The Debt DelusionLiving Within Our Means and Other Fallacies
The Debt Delusion
Living Within Our Means and Other Fallacies

‘Governments should spend no more than their tax income.’ Most people in Europe and North America accept this statement as simple common sense. It resonates with the deeply engrained economic metaphors that dominate public discourse, from ‘living within your means’ to ‘balancing the budget’ – all necessary, or so conventional wisdom holds, to avoid the dangers of debt, taxation and financial ruin.

This book shows how these homely metaphors constitute the ‘debt delusion’: a set of plausible-sounding yet false ideas that have been used to justify damaging austerity policies. John Weeks debunks these myths, explaining the true story behind public spending, taxation, and debt, and their real function in the management of our economies. He demonstrates that disputes about public finances are not primarily technical matters best left to specialists and experts, as many politicians would have us believe, but rather fundamentally questions about our true political priorities.

Requiring no prior economic knowledge, this is an ideal primer for anyone wishing to cut through the rhetoric and misinformation that dominate political debates on economics and become an informed citizen.

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  • January 2020
  • 216 pages
  • 140 x 216 mm / 6 x 9 in
Available Formats
  • Hardback $69.95
  • 9781509532933
  • Paperback $19.95
  • 9781509532940
  • Open eBook $9.99
  • 9781509532964
Table of Contents
Introduction: Debt, Deficits and Austerity

Chapter 1:  We must live within our means

Chapter 2:  Governments must balance their books

Chapter 3: We must tighten our belts

Chapter 4:  Don’t go into debt

Chapter 5: Taxes are a burden

Chapter 6:  Austerity: There is no alternative

Chapter 7: Always an alternative
About the Author
John Weeks is Coordinator of the London-based Progressive Economy Forum and Emeritus Professor of Development Studies at SOAS, University of London.
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"This book provides a much needed expose of austerity policies"
John McDonnell MP

“The Debt Delusion is a reminder that public policy matters are key to a thriving economy. At a time when politicians are promising big public spending projects, we would be wise to read it.”
Daniel Fisher, Financial Times Adviser

“Analytically brilliant; crystal clear writing; forensic in its investigation; entertaining and erudite. If you want to know what the alternative to austerity is, there is no better guide.”
Danny Dorling, University of Oxford

“John Weeks is one of the most incisive critics  of austerity policy. In this book, he shows, in clear, non-technical language, how the mythology of ‘balancing the books’ has subverted public understanding of the social and economic purpose of state budgets, allowing governments to inflict serious,unnecessary, and possibly lasting damage on ordinary citizens.”
Lord Robert Skidelsky, Warwick University and the British Academy

""John Weeks is a distinguished and worldly economist who, long before it became fashionable, rigorously and to devastating effect contested the intellectual foundations of neoliberal economics . His generosity in sharing his deep knowledge of economic theory, policies and systems has inspired and motivated many thousands of students, policy makers and activists. His work in discrediting the the policies of austerity laid the foundations on which Labour's Corbyn movement was built and popularised.""
Ann Pettifor, Director, Prime Economics

""Austerity is one of the greatest deceptions foisted on the British public in modern history. It was based on ideological economics designed to accelerate the dismantling of the social state and the privatisation of the commons. John Weeks has been a consistent principled critic since the austerity era was launched. His scorn should be welcomed.""
Guy Standing, SOAS University of London

“John Weeks has been one of the most powerful critics of mainstream Neoclassical economics and of neo-liberal economic policies in the last few decades. His analyses are razor-sharp and his criticisms unsparing, but he uses them to propose ways to build a solidaristic economy and a compassionate society.”
Ha-Joon Chang, University of Cambridge

“John Weeks has been a vigorous campaigner against the fallacies of neo-liberal economics. He is a model to us all in his energy and resilience in making the case for a more progressive economics and promoting an alternative approach to economic policy making that is sorely needed. He draws on his long and valuable experience in teaching, research and advising governments around the world. It is a tribute to his influence and his clarity of exposition that his students are now taking his ideas forward both at home and abroad.”
Susan Himmelweit, Open University

"[This] is an excellent book for open-minded people who want to know how public finance actually works."
an excellent book for open-minded people who want to know how public finance actually works
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