Archive for December, 2012


From top engineering exporter…

Sunday, December 23 2012

…to housing estate!


Portrait of an Engineer, a day in the life of Vulcan Foundry production engineer Ted Wilson. Film Central Office of Information, 1954.

Anyone still wondering when and where everything went belly up should look at these two videos. For over 150 years, the Vulcan Foundry at Newton Le Willows was one of the pearls of Britain’s export industry.

It was accepted wisdom that before you could import things you had to sell enough goods abroad to pay for them. If a country had large foreign debts – as the UK had to the USA after WWII – you restricted domestic consumption and  tried all that much harder to export.

The storyline of that classic Ealing comedy Passport to Pimlico resolves around this fact. At the same time, if something was being made much cheaper in part of the world where the welfare of citizens and workers was much lower than in the UK, there were substantial import tariffs to protect UK jobs.

At some point ‘import tariffs’ became dirty words, a little later it became unfashionable for governments to restrict the behaviour of banks. But amazingly, although banks were allowed to gamble with their client’s funds, when the chickens came home to roost, national governments were still expected to bale them out.

This seems jolly unfair!

These days the government no longer wants people to make things and sell them abroad, instead it just prints more money, devalues our pensions and savings, and gives the money to the banks.

This seems plain daft!

The trouble is that no one seems to be offering any alternative. No wonder we will all be escaping to watch The Hobbit this Christmas.

Vulcan Foundry, the end. Video author unknown, 2002.

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