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Farewell to Prices and Incomes Policy

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In the 1960s and 1970s, policymakers in the UK, and elsewhere, faced severe inflationary pressures. Both Socialists and Conservatives denounced Prices and Incomes Policy in Opposition, but, in the face of these pressures, then implemented such policies in office. This Paper will consider why this was so, and the powerful political, economic and institutional forces that repeatedly drove governments back to incomes policy. The Paper then explores the debates that ensued, particularly in Conservative and free market circles, as to whether it was possible to do without Prices and Incomes Policy. The alternatives that were under consideration are discussed: ‘monetarism’; the exchange rate and the EMS ; a return to mass unemployment. The debates over Prices and Incomes Policy, it will be suggested, were an important part of what Peter Jay called in 1976 ‘the long, withdrawing roar of the Keynesian era’.

This talk is part of the Financial History Seminar series.

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