Fiscal Policy and Business Cycles

By Alvin H. Hansen | Go to book overview

Chapter V
RECOVERY IN GREAT BRITAIN

IN a world in which international factors play so large a role it is somewhat astounding that two large trading countries could have had experiences so diverse as those of the United States and Great Britain in the two decades between the two World Wars. In the twenties Great Britain suffered from chronic unemployment and lagged behind the general world postwar recovery. The United States, on the other hand, enjoyed a prolonged boom. In the early thirties Britain escaped with only a moderate decline in income and employment, while the United States had her national income cut to one half its former level. In the middle and late thirties Britain made a very satisfactory recovery, reaching a level of employment and production considerably better than that of the late twenties. The United States made a more rapid recovery percentage-wise, but, having fallen to a much lower level in the depression, did not achieve, in the first recovery movement culminating in 1937, as high a per capita output as that of the late twenties and continued to face a vast unemployment problem.

And just as the unfolding of events was different, so also were the public policies pursued. Throughout the depression, with relatively unimportant exceptions, the British balanced their national budget, while the United States throughout the depression and the recovery ran a large deficit.

-96-

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