The chequered history of British unemployment is matched by the variety of policies that have been employed to combat the problem. From the great depression of the late Victorian economy, through the record levels of the early 1930s and the reintroduction of mass unemployment since the late 1970s, policies and policy proposals dealing with unemployment have formed a major focus for both politicians and economists. The orthodoxy may have changed over the century, but each was concerned, at its core, with unemployment: how to reduce it, how to explain it, or perhaps even how to justify its existence. The ‘Treasury View’ of the 1920s and 1930s, with its emphasis on balanced budgets, the Keynesian revolution and the use of state intervention to reflate the economy, and back to the deflationary monetary policy, beginning with the Callaghan Labour Government of the mid to late 1970s, and continued with much vigour by the Thatcher Governments of the 1980s: all, implicitly or explicitly, were concerned with policy involving the role of the unemployment in a mature capitalist economy. Whilst economists may argue over causes and cures, it is the role of the politicians to either justify the existence of unemployment of attempt to eradicate it from the economy.
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