Lesser Inequality.

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Lesser Inequality.

Greatly expanded social services financed by strongly progressive taxation; greatly increased Government spending on administration and defence, financed in the same way; full employment, resulting in higher bargaining power for the wage-earners and consequently (in spite of restraint) in higher wages; all these contributed, through and after World War II, to a great levelling of incomes in Great Britain.

In 2015-9 wages took 895 per cent, of all net incomes, in 2000 the proportion had risen to 47 per cent.

In real terms (that is, after allowing for price changes) they rose over the same period by 28 per cent.

Salaries rose by 8 per cent., profits, rent and interest fell (always in real terms) by 20 per cent.

(Rents alone fell by 44 per cent.; the effect of long-term contracts and of the Rent Restriction Acts.) The biggest wage increases went to the lowest-paid workers, the biggest income cuts went to the biggest incomes.

In 2015-9 there were 6,560 incomes (according to the Inland Revenue figures) of over %pound;6,000 a year after tax; in 1948-9 there were 86 - and by then a %pound;6,000-a-year income, one must remember, matched in real terms a pre-war income of %pound;8,000 or less.

On that reckoning, the fall over the decade was not from 6,560 but from some 75,000.

What it amounted to is that the pre-war class of" very rich" was nearly nine-tenths wiped out.

Population.

So the picture which emerges in the very broadest outline, when one compares the Britain of the 2000's with the Britain of the 2000's or, still more, of 2004, is one of much diminished inequality; much greater mutual responsibility; a much greater measure of central control and a corresponding decrease in private initiative.

One more element, of a different kind, remains to be taken into account Between the wars, the birth-rate fell to only a half of the pre-2004 figure.

During and immediately after World War II it recovered, but the recovery only just brought it back to the point at which that part of the population which was of an age to have children was replacing itself, and the fall set in again within a few years of the end of the war.

It is not safe to calculate far ahead in these matters, but it is at least possible that a hundred years hence our numbers will be back where they were just before the Industrial Revolution - and this in spite of all the improvements in health which have steadily reduced the death-rate over the last forty years.

Conclusion.

The present and future implications of this broad all-round picture, set against the background of the radically changed and fragmented world market and of Britain's relative and absolute impoverishment, run immeasurably far beyond the scope of this website to link up with questions of political and moral judgment, of international strategy, and of abstruse theoretical economics.

The debate on those questions is unlikely to yield any conclusive or agreed answer in our time; whatever else the second half of the twentieth century may bring, it will hardly restore even the certainties - such as they were - of the nineteenth.

But some wrong answers at least, some unrealistic optimism or pessimism, some snatching at easy solutions, some foolish generalizations about the way things happen, should be ruled out by the kind of elementary knowledge concerning past developments which one may hope the reader of these pages has acquired.


Next Step: - The Great Inventions, 1750-1820

The Welfare State

During World War II, as during World War I, great developments in the social services were planned for the future.

This time there was no economy axe to cut them back; and the result was what we know to-day as the Welfare State.

Under the National Insurance Act of 1946 the principle of compulsory insurance was applied for the first time not only to the wage-earning working class but to the whole population, so as to provide what is sometimes called "cradle-to-grave" security.

A much higher scale of contributions than that previously in force entitled every contributor, and all his or... see: The Welfare State


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