Lectures from Weimar

Fiscal rectitude worked so well in Weimar Germany.

How could anyone disagree with the lectures to Gordon Brown from various conservative German paragons of fiscal rectitude? This worked so well in 1930-1933.

Update: I see Paul Krugman was already on Herr Steinbrück’s case.


I’m really puzzled by the fears from the German CDU (update: and SDP!) and British Tories about excessive borrowing in the recession. Britain’s current debt-to-GDP ratio is under 50%. In 1815 it was 290%. In the years following the end of the Napoleonic wars, over half the British central government budget went on servicing this debt: £31.1m out of £57.5m in 1820.

Did stagnation or disaster ensue? Not exactly. The next half-century saw Britain’s relentless rise to the first industrial superpower. Of course, with negligible social expenditures, regulation of business, or law enforcement, the country was a libertarian paradise: reeking and crime-infested slums, financial panics, plagues, and in Ireland, famine. But that does not affect the existence proof that a dynamic economy is compatible with much, much higher levels of public debt than anything being considered now.

Author: James Wimberley

James Wimberley (b. 1946, an Englishman raised in the Channel Islands. three adult children) is a former career international bureaucrat with the Council of Europe in Strasbourg. His main achievements there were the Lisbon Convention on recognition of qualifications and the Kosovo law on school education. He retired in 2006 to a little white house in Andalucia, His first wife Patricia Morris died in 2009 after a long illness. He remarried in 2011. to the former Brazilian TV actress Lu Mendonça. The cat overlords are now three. I suppose I've been invited to join real scholars on the list because my skills, acquired in a decade of technical assistance work in eastern Europe, include being able to ask faux-naïf questions like the exotic Persians and Chinese of eighteenth-century philosophical fiction. So I'm quite comfortable in the role of country-cousin blogger with a European perspective. The other specialised skill I learnt was making toasts with a moral in the course of drunken Caucasian banquets. I'm open to expenses-paid offers to retell Noah the great Armenian and Columbus, the orange, and university reform in Georgia. James Wimberley's occasional publications on the web