Bursting a tyre in a pothole, yards from my home, I wondered why Keynesians might feel the need to pay people to dig holes and fill them in again. There are tons of things that need doing in this country. And tons of people doing jobs that add absolutely nothing to the sum of human wellbeing.
But, since the Great Depression, there has been a perception that it doesn’t matter what people do, so long as they have money to spend. Likewise, it doesn’t matter what they buy, so long as someone gets paid for making it. So millions of people have mind-numbing and soul-destroying jobs manufacturing crap we don’t need, and the only objection to that fact is that so many of them are now Chinese rather than British.
And the only reason mainstream politicians are now berating a boom that was fuelled by credit and property values is the fact that it ended. The Tories now profess a love of British manufacturing but until 2008 they were as much in love with the City as Gordon Brown was. Indeed, by the time John Major left power, this country was making nothing but Kendal Mint Cake and instruments of torture, and Conservatives were quite happy for our consumer goods to be sweated out of people in hot countries, while we just sold them to one another.
And despite being divided about exactly how to provoke a ‘recovery’, both main parties have junked any real concern about the fact that we are rapidly using up our planet and heading for an environmental disaster that will make pensions largely unnecessary. There has never been a stronger case for a planned economy, and one with a great big heart.