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50 Years Ago: Little Budget

Many big-time financial editors applauded Mr. Selwyn Lloyd's second attempt at producing a Budget for 1961/2. Here, they said, was the strong medicine which was needed to sort out our troubles once and for all.

This was the sort of comment which greeted Mr. Butler's autumn Budget in 1957, when Bank Rate last went up to seven per cent. It is what is always being said about the so-called remedies for the economic and financial crises of capitalism.

The trouble this time, said Fleet Street, is that we are all living too well. Agricultural workers, who are getting by on an average wage of £10 11s. a week and local government employees who are somehow making do on an average of £10 16s a week, must have been very surprised to hear that nowadays their life is one long spree of opulence.

Whatever measures successive Chancellors may impose, the economy keeps on staggering from boom to recession, from expansion to retrenchment. One budget (often at election time) knocks a couple of pennies off beer, a couple of shillings off income tax. Another puts them back on, or onto something else.

The workers end up where they started, with a personal budget which is very finely balanced, often on a tight-rope supplied by the hire purchase companies. Yet they keep their faith with capitalism — if they blame anything, it is the planners, or their plans. But capitalism — unplannable, chaotic, unbudgetable — is always doing its best to teach them better.

(from News in Review, Socialist Standard, September 1961)

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