The Structural Engineer > Archive > Volume 11 (1933) > Issues > Issue 2 > Address to the Western Counties Branch
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Address to the Western Counties Branch

My remarks will be confined to a subject which touches us all very closely, namely, the prevailing condition of depression, and the specious cure of which we have heard so much- “Economy.” That fine old word, meaning "the rule (or law) of the house,” or, more generally, just “management,” has suffered an almost complete inversion of its true meaning during the past year or so, and is now understood to mean simply "refraining from spending.” Much as I dislike being a party to the misuse of words, I use it in that sense, because it is the only sense in which it is now used, and to do otherwise would result in being misunderstood. To come straight to my point, I believe that true economy lies not in refraining from spending, but in refraining from borrowing. Our present troubles are not due to excessive spending in the past, but to excessive borrowing. Unfortunately, so far as expenditure upon public works is concerned, we have acquired a habit of thought, by which we assume that spending is inseparable from borrowing, and it is my own firm conviction that while much may be done, and is being done, to restore the prosperity of the country, all such efforts will be brought to nought unless we rid ourselves of this fallacy. It is far from my intention to suggest that public expenditure should never be met by means of loans, but it should be the exception, and not, as at present, the rule. A Local Authority decides to build a new City Hall, or carry out a new sewerage scheme, and for such projects borrowing is both just and unavoidable, but even for such as these I am going to suggest that there should be some adjustment of the amount borrowed and the amount paid “on the nail.’’ The argument advanced in justification of borrowing is that future generations will enjoy the benefit, and should bear an equal share of the cost, but the defect in this argument is that it ignores one benefit which future generations will not enjoy, namely, the benefit of the scheme as a means of relieving unemployment during its construction. This applies to public works of every kind, to some more than others, but with the greatest force to those which are undertaken partly or wholly for the relief of unemployment. Unemployment is a disease of the present, and its cost should be paid in the present, not left for future generations to bear, in addition to their own burdens. Gower B.R. Pimm

Author(s): Pimm, Gower B R

Keywords: economics;improving