By W. D. Rubinstein
This unique and debatable contribution to the topical debate on Britain's fiscal decline provides a critique of the thesis made regular lately through Martin J. Wiener, Anthony Sampson, Correlli Barnett and others.
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Scanned from John Maynard Keynes, Essays in Persuasion, long island: W. W. Norton & Co. , 1963, pp. 358-373.
Extra resources for Capitalism, culture, and decline in Britain, 1750-1990
Economy. 50 Another related area in finance in which many would probably judge Britain’s structure and performance to be historically superior to that of the United States is in the respective branch banking networks in each country. From the late nineteenth century onward, of course, British 37 CAPITALISM, CULTURE, AND DECLINE IN BRITAIN discount banking has been overwhelmingly dominated by the Big Five (Big Eight prior to 1919; now the Big Four) high street banks, each with hundreds of branches throughout the country, and traditionally including some mortgage (especially commercial) finance and the accounts of local small- and medium-sized businesses as the backbone of their trade.
31 From the mid-Victorian period onwards, the ‘anti-industrial spirit’ permeated every sphere of British life, from the world of high culture, where a ‘counter-revolution of values’ animated virtually every significant writer, artist, and thinker into a thoroughgoing detestation of industrialism, mass capitalism, and city life, to middle-class popular culture, with its emphasis on rural and suburban domesticity, garden suburb living, and fiction and popular entertainment which denied or disguised Britain’s industrial past, to the political sphere, where the twentieth-century left and right united in opposing laissez-faire capitalistic materialism and devoted much of their energies to an attempt to modify or destroy unbridled free enterprise.
So, too, are landowners (whose landed incomes are assessed under Schedule A, not included in this table), among them the great landed aristocrats who were certainly still the richest men in the country. Whatever the case, however, the importance of London as the home par excellence of the Victorian middle classes emerges from these statistics with undeniable clarity. Although the total population of these London boroughs exceeded those of Lancashire and the West Riding by less than 4 per cent, London’s taxpaying middle classes were three times as numerous as in the northern counties, a figure which may well understate rather than exaggerate the true position of London in the comparison.