Jun. 17th, 2012

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The annual Reith Lectures, named for the BBC's first Director General, are one of the triumphs of public broadcasting. Each year one of the best minds of a generation delivers a series of lectures on the topic of her/his major concern.

This year, for reasons best known to the Beeb, the chosen lecturer is rightwing economic "historian" Niall Ferguson, who, as rightists usually do, has chosen to use the platform not to educate but to promote his ideology.

His first lecture promotes the idea of austerity measures: we should all be keen on these, he claims, because suffering and poverty today mean better times for our grandkids. Sounds all handy-dandy, doesn't it?

His economic argument is actually pretty weak (especially to anyone who's been following Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman's recent deliberations on the subject), but let's for just one moment assume it held water.

Can we then assume Prof Ferguson will, for the benefit of generations to come, volunteer to have his job and his savings taken away from him, and to forfeit his home?

Because, if not, what he's advocating are austerity measures but only for other people.

Comments aren't allowed on the BBC website's page giving the transcript of this first lecture, and I suspect it's because approximately ten million people would have put exactly this point to him.

March 2013

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