FLORENCE – British politics has always been something of an experimental laboratory for the industrialized world. In the 1970’s, Britain was where the preeminent postwar model of how to manage the economy collapsed. That model had been based politically on the creation of consensus, and economically on Keynesian demand management. Today, the equivalent collapse has been of the “regulation-lite” regime in which a party that styled itself as “New Labour” accepted a powerful role for markets – particularly for largely deregulated financial markets.
In the 1960’s, Keynesian policies delivered the illusion that everyone was benefiting, with high levels of employment and significant wage growth. Britain was the coolest place on earth, boasting the Beatles and the Rolling Stones and the pastel fashions of Carnaby Street.