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Digital Subscriptions > Prospect Magazine > November 2017 > A real argument, at last

A real argument, at last

The Reagan/Thatcher experiment failed. The UK must now choose between a rerun and a rethink

As an American looking across the Atlantic at the debate heating up in the UK, I feel envy: at least in Britain there is a pretence of belief in rational argumentation. Maybe a few words about what economic theory and evidence have to say might make a difference.

A third of a century ago on both sides of the Atlantic an experiment was undertaken. Up until then, growth had been amazingly strong in the post-war decades, and there was shared prosperity. In the United States, incomes had risen at every part of the distribution, and they rose fastest at the bottom. There was heavy public investment in infrastructure, education, science and technology— Sputnik gave a particular spur. There was a bipartisan consensus on this, and on the need for regulations, for instance concerning the environment. Air became breathable and rivers swimmable. Depression-era regulations on banks had resulted in decades of stability: in the US, an unprecedented half-century without a financial crisis.

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In Prospect’s November issue: Joris Luyendijk and Stuart Ward try to uncover the way Britain is perceived by Europe and the rest of the world. Luyendijk—who lived in Britain for six years before recently moving back to his native Netherlands—explains that the Brexit vote has shown Europe that Britain needs time alone to find its identity again, while Ward—a native Australian—argues that its Britain’s imperial backstory that stops it from truly understanding what the world thinks of it. Elsewhere in the issue Jeffrey Lewis argues that US foreign policy has helped North Korea develop the nuclear bomb and we explore the effect that the Palestinian museum near Ramallah is having on the creation of a national identity. Also in this issue: Sameer Rahim profiles Armando Iannucci, Joseph Stiglitz on Britain’s tricky political situation.
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