Lenny Bruce once said ‘The only thing that people learn from history is that no one ever learns from history’. It is a nice quip although characteristically exaggerated. But the politicians of the world seem determined to demonstrate its accuracy in relation to the current economic crisis – yes, it is a crisis. The Great Depression of the 1930s was created by exactly the same calls for austerity that are being made now in the United States, China and Europe. The world seems determined to follow past mistaken policies. Austerity urged by the looney right in the United States is inappropriate for a country which risks going into recession now but which has long-standing debt problems. There are also widespread calls for austerity in Europe where spendthrift European countries are having impossible financial and public spending strait-jackets imposed on them. Even the Chinese are acting to curb demand by refusing to expand their local spending by appreciating the RMB.
All this at a time when recovery in the global economy is faltering making a global recession more likely. Political leaders are adding to the economic crisis with a political crisis. We do not seem to learn much from history. (226)