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The tax increases and spending cuts that began in earnest in April will remove two percentage points of GDP in spending power—roughly equivalent to the total growth of GDP in 2010—from the economy in each of the next four years. This will be the biggest fiscal consolidation attempted in postwar Britain. The cumulative saving will be, according to the IMF, the most extreme belt-tightening attempted by any OECD country apart from Iceland and Ireland. Will the coalition succeed in this unprecedented experiment?

Economics and politics suggest very different answers. On economics, the debate has been about whether the reforms will…

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