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.
ATTLEE RAN BUDGET SURPLUSES YOU IGNORANT, IGNORANT, COW!
Kate Pickett is professor of epidemiology at the University of York