Government and Economies in the Postwar World: Economic Policies and Comparative Performance, 1945-85

By Andrew Graham; Anthony Seldon | Go to book overview

Chapter one

Introduction

Andrew Graham

There are literally hundreds of books on the principles of economics, rather fewer on particular economies and very few on comparative economic performance. There is one good reason and one bad reason for this relative paucity of comparative material.

The good reason is that it is difficult to establish firm results. This is partly because there are no agreed criteria by which performance should be judged and partly because there is no way of establishing the counterfactual-what would have happened otherwise. Is the performance of Eastern Europe, for example, to be compared with what its performance might have been under capitalism (whatever precisely that may mean) or under 'economic reforms', or under more decentralized planning? The mere posing of these questions illustrates that the particular counterfactual chosen is at one and the same time both important and highly arbitrary. Also, even when chosen, it is incredibly difficult to describe-we simply do not have this degree of knowledge of the social world. Economists have models and carry out simulations, but, at best, these are no more than crutches to our thoughts; and, at worst, such simulations contain so many unrealistic assumptions that they hide more than they reveal. An alternative to the counterfactual is to make a comparison either with early periods of history or with other countries for the same period. This approach, which is used extensively in this book, has the advantage of being more straightforward-we know what we are doing-but, inevitably, many factors change at once and, for all its apparent simplicity, this method is ultimately just as arbitrary.

The bad reason for the lack of comparative work is the fallacious argument that because little can be established nothing can be learned. On the contrary, looking at different countries and at similar, if not identical, policies in different contexts can be a stimulus to our imaginations. It would be stupid to suppose that one country can transplant institutions from another-the circumstances are always subtly different-but looking at one country from the perspective of another may suggest possibilities that would not otherwise have been considered.

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Government and Economies in the Postwar World: Economic Policies and Comparative Performance, 1945-85
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Acknowledgements ix
  • Figures x
  • Tables xi
  • Chapter One - Introduction 1
  • Part I 7
  • Chapter Two - The International Environment 9
  • Chapter Three - The United Kingdom 30
  • Chapter Four - France 54
  • Chapter Five - West Germany 79
  • Chapter Six - Italy 104
  • Chapter Seven - Spain 125
  • Guide to Further Reading 153
  • Chapter Eight - Scandinavia 154
  • Chapter Nine - Eastern Europe 179
  • Chapter Ten - The Soviet Union 205
  • Chapter Eleven - The United States 225
  • Guide to Further Reading 252
  • Chapter Twelve - Japan 253
  • Part II 271
  • Chapter Thirteen - Comparative Economic Performance of the Oecd Countries, 1950-87: a Summary of the Evidence 273
  • References 283
  • Chapter Fourteen - Benefits of Backwardness and Costs of Continuity 284
  • References 293
  • Chapter Fifteen - Economic Policies and Traditions 294
  • References 302
  • Chapter Sixteen - The Meaning of Hard Work 303
  • References 313
  • Chapter Seventeen - Political Institutions and Economic Performance 315
  • References 322
  • Index 323
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