Duncan Hallas

Paying the Piper

(February/March 1970)

From International Socialism (1st series), No.42, February/March 1970, p.37.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.

Economics and Economic Policy in Britain, 1946-1966
T.W. Hutchinson
Allen and Unwin, 48s

In the mythology of recent British politics a special place is occupied by the obscurantist Treasury knight. From the Fabians to the New Left it became almost axiomatic that many of the problems of the British economy were caused, or at the very least greatly aggravated, by the baleful influence of this sinister, if slightly comic figure.

As is well known Mr Wilson’s New Britain was to relegate this antediluvian classicist to his proper subordinate role. Economic policy decisions were to be taken on the advice of the cream of academic economists, drafted for the purpose into the government service. The professionals were to take over.

So they did and the results have been less than enchanting. This book examines the record of the contributions of the university economist to economic policy debates in the last 20 years. Some of them, more eminent or less prudent than others, have given freely of their advice and are shown to have frequently contradicted not only each other, but themselves.

This is not a fact that should surprise readers of this journal. Dr. Balogh, who figures largely in the book, put the matter in a nutshell. “It should be obvious that economic policy making is not a scientific exercise which admits objective impartiality. It is an art inseparable from political assumptions.”

Professor Hutchinson himself stands for a ‘value-free’ and ‘scientific’ economics, but this has not prevented him from demonstrating in this informative and enjoyable book, that such a thing is as elusive as the rainbow’s end.


Last updated on 3.10.2007