Here in the depths of the bust, it is tempting to feel nostalgia for the boom. Let’s not. The bust has been brutal but the boom wasn’t so great either. The British economy actually grew more in 1979, the year of the “winter of discontent,” than it did in 2006 at the height of the bubble. Most of the western economies did better in the late, unlamented 1970s than they ever have since.
For the past 30 years, the world’s engine of growth has been debt-fuelled consumption financed by asset price bubbles. Growth has been sketchy, financial crises common, inequality rampant. Last week I wrote about the fragility of borrowing and spending as an economic strategy and suggested it might be time for our policymakers to find a better one, by taking a look at what worked during the golden age, 1950-1973, the greatest period