By W. D. Rubinstein
This unique and arguable contribution to the topical debate on Britain's financial decline provides a critique of the thesis made ordinary lately by means of Martin J. Wiener, Anthony Sampson, Correlli Barnett and others.
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Extra resources for Capitalism, culture, and decline in Britain, 1750-1990
How is it that the standard of living of the average person is at least as high in Britain as in the United States or Germany? It is the sincere belief of the author that, in fact, the coincidence of the unprecedented rise in the British standard of living with the consistently disastrous figures of the normal indices of economic performance are so incongruous and anomalous that in themselves they constitute prima-facie evidence that the ordinary figures of economic performance simply do not measure what they are invariably taken to measure—the overall strength of the economy and the overall economic well-being of the population—and are, in fact, largely irrelevant to accurate analysis of a country’s economic state of health.
For instance the London Stock Exchange, was, historically, probably far better organised than its New York counterpart. C. Michie, in a careful and imaginative recent study of both exchanges in the period 1850–1914, has highlighted the clear superiority of London in this period; his study is, additionally, a welcome change from most comparisons of the British and American economies in this period, which virtually rubber-stamped the deeply ingrained underlying assumption that America’s economy must perforce have been superior.
All of this is powerful further evidence, in my view, of the superficiality of the ‘cultural critique’ and other views necessarily premised on the fact of Britain’s economic decline. Perhaps the most objectionable feature of the ‘cultural critique’—and, indeed, of many other lines of criticism of Britain’s economic performance during the past generation—is its obsession for manufacturing industry, its manufacturing fetishism. Tacitly, only manufacturing counts as a ‘legitimate’ business activity.
Capitalism, culture, and decline in Britain, 1750-1990 by W. D. Rubinstein