Economic Growth in Twentieth-century Britain by DEREK H ALDCROFT


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If we had to produce diesel locomotives in the same numbers as motor-cars no doubt we should have increasing returns there as well. It should be mentioned here, too, to be quite fair, that output indices are perhaps at their most vulnerable in engineering. It is very difficult to be certain that substantial improvements in quality do not fail to be reflected in measures of output change. A complicated piece of electrical generating equipment or switchgear, Growth and Productivity in the United Kingdom 31 for example, may be entered in output returns under the same description as in years past but may, in fact, have incorporated many more man-hours of effort input.

We have certainly not achieved steady growth even at a relatively low rate. In fact, though we no longer have the pre-war trade cycle we have had fluctuations of a different type, namely, variations in the rate of growth. 18 Economic Growth in Twentieth-century Britain The periods of stagnation have, to a large extent, been induced by government policy measures designed to damp down home demand. What has happened is that whenever we have run into serious balance of payments difficulties, that is, in 195 I, 1955 and 1960, the government has applied the brakes in the form of credit restriction, dear money through high interest rates, wage restraint, increased taxation and hire-purchase restrictions.

It is true that while the long period of decline in the growth rate of British exports, due no doubt to increasing competition from rising nations abroad, is clear and unambiguous, in fact, it was during the great depression period that our' gains' from trade suffered a sharp and striking blow. The 14 Economic Growth in Twentieth-century Britain rate of growth of exports was falling off from the 1850S up to the turn of the century. The growth rate of import volumes, too, was decreasing at pretty well the same pace.

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