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

Category: Economy, Really, really bad calls, Taxes and Policy

Please use the comments to demonstrate your own ignorance, unfamiliarity with empirical data and lack of respect for scientific knowledge. Be sure to create straw men and argue against things I have neither said nor implied. If you could repeat previously discredited memes or steer the conversation into irrelevant, off topic discussions, it would be appreciated. Lastly, kindly forgo all civility in your discourse . . . you are, after all, anonymous.

20 Responses to “Word Origins: “Austerians””

  1. mgnagy says:

    WTF? See also “austerity.”

    austerity |ôˈsteritē|
    noun ( pl. -ties)
    sternness or severity of manner or attitude : he was noted for his austerity and his authoritarianism.
    • extreme plainness and simplicity of style or appearance : the room was decorated with a restraint bordering on austerity.
    • ( austerities) conditions characterized by severity, sternness, or asceticism : his austerities had undermined his health | the simple life of prayer and personal austerity.
    • difficult economic conditions created by government measures to reduce a budget deficit, esp. by reducing public expenditure : a period of austerity | [as adj. ] austerity measures.
    ORIGIN late Middle English : from French austérité, from Latin austeritas, from austerus ‘severe’ (see austere ).

  2. Sircornflakes says:

    The word has caught on more than the school of thought has.

    It will never work long term because as long as there have been politicians, they have been buying votes.

    They always will.

  3. Super-Anon says:

    A sensible strategy would be to save during good times and spend during bad. Alas nobody cares about deficits during the good times — we only start thinking about them during times of crisis. So Austerians it is.

  4. Mannwich says:

    “Austerity” for everyone else now that the banking and wealthy cabal have been bailed out. We continue to be conned by our masters, who laugh all the way to the bank about our rank stupidity.

  5. call me ahab says:

    Austerians, Austrians, Australians, Austro-Hungarian-

    I don’t know about anyone else- but my head is spinning-

    the Austerian’s are the one’s that are good at the giant slalom- am I wrong?

  6. ACS says:

    I thought AUsterian was another word for gold bug.

  7. Too much time on your hands Barry? ;)

  8. I can’t believe you killed the smileys. This site has jumped the shark….again!

  9. Mannwich says:

    Real men don’t use emoticons, Common.

  10. Ahab,

    Don’t forget the Astairians. Boy can they dance!

  11. Funniest spam title I think I’ve ever read. I just got it in the mail:

    Become a Psychologist – its Easy

  12. scharfy says:

    I had an uncle, local alderman, tried to put a pay hike freeze on the teachers in his district. Two weeks later he gets a knock on his door, and next thing know he’s on a train to Aust-schiwtz. Run by some vicious Austerians.

    He spent 18 months there and eventually escaped by posing as a census-taker.

    Thanks for coming, folks – i’ll be here all week.

  13. ACS says:

    And AUsterity another word for the gold standard.

  14. franklin411 says:

    I can’t wait for the Battle of Austeriterlitz, when we can finally defeat the Prusso-Austerian conservative alliance and inaugurate a new century of freedom and prosperity!

  15. [...] etymology of the term “Austerians,” which we’d previously sourced to Mark [...]

  16. [...] and foremost, I owe Rob Parenteau a big apology. Parenteau is the originator and first user of the clever term “Austerian”, which I erroneously attributed to Mark Thoma. Thoma [...]

  17. [...] want to slash government spending and cut deficits during a time of economic weakness or recession (Rithholz). When these guys throw a party, the only thing on the menu is stale chips and warm [...]

  18. [...] light of the Austerian movement, some folks are now arguing that the bailouts were a form of Keynesianism run amuck. Even my pal [...]

  19. [...] The Big Picture Engaging in some etymological detective work, Barry Ritholtz traced the origin of the word Austerians to Rob Parenteau. Ritholtz explained: “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.” [...]

  20. [...] Word Origins: “Austerians” (June 28th, [...]