Public Policy and the Economy since 1900

Public Policy and the Economy since 1900

Public Policy and the Economy since 1900

Public Policy and the Economy since 1900


This comprehensive new study gives a full account of the formulation of British economic policy in the twentieth century, drawing on the most recent research based on documents made available under the thirty-year rule to give detailed insight into policy-making in the 1950s and bringing thenarrative right up to the end of the 1980s. The book offers both a lucid narrative description of the evolution of policy from the turn of the century through the First World War, recovery, the Depression, the Second War and its aftermath, the 'Keynesian Revolution', and the shifts and about-turns of more recent decades, and a coherentanalysis of these processes. Covering both macro and micro issues, the text is structured in such a way as to give due weight to all the various influences at work: institutional aspects, such as the changing role of policy-making ministries, as well as political debate and economic theory.


This book is an account of the major features and development of British economic policy since 1900. in style it is narrative and broadly chronological. It is also analytical, but that analysis is mainly concrete and specific rather than abstract and general. However concrete and narrowly focused, analysis must of course rest, explicitly or implicitly, on a wider framework which determines what is deemed relevant and important, and what glossed over or omitted. the purpose of this introductory chapter is to outline the framework which underlies the organization of this book. Those whose taste is for the empirical and who adhere to the saying that the 'proof of the pudding is in the eating' may skip directly to Chapter 2. But this introduction should make the menu offered in the rest of the book more explicable.


Frameworks for the analysis of public policy and the economy are numerous (for overviews see, for example, Hall 1986, ch. 1; Levacic 1987). To give a complete typology of such frameworks would be lengthy and tedious, so the approach here is to discuss only a few of the major approaches which form a background (or counterpart) to that adopted in this book.

The most intellectually insurgent of current approaches to policy-making is public choice theory (Downs 1957; Olson 1965; Niskanen 1971; Levacic 1987, part 2 gives a sympathetic survey). Broadly, this approach attempts to extend the neo-classical economists' a priori of individuals as rational maximizers to the actors in the policy-making process, to the governments, and to the bureaucrats. Governments are seen as attempting to maximize votes to obtain power, bureaucrats to maximize their bureaux to . . .

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