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50 Years Ago: 4½ PER CENT

No, this is not an article about the 4½ per cent. Bank Rate but about another item of 4½ per cent. that received almost no attention in the newspapers. It had to do with the Government’s annual Blue Book on National Income and Expenditure, the latest issue, covering the years 1938-1954, being published the first week in September.

For readers who are unfamiliar with the subject matter the Blue Book is not easy to understand; and when not understood its tables of figures can be very misleading as is shown from time to time by Press comments on it. But some of the tables tell us in precise terms and on official authority things that otherwise can only be conjectured on the basis of part information.

Our present comment is concerned only with the extent to which the “National Income” has increased and the way in which that increase has shown itself in every-day articles of consumption, the food, clothing, entertainment, etc., that concern us from day to day. […]

It shows that, after allowing for price increase, the purchase of consumption goods (food, clothing, tobacco, rent, entertainment, travel, etc.), was in 1954 only 11 per cent. higher than in 1938. But as the Financial Times (6 September) pointed out, the population had grown by 6½ per cent., so that “real expenditure per head was 4½ per cent up.” This, then, is the measure of what capitalism actually performs. When, therefore, the Tory Government, as an election manoeuvre, held out the promise of doubling the standard of living in the next 25 years they are counting on something happening in the future for which there is no support in the past.

(From editorial, Socialist Standard, October 1955)