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Going South: Why Britain will have a Third World Economy by 2014 Paperback – 14 Jun 2012

3.9 out of 5 stars 35 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Palgrave Macmillan; 2012 edition (14 Jun. 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0230392547
  • ISBN-13: 978-0230392540
  • Product Dimensions: 13.8 x 3.1 x 27.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (35 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 257,666 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product Description


'Elliott and Atkinson issued a prescient warning in Fantasy Island about the UK economy at a time when most commentators believed Gordon Brown's claim that he had abolished boom and bust. This book is another splendid polemic in the same mould, bursting with provocative ideas.'   - Paul Ormerod, economist and author of Positive Linking and Why Most Things Fail'

'For over a century, Britain has been in denial about its decline. Unless it accepts the reality and gets its acts together soon, it may well join the South, that is, the developing world. That is the chilling message of this book, which you will start reading with incredulity but almost certainly close with the shocking realisation that it may well be right. Written with verve and edge, based on a profound understanding of Britain's history and full of insights about the economics, politics and popular culture of today's Britain, this book is an extremely powerful and sobering wake-up call for a nation that has lived off its past glory for too long.' - Ha-Joon Chang, Faculty of Economics, University of Cambridge, and the author of Bad Samaritans and 23 Things They Don't Tell You About Capitalism

'Atkinson and Elliott are savagely effective critics of the historic failure of Thatcher and Blair to check national decline in a world where our managerial and political elites do not know what to do about financial crisis. Their argument about how Britain is going south to developing country status is important because it counters wishful thinking about how we can become more Nordic and focuses the key questions about Britain's trajectory. This is what radical economic journalism should be about.' - Prof Karel Williams, CRESC, University of Manchester
'The redoubtable team of Elliott and Atkinson have done it again. Having predicted in their last book that the boom would end in tears, they now draw on their deep knowledge of Britain's economic history to warn of the danger of absolute, not relative, decline. Controversial - but disturbingly convincing. And a great read.' - William Keegan, The Observer
'Depressing and enlightening in equal measure. A compelling read from two journalists with a track-record of stripping bare the social and economic problems that Britain seems either unwilling or unable to tackle.' - Jeff Randall, Sky News business presenter

Book Description

Two leading journalists explain how and why Britain has fallen into decline from being a superpower in 1914 to having a third world economy by 2014.

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Format: Paperback
Larry Elliott, the Guardian's economics editor, and Dan Atkinson, the Mail on Sunday's economics editor, have produced another fine book on Britain's economic ills. Their record is good: their 2007 book Fantasy Island warned that Brown's claim to have ended boom and bust was nonsense.

We have a chronic balance of payments deficit, a looming shortage of energy and food, a shrinking economy. We are a net importer of industrial products, food and energy. In 2010 our trade gap in goods was £98.46 billion. In finished manufactured goods, it was £59.8 billion, with deficits in everything from cars (£2.75 billion) to intermediate goods like components (£11.99 billion) to capital goods (£13.3 billion). In semi-finished goods, the deficit was £8.14 billion, in basic materials, £2.9 billion, in coal, gas and electricity, £5 billion, and in food, drink and tobacco, £17.36 billion.

Services had a £58.77 billion surplus, including financial services at £26.6 billion and insurance at £3.7 billion. The surplus on income earned abroad was £23.04 billion. The deficit in transfers was £20.08 billion, including £9.11 billion paid to the EU.

The authors point out, "The quick fixes with which we have sought to disguise our shrinking economic performance - imperial preference, European Community membership, North Sea oil, financial deregulation, asset stripping, and periodic property and house price bubbles - are all used up." They warn that our economy is in absolute decline.

Between 2009 and 2012 real incomes fell by 7 per cent. 6 million households have only five days' savings. Since 1979 the number of people of working age who are too sick to work has quadrupled to 2.1 million.
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Format: Paperback
The wheels came off the British economy in 2007, but that wasn't the beginning of the end for Britain, according to Elliott and Atkinson. The decline started a lot earlier than that - 1914 to be precise.

At the start of WW1 Britain was the world's only superpower, the world's leading exporter, and a major military power. A century later, we've experienced a relative decline as our national prestige has waned and other countries have caught up and overtaken us. We've had no particular strategy as a country, we have allowed a series of imbalances to develop, and there's no obvious way out of it. The economy is "slow-growing, unproductive, unequal, unbalanced and living beyond its means" say the authors. If we don't fix it, the future looks "shabbier, meaner and poorer".

This central premise is pretty much correct in my opinion, and a rather urgent message considering how complacent we appear to be. Unfortunately, the book itself leaves a lot to be desired.

Going South divides roughly into thirds, and only the middle third of it is actually any good. It begins by lamenting Britain's new `third world' status, a hundred pages of whining about how things aren't how they used to be. There are some good points here, but some of it is just downright silly.

The middle pages are the useful bit, where the authors look at the post-WW1 history of Britain's economy. This is a good overview, showing the strategies and government initiatives to stimulate the economy. Taking us up to the present, the book then looks at a series of problems that Britain faces in the coming years, and it is here that it is at its best. It includes the balance of trade, the pensions deficit, energy security, household debt and banking instability.
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There are quite a few books around at the moment about the financial crisis. This one is written by Larry Elliott of The Guardian, who has a done an excellent job in his newspaper columns of explaining the credit crunch etc to non financial experts like myself, and Dan Atkinson of The Mail on Sunday, which has the best financial pages in any of the uk's 'popular' press. A lot of the other books I've read (such as those by Vince Cable and John Lanchester) are 'how the hell did we get here' books, whereas 'Going South' is more of a 'where on earth are we going next' study.

So I was really expecting and hoping to enjoy this book, and it does make some very good points - such as that it is only in the last decade that average earnings in the uk haven't increased at the same average rate (about 1% a year) as the economy as a whole, and even explaining some of Enoch Powell's thinking - that Britain should stop pretending it could still be a major world power - that led to his notorious 'rivers of blood' speech.

However, the book goes off at annoying tangents too often, possibly as a result of the dual authorship, without really explaining the relevance to the main thesis. Too many of the side-tracks are of the 'why oh why oh why' variety that end up sounding like the sort of annoying people in pubs who get their opinions from the tabloids or bbc local radio, and insist on sharing them with you. Personally, I believe that smoking bans, health and safety regulations, and crackdowns on drink-driving are signs of a civilised first-world society rather than a third-world economy. Like a lot of 'ranty' books they twist any occurance to suit their opinions, even when they are mutually contradictory.
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