Changing Times: Economics, Policies, and Resource Allocation in Britain since 1951

ISBN : 9780199552788

Martin Chick
464 Pages
153 x 153 mm
Pub date
Dec 2019
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This is a study of how, and why, the British economy has changed since 1951. It covers the Golden Age of 1945-1973 when unemployment was below one million; when governments built millions of council houses and flats; when electricity, telephones, and gas were supplied by nationalised monopolies; when income and wealth inequality were narrowing; and when the UK was not a member of the European Economic Community. Moving through the inflation, rising unemployment, and rapid contraction of the manufacturing industry from the mid- 1970s, Changing Times examines the transfer of assets which was effected in the privatisation of public housing and nationalised industries from the early 1980s. The role of the State changed as public investment fell. The financing of old-age care, of state pensions, and of the National Health Service became of increasing concern and were less politically amenable to the approach of using private finance (the Private Finance Initiative and tuition fees) to fund former public obligations. Changes were made to the system of taxation, but public expenditure changed little as a share of national income, although the government now built little. Difficulties emerged in ensuring adequate housing for a growing population, and uncertainty grew as to where future investment in necessities like electricity supply would come from. Having narrowed in the Golden Age, inequality of income and wealth widened. Environmental concerns also grew, from the local smogs of the 1950s, through the concern with acid rain from the 1960s, to the current global concern with climate change. The financial crash of 2008 and the decision to 'Brexit' in the referendum of 2016 reduced economic growth and highlighted the extent of economic change since 1951. This is a study of that change.


1 Introduction
2 Time, Capital Investment, and the State
3 Time, Labour Markets, and Industrial Policy
4 Poverty and Inequality
5 Health and Education
6 Transferring Assets: Public Housing and Nationalised Industries
7 Environment, Time, and Space
8 Trading Spaces
9 Banking, Crises, and Conclusions
Statistical Appendix

About the author: 

Martin Chick is Professor of Economic History at the University of Edinburgh. His previous books include a study of the economic planning of the Attlee governments, 1945-1951, and an analysis of the development of energy policies in the UK, France, and the United States since 1945. His latest project concerns the economic use of the sea and the sea bed, and examines such issues as whaling, fisheries, the law of the sea, and the dumping of hazardous waste at sea.

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