The Odious Tax and the Standing Miracle
This chapter focuses specifically on how fiscal crisis and public finance unintentionally promoted structural rigidity and relative decline at the end of the nineteenth century. Victorian Britain was the avowed embodiment of “laissez-faire” economics. Government in nineteenth-century Britain followed the teachings of Adam Smith and sought to minimize its interference in the work of the invisible hand of the marketplace. British government intended to have little influence on the day-to-day actions of its private economy. The chapter states that the British system of public finance contributed to the ultimate decline of Victorian Britain in the sort of indirect, unintended way just suggested. British public finance was certainly not the cause of the economic stagnation of the late nineteenth century, but this chapter argues that the patterns established by government finance logically contributed to this economic stagnation in a significant way.
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