The Next Ten Years in British Social and Economic Policy

By G. D. H. Cole | Go to book overview
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CHAPTER I
POLITICS, OLD AND NEW

"Things can never be the same again"—The period of 'Reconstruction'— The return to 'normalcy'—Post-war boom and slump—Banking and unemployment—The restoration of 'private enterprise' a failure—The growth of insecurity—The decay of capitalism—Socialist hesitations— Post-war economic problems: the coal industry—Nationalisation, old and new—Pre-war and post-war unemployment compared—The wages question—The need for fresh political thinking—The flight from politics— The vested interests and the common man—The post-war generation and its attitude—The intelligentsia—The case for political Benthamism—Are Utopias out of date?—The cant of Utopianism—And its virtues—The need for a self-acting economic system—Happiness as a political principle —And as a guide to individual conduct—The need for intellectual honesty —We must think out the new problems of the post-war world.

In the latter days of the Great War this country was very full of persons who went about saying that things could never be the same again. We were on the threshold, they told us, of a new world—a world which would differ deeply from the old in its social and economic structure, in its methods of government, and, above all, in the spirit and the ideas by which it was inspired. The War, beastly and tragic while it lasted, was to prove for us all a purifying and illuminating experience. We were to be gifted, by its means, with new vision and with a new power of corporate action for the regeneration of society. Out of suffering and loss was to come a new sweetness into the world of men.

How swiftly that vision faded most of us remember only too well. We saw the blessed word 'Reconstruction' blossom, and we saw its petals fall as, after a brief and illusory period of apparent abundance, the world passed swiftly into a fit of morbid depression. From the moment the War ended every vested interest was busy making things as nearly the same again as it could. The 'controls' and improvised 'Socialisms' of war-time were

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