Comparative Advantage

Looking for Dennis Healy’s admiration for how Austria came to terms with its loss of Empire and found ‘Like Romans Becoming Italians’: Italy as the Negative Paradigm for British Decline in the Language of the Press and Denis Healey by Ettore Costa, published it seems in 2018. An interesting read, here are my notes.  i.e. this is a review of the paper, not an essay on the theory of comparative advantage.

There’s a complete section on British Decline, then Italianess, and then the role of geography in defining culture and culture in defining politics. There is a diversion into Italian Eurocommunisn and the decline of the PSLI and its lessons for the SDP.

From the section on British Decline there are too many powerful quotes to include,

Peter Jenkins in Mrs Thatcher’s Revolution (1987: 34–45) presented a historical narrative comparing the decline of Britain to the fall of the Roman and Spanish empire. Machiavelli and Gibbon had said that prosperity and boredom made Roman society resistant to change and deprived the Romans of frugality, discipline, freedom and manliness, instead embracing luxury, effeminacy, despotism and military weakness. Recurrent in Jenkins was the description of a society where the majority led a comfortable life, remaining obtuse about stagnancy and decadence. ‘The underlying weakness of the British economy, made worse by the international recession, is in striking contrast to the buoyant mood in the country. Britain is a good place to live for most of its inhabitants’

I was what one might call the working poor in the years preceding this, I found life economically hard, I was a civil servant and would have left well before I did if it wasn’t for increments and the IT training. (Let’s note that this is two years after the Miners Strike.)

Use this chart to check out relative GDP per capita in 1986, GDP per capita doesn’t take account of income distribution.  The UK is behind, most of the Northern European economies and just ahead of the European Communities average. Were we that comfortable?

On restructuring,

Evoking ‘the spectre of Italy’ served this purpose (Brittan 1974). Since the experience of the general populace in the postwar era had been one of growing prosperity, decline was to be presented as a menace to national identity, the adulteration of the British character, a degradation to the Mediterranean level. For example, a Times journalist noted that deindustrialisation hurt so much not because there were no jobs but because national manhood was associated with manufacturing, while service jobs were considered suitable for females and immigrants (Brian 1989).

More examples of the press reinforcing useless stereotypes to manufacture quiescence and before Thatcher’s reforms which gutted coal & steel and in retrospect car manufacture.

There’s a lot on geography, character and culture, I need to read some more to draw conclusions.

But the UK has been going down the toilet for a while, and being in the EU slowed it down. ( I didn’t find the Healy & Austria quote).

See also, World GDP per capita Ranking 2021 – StatisticsTimes.com, and is now 23rd in the world, some of those that exceed it, are offshore wealth sinks, and/or incredibly resource rich

 

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