Reply to post: Too Many Easy Answers

Bring back big gov, right? If only the economics, STUPID, could tell us more

Richard Jones 1

Too Many Easy Answers

I suspect that the problems of flattening growth are more complex than too many 'planners' like to think. After the privations of the 1920s, '30s and 40s there was both a desire to improve and a pool of people willing to try to make it happen. However even as that hope was being driven the seeds of destruction were being watered and nurtured. Most industry was old, tired and frankly well behind the times. During the 1960s it was nothing to see factories still lovingly working with machines that were built before the turn of the century, items that proudly bore their build dates of 189X or perhaps there was a modern one showing 190X. Anything new was greeted with suspicion. Again we were a world master at things that the world was already losing interest in doing. We developed some of the most sophisticate steam railway engines, not always the most reliable but the most complex all the same. By the time people started to read the writing on the wall for much if industry the wafer thin margins generated were not enough to allow for investment. For a while I worked with a chap whose PhD studied factors affecting large companies in commoditizing markets. As the scale of production increased, margins shrank rapidly, but the cash rolled in. However, the slightest decrease in the market would kill anyone who was not the leanest, most efficient and highest volume producer. Anyone on the second or third rung would fail rapidly.

Sure we decided that the best idea was to largely abandon making things, after all we no longer had the pool of hard workers prepared to put up with almost anything in order to get something made. (Neither should we have tolerated their appalling conditions but we should have captured their work ethic.] So we went in favour of manipulating things since that was an easy low cost of entry service business, clean hands and nice warm offices, Play your cards right you could gamble with other people's money and make a fortune and one or two recent governments thought it was wonderful. Barrings and the UK economy might like to discus how well it really worked.

So we did cling to some outmoded ways of working and a right roll call of dishonour can be read out over that! Rather than capture the ethos of those who had laboured in all weathers to rivet ships for a world that wanted cleaner, faster welded ships we cast aside the development of skills, wasting what little money we had on trying to stem the tide, not spending it on real investment and retraining.

At last with most of the old smoke stack industry gone along with the sense of grievance at its passing and some sense of entrepreneurial spirit rising from the ash lands the economy is starting to threaten a recovery. The heady times of rapid growth are past, but we need to avoid the doom sellers and other near-do-wells killing off the hope of a real economic future. It does not belong to one location or country it belongs to those with drive and interest to make it happen.

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