Posted by: Dirk | June 22, 2009

It’s the economy – oh, dear!

Then, in order to stimulate private enterprise to do its job, we are taking power to compete with it. If there is something wrong with an industry, it ought not to be necessary for us to take the whole of it over. It might not even be necessary to take any of it over. It might be wise in particular circumstances for the community to start up in business itself, to show how it ought to be done. Of course, that must be surrounded by safeguards, because obviously it would be unfair competition if State enterprise in any particular field did accept the rules of the game. In other words, we are not going to pump public money indefinitely into a State enterprise in order to keep it alive.

This is from a speech by Aneurin Bevan from June 6 1949 at the Labour Party Annual Conference in Blackpool. The title of the speech is The Kind of Society Which We Envisage, published by Reclam in a collection of British political speeches (p. 25-6). They are quite interesting, I must say. Here is an excerpt from Harold Macmillan (a conservative prime minister) from July 20th 1957 at Bedford (p. 51), which also produced the famous most of our people never had it so good:

Our general economic prospects are good. The balance of payments prospects are favourable – we look like earning a really worthwile surplus this year. That is because our exports are holding up well in world markets.

[..] Monetary policy, restriction of credit, acceleration or retardiation in the investment programmes over which the Government has control – these are the measures which we have to identify or relax according to the state of the economics barometer.

Regardless whether these politicians were right or wrong, the language impresses me. These people seemed to have an actual plan how the economy works! And they want to tell their people about this plan. Probably they think that persuading people that their ideas work would hand them the vote and put them into Downing Street – and it worked! This is outright amazing.

Seriously, I was not aware that after WWII politicians talked like that. These days, I haven’t heard much from politicians about the economy aside from populist speeches. In Germany, president Horst Köhler (he has no political power and he was at the IMF before) talked clearly in this year’s Berliner Rede (German) entitled “The credibility of freedom”. Which reminds me of a quote which appears in the 1993 Star Wars: Rebel Assault computer game: The price of freedom is eternal vigilance.

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