Economic policy aimed at reducing a government's deficit (or borrowing). Austerity can be achieved through increases in government revenues - primarily via tax rises - and/or a reduction in government spending or future spending commitments.It's probably a fair description of how the term is used by the mainstream media these days, but it's a far cry from what I think of by 'austerity'.
WordReference.com serves up a more traditional definition:
Concise Oxford English Dictionary © 2008 Oxford University Press:This is consistent with images of genuine austerity from times gone by.
austere /ɒˈstɪə, ɔː-/
▶adjective (austerer, austerest)
1 severe or strict in appearance or manner.
2 lacking comforts, luxuries, or adornment.
austerity noun (pl. austerities).
– origin ME: via OFr. from L. austerus, from Gk austēros ‘severe’.
It's deeply wrong that a word with these connotations is used to describe attempts by wealthy societies to live within their means.
As I wrote in May 2010, we don't have to go very far back in time to find much lower government spending:
Simply scaling back to the 'austerity' of 2002 would save hundreds of billions of pounds, and even accounting for increases in welfare costs, it would be enough to take us from deficit to surplus, allowing us to finally begin repaying the debt.Although I remain firmly committed to balancing the books, I no longer believe we should attempt to repay 'our' debt. We should instead repudiate it.