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From Big Bang to Big Crash: The Early Origins of the UK’s Finance-led Growth Model and the Persistence of Bad Policy Ideas

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Using newly declassified documents from the British Public Records Office, we argue that the finance-dependent growth regime that typified the UK economy in the period up to the Great Crash of 2008 has much deeper roots than is commonly realised. We use these documents to demonstrate that the growth of finance was integral to the Thatcher revolution, tying together mortgage markets, household debt, and boom-bust cycles as early as the mid-1980s. We also show how policy-makers in this period were aware of all the weaknesses of this growth model, to the point that they effectively diagnosed what would happened in 2008, back in 1987. We argue that selecting for a finance-led growth model as the preferred growth model so early effectively rendered other possible growth models for the UK unattainable. The result was the shift from an economy characterised by ‘stop-go’ cycles in the post-war period to an economy characterised by recurrent ‘boom-slump-austerity-reset’ cycles in the Thatcher and post Thatcher periods. The 2008 crisis did not change this highly unstable mode of accumulation.
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Keywords: Deregulation; constructivism; financialisation; institutionalism; policy ideas

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Department of Sociology, Political Science and Communication, The Open University of Israel, Ra'anana, Israel 2: Department of Political Economy, The Watson Institute for International Affairs, Brown University, Providence, RI, USA

Publication date: September 3, 2019

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