Edited by Jonathan Paquette on March 31th, 2015.
In the course of researching the history of Scottish Unionism in the early Twentieth Century, I’ve discovered a remarkable unanimity of major politicians’ acceptance of Keynesian economic thought.
Macmillan continued such themes in his subsequent 1933 treatise Reconstruction: A Plea for a National Policy. Written during the worst years of the Great Depression, it posited a stadialist transition between older laissez-fair economic systems to newer coordinated policies. With such chapters as The Case for Planning, Economic Freedom in a System of Economic Order and The Threat of Dictatorship: Fascism and Communism, it demonstrated Macmillan’s intellectual gifts and commitment to economic reordering. Macmillan began his narrative by starkly referencing the nation’s high unemployment and social deprivation. Such conditions were alleviated in the Nineteenth century due to emigration and expansion of imperial overseas markets. However, with the rise of serious international competition after 1870, uncoordinated, spontaneous economic activity hampered the nation’s competitive abilities. Macmillan conceptualised a new dichotomy between an orderly, regulated capitalism as opposed to economic anomie. Similarly to Walter Elliot’s favouring of the Empire Marketing Board, Macmillan presciently believed that the Federation of British Industries possessed great potentiality as a deliberative economic relations institution. As the predecessor to the Confederation of British Industry (CBI), the Federation contained hundreds of successful businesses and quickly developed a closeness with Whitehall officials. In his schemata, the F.B.I. would form part of a larger Central Economic Council. Comprised of industry executives, labour leaders and capably advised by leading economists and technical scientists, this Economic Council would direct the nation’s development. When coalesced into a Central Economic Council, such elites could neutralise exploitative efforts by any single member against workers and the public. Private industries therefore regulate their members and preserve economic equilibrium.
In particular Harold Macmillan (1894-1986) considered economic planning of paramount importance for national recovery and reserved the state’s right for thoroughgoing quantitative planning. Enlarged powers for wage and pricing indices combined with capital distribution would alleviate poverty and prevent social revolution. He explicitly warned that class warfare would necessarily follow elite mismanagement of economic conditions. Macmillan also illustrated a distinct dichotomy between responsible stewards of industry versus unscrupulous businessmen whose reckless actions threaten full employment. His definition of ‘economic freedom‘ included those financiers and industrialists who acted in a socially responsible manner towards workers and the larger national polity.
Correspondingly, worker’s representatives negotiate within agreed conciliation protocols in order to set wages for all members. Macmillan also foresaw increasing coordination as a logical development of private enterprise. Positing a stadialist trend, he observed that the Electricity Commission, the Central Electricity Board, the British Broadcasting Corporation, the Coal Mines Reorganisation Commission, the Milk Marketing Board and the London Passenger Board were all organised in the decade prior. Such organisational systems created central planning bodies for vital services. Most particularly, the Coal Mine Reorganisation Commission attempted to rectify perceived abuses by owners. Additionally, the London Passenger Transport Board sought to regulate all private transportation with the city to maximise efficiency. Macmillan confidently that such institutional frameworks would supplant chaotic laissez-faire development. Macmillan believed a delicate balance must exist between an organic Gemeinschaft versus an atomistic individualism dominated by laissez-faire economic practices. Greater coordination of economic affairs would lead to productive individual actions taken by workers and employers. Cooperative production ensured democratic governance and the continuance of British political traditions. Macmillan believed passionately that Conservatism must provide effective counterproposals against Fascist and Marxist public doctrines. By doing so, a via media would be provided for Great Britain out of the Great Depression and towards renewed status as centre of an international Empire.
Edited by Jonathan Paquette on March 31th, 2015.
Proud of his position as an American Historian at the University of St Andrews, Scotland, Jonathan Paquette delights in examining British History, Mythology, Scottish Unionism and Toryist Thought. Apart from writing his dissertation, he teaches courses and has been published in numerous, internationally acclaimed journals. Jonathan Paquette strives to continuously expand his knowledge of his field, making him an expert at conferences, in the classroom, as well as in written format. For any questions related to the content of his blogspot, please do not hesitate to get in touch with us here.
Jonathan Paquette currently studies Modern British political and intellectual history at the University of St Andrews, Scotland.