Ralf Dahrendorf, addressing a seminar in Oxford last year, threw out the question as to whether any Western government would ever again be brought down over the issue of unemployment. The last few years, he pointed out, had seen governments happily returned to power in Italy, France and Germany despite record levels of unemployment in every case. (Labour’s subsequent defeat in Britain hardly dents his case. Victory went to those who promised an even tougher, cruel-to-be-kind attitude to unemployment.) The students at the seminar stared blankly at Dahrendorf’s question and quickly pushed on to more theoretical ground. Unemployment was a fact of life, an act of God. And, actually, rather boring.
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