Rethinking British Decline

By Richard English; Michael Kenny | Go to book overview

7
Samuel Brittan

Introduction

Sir Samuel Brittan is one of Britain's best known economic journalists and political commentators. He has been the principal economics commentator on the Financial Times since 1966 and was appointed assistant editor in 1978. His ideas span the fields of political philosophy, ethical debate and economic history. Brittan is well known for his critique of Keynesian economics and advocacy of market friendly and politically libertarian ideas. But his thinking cannot be neatly pigeonholed in ideological terms: he remains an iconoclastic libertarian, as concerned with moral and ethical questions as with formal economic arguments. 1

Brittan attended Kilburn Grammar School and Jesus College, Cambridge University, from which he graduated with first-class honours. Though he was taught by Milton Friedman and Joan Robinson whilst an undergraduate at Cambridge, he did not espouse neo-classical views until some time later. His original political sympathies lay with the left, and he was especially interested in foreign policy questions. After Cambridge he joined the Financial Times and published his first book, The Treasury under the Tories. 2 In 1965 he left journalism briefly and worked for the newly created Department of Economic Affairs. He was subsequently appointed to the post of economics editor at the Financial Times. During this period he propounded his belief that the pound was overvalued. But he became increasingly critical of the underlying assumptions of Keynesian orthodoxies, especially of the idea that the state could orchestrate growth by spending to increase demand. These views were expressed in the final edition of his book, Steering the Economy. 3 After 1969 his thinking on inflation was taken up by the Conservative intellectual Keith Joseph, among others, and Brittan became an important sceptical voice within economic policy circles. He began his study of the relationship between a 'free' economy

-92-

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Rethinking British Decline
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Rethinking British Decline *
  • Contents vii
  • Preface and Acknowledgements ix
  • Notes on the Contributors xii
  • 1 - Theories and Explanations of British Decline 1
  • Part I - Reflections on British Decline *
  • 2 - Martin Wiener 25
  • 3 - Correlli Barnett 37
  • 4 - Will Hutton 50
  • 5 - W. D. Rubinstein 61
  • 6 - Sidney Pollard 76
  • 7 - Samuel Brittan 92
  • 8 - Stuart Hall 104
  • 9 - David Marquand 117
  • 10 - Jonathan Clark 137
  • Part II - Thematic Analysis *
  • 11 - Party Ideology and National Decline 155
  • 12 - Institutional Approaches to Britain's Relative Economic Decline 184
  • 13 - British Decline and European Integration 210
  • 14 - Globalisation and Britain's Decline 231
  • 15 - The End of Empire 257
  • 16 - Conclusion: Decline or Declinism? 279
  • Select Bibliography 300
  • Index 305
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