Saturday, 2 February 2013

Damian Thompson on the Great Depression (and gypsies too)


Damian Thompson excels himself today, blogging about the Great Depression and gypsies - he is brilliant. I wonder when we shall read the real history of the depression in the USA. I suspect it will show Hoover in a better light than Roosevelt. I must study Hoover. 

Chamberlain, who had earlier laid the foundations for the National Health Service, followed a policy in the 1930s that led to a steady rise in living standards.

This is a rare case where studying history does, for once, teach lessons for the present. Or rather, which is very common, false lessons from the past are used at the present to mislead us. Harold Macmillan, Chamberlain's successor as Conservative Prime Minister once received a memorandum from his ChancellorDerick Heathcoat Amory, urging restricting spending to rein in inflation. Macmillan wrote on it:
'This is a very bad paper. Indeed, a disgraceful paper. It might have been written by Mr Neville Chamberlain's ghost.'
I remember Harold Macmillan arguing very eloquently in the House of Lords and on television that inflation when he left office was only 2% and this is true, but he began the policy of expanding the economy that others continued. After he left office there followed two decades of high inflation, admittedly all over the democratic world. The memory of the Great Depression led to inflation, high public spending and powerful trade unions throughout Western Europe. 

The memory of the Second World War led to NATO, the Cold War, the European Union, Suez and to the two Iraq Wars. The memory of the racial policies of the Nazis led people to believe that colonialism and nationalism were malign. Lessons are learnt from history but so very often they are the wrong ones, though not quite always. NATO was a rare example of the right lesson being learnt, though the Cold War was probably an overreaction. The verdict of history on the EU will not be known for another fifty years. In general, though, as A.J.P Taylor said, people learn from the mistakes of the past how to make new mistakes. This is the human condition.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for sending us over to Damian. I agree here he excels himself,brilliant.He's a clever fella. I haven't been reading him lately,but have only been reading about him. at . I suppose one reason not going to his blog lately is that I get hung up reading comments and there are always thousands. Just for now ditto to P.V.E and to Damian.