The issue of economic austerity has been more debated today than at any time since the 1930s. Austerity policies have had longstanding support from economists, beginning with the writings of Hume, Smith, and Ricardo in the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, providing both microeconomic and macroeconomic justification for minimal state intervention and public debt creation. Given this long tradition, we might ask why the debate around austerity has not been satisfactorily resolved. I argue below that the fact that the debate is ongoing does not reflect a lack of theoretical effort. Debates over economic austerity go beyond the standard guideposts of scientific disagreement and reach down to conceptions of economic life, economic morality, and economic well-being. Social science cannot resolve disagreement at this level.