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Sunday, 9 October 2011

Now the Hard Slog

Winter is coming, and after two severe early winters the government has built up impressive stocks of salt and grit, fleets of equipment for road and runway clearance, the heating of railway points and other precautions: so Sod's Law indicates that there is to be a mild end to 2011 - climatically.

Economically the portents are negative.

The weekend newspapers have dissected and digested the statement by the Governor of the Bank of England that the economic situation of the United Kingdom is potentially worse than that which the country faced in the nineteen thirties, and probably the worst ever. The few commentators who have a partial understanding of the broad sweep of Economic History had already referred to the 'Great Depression' that began around 1873 in earlier articles; but some have decided that those references deserve another airing because that depression led to a more fundamental climacteric for the economic system than was visible in the restructuring that occurred after the middle of the nineteen-thirties.

An even broader perspective compares the present situation unfavourably with some selection from the alarming situations that the economy faced in the readjustment that was necessary after after the Napoleonic Wars, the Civil War, the Black Death, the depredations of William the Conqueror, the Viking incursions or the collapse of the Roman occupation. The important thing to note is that no such speculation is hyperbolic: the country is indeed standing now, as it did then, in a position that has been described infelicitously as an 'historial discontinuity'. I hope in coming weeks to see to what extent these decisive economic [and political] eventualities might offer some guidance for current policy makers in business and in government.

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