This chapter examines Britain’s growth record and suggests that the notion of relative decline needs to be handled with more care and sophistication than hitherto. More and more countries did indeed surpass British living standards during the twentieth century, but they did not power ahead as the ‘declinist’ literature has assumed. At the end of the century living standards in France, Germany, the UK and the USA stood in almost exactly the same relative position as at the end of the ‘golden age’ in 1973, and the relative gap between British and US living standards had changed little since 1950.Much of the analysis of Britain’s relative decline has been predicated upon more or less abject performance by manufacturing industry and, although there were obvious signs of relative deterioration against European countries between 1950 and 1973, in the longer term the main problems in fact resided elsewhere. The standard analytical tools of convergence, institutional failure and supply-side weaknesses in manufacturing are not well designed to understand British economic performance in the longer run. Despite the problems, the British economy delivered substantial improvements in material welfare for the vast majority during the twentieth century, but there were very clear and disturbing signs that a substantial minority had been excluded from the benefits of economic growth after 1967.
Swipe to navigate through the chapters of this book
Please log in to get access to this content
To get access to this content you need the following product:
- Economic Growth and Welfare
- Macmillan Education UK
- Sequence number
- Chapter number