There's a new scarlet letter in town. Actually, it's the same letter -- "A" -- but it stands for a different word that's increasingly regarded as shameful: Austerity. The darling idea of 2010 and 2011 has become the pariah concept of 2012. One of the defining features of conventional wisdom is the way it perpetuates itself. Once a certain narrative or idea takes hold in the political and media establishments, it becomes almost impossible to shake. So when the conventional wisdom does change, it's worth noting.
And the evidence of profound change is all around. In May, anti-austerity sentiment helped François Hollande topple French president Nicolas Sarkozy, one of the architects of the austerity measures that have caused waves of protest across Europe, especially in Greece.
One day after the French election, according to the AP, "the conversation in Europe was already different Monday: Austerity had become a dirty word." And incoming President Hollande proclaimed that "austerity can no longer be inevitable."
More evidence of the change in conventional wisdom was seen in the language the AP chose to report the reasons for the outcome in France: "Austerity was intended to address these jitters by reducing their government's borrowing needs, but there has been a negative side effect: As economic output shrinks, the debt burden actually looks worse."
The same week as the French election, a number of local Italian politicians running against the austerity policies of Prime Minister Mario Monti were also victorious. But the even bigger news was in Greece, where the two main parties, the center-left PASOK and the center-right New Democracy, were dealt big defeats at the hands of anti-austerity forces pushing back against the EU austerity deal signed by Greek leaders in February.