Francesco Zaratti writes in Pagina Siete:
Austere comes from a Latin and Greek root original literally means “rough, bitter to taste” and figuratively “mortified, penitent, remote and quiet,” according to a learned Alex Grijelmo column (El País, 01/03/2013).
As I taught my children, to be austere is very different from being greedy or stingy, because the miser is a slave to his property; while the austere uses [his property] with sobriety and freedom.
Austerity is a voluntary act, the result of a healthy valuation of material goods. Indeed, it is no joke to propose a release from what you don’t have: I am not austere if I give up a private jet I can not afford, but can only be austere buying a car, if I could buy two.
Furthermore, – as observed by Grijelmo – in modern societies the word austerity has suffered an involution, and instead of an election has become an obligation. For example, governments, especially in times of crisis, often coercively impose austerity measures on its citizens, even sacrificing what is necessary.
Not to go further, one of the first steps (actually “symbols”) of the Government of MAS was flying the flag of the austerity State: A salary cap was imposed and wages that did not meet that standard were drastically lowered, violating tens of social laws.
I remember a teacher meeting at UMSA, in which some female colleagues, enthusiasts of the “process of change”, advocatory defended the arguments of the virtues of austerity and ethical obligation to go along the behavior of the new government. Many of us even thought it seemed fair and rewarding to have those [salary] cuts, and they would go to new items of health and education.
Those were hard times: the gas exported had not yet reached the volumes and higher prices in the coming years and the IDH [tax on hydrocarbon exports], approved in the previous term, was just beginning to be applied. It is easier to accept austerity when you don’t have it!
As we know, such behavior-like most symbols, endorsed by the MAS was soon replaced by more pragmatic attitudes.
The executive airplanes for the cabinet, wage exceptions in public companies, no-bid purchases and turnkey gifts to unions and cooperatives related to MAS, the self-gratifying wasted advertising, disguised secret expenses and many millionaires projects that have failed, buried government austerity, although still requires to the legal small private company, as it was well highlighted in a recent article by Hugo Siles E. about the Decree 2002 of salary increase (Pagina Siete, 06/17/2014).
The truth is that since 2006, austerity has also changed. With a new-rich attitude, when he could be austere by his own will, the Government has chosen to pursue a wasteful race, which the G77 Summit is just a sample. How hard is it to be austere when you have! And, indeed, be again when the circumstances will force you!
Decidedly, there is no austerity in Bolivia for tickets, travel and gold jewelry to bloodthirsty tyrants (which incidentally have the nerve to talk about democracy), there is no austerity to promote internationally bland refried statements, no austerity to harm nature and spend without control in what is not necessary. But there is austerity, even greed, for health, education and science, that is, for what’s claimed of the so overused slogan of “live well”.
As a para-columnist fan would say: “Austerity my balls!” His, of course.
Francesco Zaratti is a physicist.
In Bolivia there is no austerity for tickets, travel and gold jewelry for bloodthirsty tyrants; there is austerity, even greed, for health and education.