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We don’t have to go back too far in our history to see how differently things can play out. Immediately after the second world war, Britain’s economy was on its knees. Debt had risen to 270% of GDP (three times what it is today). Industries were devastated. Hundreds of thousands of British soldiers had been killed or wounded. International trade was in crisis.

The economic vision that won out has largely been attributed to the genius of John Maynard Keynes, who argued that straitened economic times call not for fiscal conservatism but a generous and ambitious package of public spending. Britain’s postwar economy needed investment to get it back on its feet. That had to be coupled – as William Beveridge argued and championed – with a social safety net that ensured everyone could lead a decent life. The spirit of collectivism that saw Britain through the war had its legacy in the political and economic agenda that followed it.


Kate Pickett is professor of epidemiology at the University of York


28 thoughts on “Christ”

  1. So, an epidemiologist joined 70 economists and human rights experts urging Labour to change course.


  2. So the lady wants to support the ‘lets Zimbabwyfy much, much more’ agenda.

    I’ll agree there’s an epidemic of it around.

  3. Allthegoodnamesaretaken

    Most academics are out of touch with the real world and have little useful to say about it.

    (This view, of course, is not conventional among academics, most of whom fancy themselves as possessing deep insight into, and special knowledge of, the workings of the economy and society. In addition to these absurd fancies, most academics also believe – even more absurdly – that they are of nobler and purer character than are the icky likes of entrepreneurs, investors, and other profit-seeking business people – people who are actually willing and able to be productive in ways judged as such by real-world consumers; ways that not one academic in 500 could possibly pull off. Academics, in general, – and like politicians – ought not be taken seriously. A shockingly large number of them are ignorant and officious fools.)

  4. Given how effective epidemiologists were during Covid, I am surprised she is prepared to be identified as one.
    No doubt she will apply equal competence to the new variant strain BS 24/7

  5. Tim – Given how effective epidemiologists were during Covid

    They’re definitely full of shit.

    I’ve had Covid five times now, and my skin is still lovely.

  6. You can tell she’s an ignorant bugger: she speaks sub-American: “won out ” indeed!

    Anyway, the economic vision that Attlee imposed was more Marx’s than Maynard’s.

  7. The economies of Germany and Japan recovered after WW2 what did their governments do and how did it work out for them? I know that in Japan there was a big demand for cheap personal transport and that dozens of little companies sprung up making little motorbikes, that seemed to go quite well.

  8. Theophrastus (2066)

    What did you expect from a Corbynista and the co-author of The Spirit Level (2009), Tim? Factual accuracy?

  9. “Finally on Labour’s factual errors about 1945-51, the Attlee governments did not run a surplus during six years in power. The government balanced the overall budget in 1948 and ran a slight surplus in 1949 (borrowing was negative). However, at the end of 1951 the public debt was nineteen percent greater than at the end of 1945 in current prices. The debt to GDP ratio declined from 216 percent to 175 percent, a decline that resulted from economic growth, not budget cuts.”

  10. “Anyway, the economic vision that Attlee imposed was more Marx’s than Maynard’s.”

    Or Beveridge’s, for that matter.

  11. Some of my best friends

    When the UK runs a budget surplus, which is not very often, it’s almost always under a Labour government.

  12. Some of my best friends

    Is this because they’ve raised taxes so much that the money hasn’t been spent yet??

    Check out the colossal tax rises in Queensland.

  13. More pertinently, Attlee benefited from a five-fold decrease in military spending, due to a little thing called World War Two no longer going on. What are we spending 50% of GDP on that’s going to end in the next few months?

  14. “When the UK runs a budget surplus, which is not very often, it’s almost always under a Labour government.”

    Except for the Tory and Whig governments in 1815-1914, approx.

  15. “When the UK runs a budget surplus, which is not very often, it’s almost always under a Labour government.”

    Well, in the sense that it’s almost always before 1975, yes. Between 1948 and then, every government ran a surplus. Since then, the only ones we’ve seen were under Thatcher & Major in the late ’80s/early ’90s, and Major & Blair in the late ’90s/early 2000s (when Gordon Brown committed to sticking the previous government’s spending plans).

    Seems to me it’s very much a cross-party (one might almost say “Uniparty”) thing, owing more to the established consensus of the age than any party-political policy.

  16. Bloke in North Dorset

    I was travelling a lot so I must have missed all the epidemiologists and other assorted lefty academics demanding that the Government invoke Keynes and pay down the national debt between 1997 and 2007 when the economy was growing at around 3% per year.

  17. The economies of Germany and Japan recovered after WW2 what did their governments do how did it work out for them?

    In the case of West Germany they adopted (as soon as possible, after the harsh punishment period) Laissez-faireish free markets with a small social welfare component. They bounced and thrived, no doubt assisted by the Marshall Plan and other cold war support. It’s possible that the wartime flattening of industry (and occupation dismantling of what was left) enabled them to start from scratch with high productivity efficiencies not available to those stuck with legacy arrangements.

    Basically, capitalism rather than socialism.

    They’ve since chosen other solutions . . .

  18. PJF

    But Germany also benefitted from UK and USA writing off their febts and forcing a cutrency reform in 1953, when it looked like ( Stalins death notwithstanding ) that the DDR split was permanent.

  19. @ BiND
    Economic growth between 1997 and 2010 was overstated by approx 1% pa due to change in the formula introduced in Autumn 1997, just after Gordon Brown was appointed Chancellor that led to RPI and CPI inflation rates being understated by c.1% pa – it was only corrected in Autumn 2010 after Gordon Brown ceased to be Prime Minister [source: “Significance” the Journal of the Royal Statistical Society, whose focus was on the technicalities of the error, rather than the politics]

  20. Some of my best friends

    Between 1948 and then, every government ran a surplus.

    If you ignore interest payments.

    The six largest actual surpluses in the last century have been under Attlee (three), Blair (two) and Wilson. Thatcher in 1988 comes seventh.

  21. Bloke in North Dorset

    Germany also benefitted from having their defence spending outsourced to the US (and the UK).

    It still does.

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