logo
  Join        Login             Stock Quote

Britain In The 1930S And Britain Today

 January 30, 2012 06:05 PM


We are live at Project Syndicate:

Neville Chamberlain is remembered today as the British prime minister who, as an avatar of appeasement of Nazi Germany in the late 1930's, helped to usher Europe into World War II. But, earlier in that fateful decade, relatively soon after the start of the Great Depression, the British economy was rapidly returning to its previous level of output, thanks to Chancellor of the Exchequer Neville Chamberlain's pursuit of stimulus to restore the price level to its pre-depression trajectory.

Compare that approach to the expansion-through-austerity policy being pursued nowadays by British Prime Minister David Cameron's government (with Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne leading the cheering squad). The country's real GDP has flat-lined, and the odds are high that British real GDP is headed down again.

[Related -Analyzing Performance Histories That Might Have Been]

Indeed, in less than a year, if current forecasts are correct, Britain's Cameron-Osborne Depression will not merely be the worst depression in Britain since the Great Depression, but probably the worst depression in Britain…ever.

That is quite an accomplishment. As Phillip Inman of The Guardian recently put it:

(T)he UK's plan for recovery from the financial crisis was based on a full-throttle recovery in 2012....(C)onsumer confidence, business investment, and general spending would converge to send the economy on a trajectory of above-average growth.

[Related -Big Prints in VIX Calls]

It did not work: government ministers:

have done what the right-wing economists told them to do and moved out of the way – the theory being that public-sector spending and investment was ‘crowding out' the private sector.

Instead, as Inman says, "Spain is showing the way with its austerity-driven recession. Where the weak tread, we (in Britain) look keen to follow..."

The failure of expansionary austerity in Britain should give all of its advocates around the world reason to reflect on and rethink their policy calculations. Britain is a highly open economy with a flexible exchange rate and some room for further monetary easing. There is no risk or default premium baked into British interest rates to indicate that fear of political-economic chaos down the road is discouraging investment.

There is an argument – not necessarily true, but an argument nonetheless – that, while in office from 1997 to May 2010, the Labour governments of Tony Blair and Gordon Brown overshot long-term sustainable government spending as a share of GDP. Their actions stand in contrast to countries that reduced their debt-to-GDP levels in the 2000's, and to the United States, where the problem was not excessive spending but insufficient taxation under the Bush administration.

Yet, if one takes this view seriously, Britain, with a ten-year nominal interest rate of less than 2.1% per year, should already be in a boom. If there was ever a place where expansionary austerity should work well – where private investment and exports should stand up as government purchases stood down, confirming its advocates' view of the world – it is Britain today.

But Britain today is not that place. And if expansionary austerity is not working in Britain, how well can it possibly work in countries that are less open, that can't use the exchange-rate channel to boost exports, and that lack the long-term confidence that investors and businesses have in Britain?

Nick Clegg, Britain's deputy prime minister and the leader of Cameron's coalition partner, the Liberal Democrats, should end this farce today. He ought to tell Queen Elizabeth II that his party has no confidence in Her Majesty's government, and humbly suggest that she ask Labour Party leader Ed Miliband to form a new one.

To be sure, if Clegg did this, his political career would probably be finished, and his party's electoral prospects would be damaged for a long time to come. But Clegg's political career and his party's fortunes will be shaky for a long time to come in any case, given the economic hardship that Britain is enduring (and will continue to endure). At least defection from the ill-advised Conservative-Liberal coalition now would benefit his country.

Policymakers elsewhere in the world take note: starving yourself is not the road to health, and pushing unemployment higher is not a formula for market confidence.

iOnTheMarket Premium
Advertisement

Advertisement


Comments Closed


rss feed

Latest Stories

article imageAnalyzing Performance Histories That Might Have Been

The trend in recent years of securitizing more of the world’s market betas offers investors, in theory, read on...

article imageBig Prints in VIX Calls

The CBOE Vix Index is in positive territory on Friday morning as shares in the S&P 500 Index move slightly read on...

article image7 Profitable Tech Stocks with 50-DMA turning Bullish

Lately tech has been coming out of the doldrums. That's good news for tech investors and the market as a read on...

Advertisement
Popular Articles

Advertisement
Daily Sector Scan
Partner Center

Related Articles:

Running Of The Bears?
More Articles on: Europe



Fundamental data is provided by Zacks Investment Research, and Commentary, news and Press Releases provided by YellowBrix and Quotemedia.
All information provided "as is" for informational purposes only, not intended for trading purposes or advice. iStockAnalyst.com is not an investment adviser and does not provide, endorse or review any information or data contained herein.
The blog articles are opinions by respective blogger. By using this site you are agreeing to terms and conditions posted on respective bloggers' website.
The postings/comments on the site may or may not be from reliable sources. Neither iStockAnalyst nor any of its independent providers is liable for any informational errors, incompleteness, or delays, or for any actions taken in reliance on information contained herein. You are solely responsible for the investment decisions made by you and the consequences resulting therefrom. By accessing the iStockAnalyst.com site, you agree not to redistribute the information found therein.
The sector scan is based on 15-30 minutes delayed data. The Pattern scan is based on EOD data.