Any comparative survey of the major industrial economies since the Second World War is bound to draw attention to the similarities of their experience. There was first, in the 'golden years' of the 1950s and 1960s, a rate of economic growth everywhere, even in the sluggard British economy, at a level never before sustained over so long a period. The countries most ravaged by the war seem to have reacted not very differently from those without damage, reaching something like their long-term growth path in a few years, the loss being borne by current consumption rather than by long-term growth. There was then the break in 1973/4, triggered, even if not fundamentally caused, by the OPEC oil price rise, leading to high inflation and slower growth. And then there was the second oil price rise in 1979, followed by high unemployment and even slower growth amounting almost to stagnation, when 'the economic climate had suddenly become unrecognizable… Europe was knocked off balance' (Gaston Thorn, in Dahrendorf 1982:ix-x).
This unity was strengthened by common technical problems, and common possibilities of their solution. The shift out of agriculture into industry, the shift from textiles to metals, machinery, vehicles, and electronics, the consequent need for a different infrastructure and for extended training in the new techniques, all imposed, within limits, similar reactions. Nevertheless, the mechanism that transmits world economic development from one country to another is not clear. International trade alone cannot have done it, for countries exported and imported quite different types of goods; moreover the trading link of the planned economies with the west was quite tenuous, yet they also felt the same phasing of growth. Nor can the oil alone have been responsible either, for not only did the price rise follow a longish period of creeping, yet accelerating inflation on a world scale, but the countries concerned occupied quite different positions as producers, importers, and exporters of oil.
Much may, no doubt, be attributed to the international links between the finance and capital markets, which were increasingly liberalized in the
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Publication information: Book title: Government and Economies in the Postwar World: Economic Policies and Comparative Performance, 1945-85. Contributors: Andrew Graham - Editor, Anthony Seldon - Editor. Publisher: Routledge. Place of publication: London. Publication year: 1991. Page number: 294.
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