University of Cambridge > Talks.cam > Financial History Seminar > Menus without prices? Manifestos, party competition, and public finance in Britain, c. 1955-1983

Menus without prices? Manifestos, party competition, and public finance in Britain, c. 1955-1983

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Policy debate in contemporary British elections is strongly framed by the perception of fiscal constraint, which focusses attention on the tax and spending implications of policy choices and places the onus on opposition parties to show how they would pay for their promises. During the Keynesian ‘golden age’ of the 1950s and 1960s, however, budgetary decisions were primarily informed and justified by a Keynesian analysis of aggregate demand and the availability of real resources. Right-leaning economists such as Samuel Brittan and James Buchanan have argued that electoral competition under Keynesianism contributed to rising deficits and a crisis of financial control in British government by the mid-1970s. This paper will test this thesis against archival evidence by exploring how parties costed their manifestos in the Keynesian era, and will show how changes in political culture and economic management shaped the dynamics of public debate over the UK’s fiscal choices.

This talk is part of the Financial History Seminar series.

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