to make a somewhat dry discussion of budget balancing during difficult economic times more entertaining — not create a new phrase.

Mark noted that someone in his comment stream  claimed to have heard this used earlier at Naked Capitalism. So I pinged Yves Smith, and she directed me to Rob Parenteau, of The Richebacher Letter.

Rob wrote back that he had been using the phrase for quite some time. He directed me to a BNN TV interview where he used the phrase (about 3 minutes in) on the afternoon of June 10, 2010 to refer to the region previously known as the Eurozone as Austeria.

Rob also wrote:  “I next used it and the phrase “Austerian Economics” in the third and second to last paragraphs of the June 11, 2010 Richebacher Weekly letter published by Agora Financial for subscribers. And yes, it was a yank on the Austrian School bias toward deflation uber alles.”

I don’t know Rob, or get the Richebacher Letter — but Yves does, and she confirms he has been using the phrase since April.

There you have it — etymological mystery solved.


SqueezePlay : June 10, 2010 : G20 Votes for Great Depression
BNN.CA June 10, 2010

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