“The past is another country…

…they do things differently there” said that dry observer of the human scene, L.P. Hartley at the start of “The Go Between.”  And his is right, they do indeed.

Here is Neville Chamberlain ( 1869-1940 ), as Chancellor of the Exchequer ( 1923-1924, and 1931- 1937 ), finding evidence for thechamberlian time success of his economic policy. It is all the more odd when one considers that he had previously been a highly regarded Minister of Health ( 1923, and 1924-1929)!

As an indication of the improvement in the ordinary household budget, the Committee may be interested to know from figures derived from the returns of the Customs and Excise, I calculate that last year the people of this country sweetened their lives with 80,000 tons of sugar more than in the previous year. They smoked 6,500,000 pounds more tobacco, equivalent, I am told, of 2,600,000 cigarettes. They spent £2,750,000 more on entertainments: they washed away their troubles with 270,000,000 more pints of beer. [ HON MEMBERS: “Hear, hear” ] and with 700,000,000 more cups of that beverage which cheers but not inebriates they “welcomed the peaceful evening in.”

                     Viscountess Astor: No cheers for that.

Mr. Chamberlain: I do not need to be reminded that our recovery is far from being complete and that we require constant effort to maintain what we have already achieved…

Hansard, April, 15th 1935

The deeper point here being that the luxuries of one generation become the necessities of the next, and, it would now seem, the sources of trouble in the one after that. And what drives this process? The brilliance of central planners. No  indeed, rather the ingenuity of human beings fostered by a free economy.


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