Monday, 10 March 2014

Should Auld Acquaintance

On 7 March, John Van Reenen had an interesting article about the industrial legacy of Mrs. Margaret Thatcher in relation to issues about "balancing the economy".  This was in the LSE web site dealing with British Politics And Policy.

Whether an economy can ever be "balanced" in the sense that there is continuing change, sometimes large in scope at others incremental at least is a question.

Similarly, if there are large scale political interventions for reasons claimed to be economic but with causes and effects that have little to do with economics then "balance" is unlikely if not impossible.

From my point of view looking at the rapidity and scale of new developments across most of human activity to be discussing modern economics and the futures in terms of Mrs. Thatcher is quaint, if not irrelevant.

It is rather as if during the 1959 Election the consuming arguments had been about Lloyd George, Asquith and Sir Edward Grey.  They were not.  They were about the here and now.

The trouble is that because after 1979 the Lady had personal impact and won some things, we assume that she was in some sort of "total" control.  She never was. 

In The Falklands she was in the hands of the Paratroopers, Marines and Gurkhas.  In the money markets she was in the hands of the money men.  Elsewhere in the economy it was the same.  She did not defeat the miners, their leaders lost it out of stupidity and greed.

As for the balance of the economy and the rise of finance to be such a large part of our national economy that happened because manufacturing had been suffering already for too long.  My comment on the article was as below:


When MT became PM in ’79 the die was already cast. What she was doing was presiding over the funeral of the UK as a major manufacturing power.

I was working in the 50′s onwards. WW2 had wreaked a lot of damage across the board. But the later state aid went to limited fields of activity.

Centralised planning, political capital controls and other policies notably tax, hammered what might have been the UK “Mittelstand”.

In particular this hit badly many sectors with middle sized and small firms at their centre. It hit new firms and a range of developing activities a great deal harder.

From 1945 they were increasingly on the defensive in a hostile political and media atmosphere. “Small firm” bosses etc. were typically portrayed as comic turns.

By the mid 1970′s very many which had had potential and might have been at the centre in some fields of growth had gone never to be replaced.

Blaming MT is a little like blaming the undertaker for the death of the patient.


We have now a set of "leaders" who are locked into the past, cannot admit that in reality they have little or no control and only fiddling and meddling with the parts of government they have retained.

1 comment:

  1. I don't think they even want control or responsibility. They want a route to their next career move.