Sharoma Kondratieff Waves in the UK

Kondratieff Waves in the UK

A 60-year theory, named in honour of the man executed in 1938 by the Soviets because his thinking did not fit into their box of five-year plans. Had they listened to him instead of sending him to a gulag, they may have been able to extend their decrepit system well into the 2000s. To quote:

Spring phase: a new factor of production, good economic times, rising inflation
Summer: hubristic 'peak' war followed by societal doubts and double digit inflation
Autumn: the financial fix of inflation leads to a credit boom which creates a false plateau of prosperity that ends in a speculative bubble
Winter: excess capacity worked off by massive debt repudiation, commodity deflation & economic depression. A 'trough' war breaks psychology of doom.

If we apply this 60-year theory to the UK:

1895-1910/Spring: Rapid advances in all areas of technology, with the establishment of wireless technology, radio, telephone. Automobile manufacturing in the ascent. Invention of powered-flight leads to birth of aviation industry. As an example of mass commercialisation and new products is Cadbury's Dairy Milk (1905). New industrial processes, continued mechanisation of all areas of life. Suffrage movement gains traction, National Insurance (unemployment benefit) begins in 1911. Dreadnought battleship launched in 1906. Oil starts to replace coal as propulsion fuel.

1910-1925/Summer: Sinking of the Titanic in 1912 represents hubristic peak, as though all the technological process of the last fifty years can dominate even nature. Hubristic peak war is World War 1. 95% of deaths are working class males. Subsequent generation demoralised, many families missing fathers. Societal doubts culminate with General Strike of 1926. Britain fails to recover all the markets it lost in when war production became paramount. UK goes from world's largest creditor in 1914 to largest debtor in 1918.

1925-1940/Autumn: The Great Depression. Starvation, unemployment, evictions, bankruptcies. Crash of 1929 affects world demand. Invention of Keynesian economics. Speculators profit throughout the 1930s. Financiers start to take hold of the market, having bought up assets for a fraction of their worth. Sense of peace and prosperity brought to an abrupt end in 1939.

1940-1955/Winter: Trough war is WW2. Age of austerity. All excess capacity goes to the war effort, followed by slump after victory due to debt burden. [Milk ingredients removed from KitKats!] Street lighting is curtailed. Plans to improve the road network are cancelled, as is a highway program like that observed in the US. All the best coal is exported to pay war debts, worsening smog in the cities. Rail network falls technologically behind Europe and North America. Increasing congestion in major cities. UK continues to lose overseas markets as it tries to return to peace time production.

1955-1970/Spring: Mass mechanisation of farming, infrastructure boom, highway building, railway modernisation, construction of airport hubs, world leader in subsonic aircraft with supersonic intentions. Productivity gains, computers become part of the work place, new nuclear facilities brought online. Many areas have full employment. Peak in house building by local authorities. Peak in middle class incomes adjusted for purchasing power. Liberalisation of the arts, reduction in censorship and laws on sexual preference. British music industry ascends, colour TV broadcasts begin. UK hasn't had a current account surplus since May 1969.

1970-1985/Summer: In the late '70s, inflation was the major economic problem, above unemployment. Inflation in May 1979 stood at 10.3%, after a peak of over 20% and a general strike movement: so-called 'Winter of Discontent' with the ultimate in hubris by the nation's leader: 'What crisis?' Peak war of hubris represented by 1982 Falklands War, with ships intended for scrap called up to carry paratroopers to attack an inferior conscript army. This victory was vital in shoring up national support for the increasingly unpopular Thatcherite regime. Societal doubts take the form of numerous urban riots, not only in London but also Liverpool and other major cities, in 1981. Inflation is offset by monetarist theory; full employment as a target disappears, and the government seeks only to reduce inflation, not unemployment, which reaches at least 2.5 million, levels not seen since the previous depression. Many infrastructure plans cancelled before realisation: highway building peaks, motorways left unfinished.

1985-2000/Autumn: Deregulation of City of London, which spreads to the world's other major markets. Invention of dubious technology to skim wealth from market transactions. Rising disparity between rich and poor. Labour Party ceases to exist as a platform for working class needs. There was a 1987 speculative crash, a 1992 currency crisis [George Soros was a key benefactor of UK public losses], a 2000 'dotcom' crash. Continued de-industrialisation, offset by North Sea oil, which peaked in 1997. Use of nuclear energy also peaks in the 1990s - plants are decommissioned but not replaced. Highway building declines sharply. Apart from a toll road, the last motorway was the Manchester ring road, completed in 2000, also the year when supersonic commercial flights ended.

2000-2015/Winter: Age of austerity. Income gap reaches record levels. UK follows pattern of all 'western' nations, as debt repayments account for an increasingly large amount of private and government spending. Infrastructure renewal is cancelled, with 'New' Labour scrapping all the outgoing party's future road schemes. Infrastructure repair maintained but becoming an increasing burden. Continued selling off of national assets, such as the Royal Mail, following telecoms, steel, shipbuilding, rail and power. No large scale independent car manufacturers remain. Cadbury's bought out by Mondelēz International, Inc. conglomerate, production moves incrementally overseas. Government no longer reports inflation or unemployment with accuracy, yet still considers itself a full spectrum power in the Middle East. Diverts spending toward the military with numerous interventions. For example, in 2011 it was a key player in the war against Libya, which led to the death of over thirty thousand people. Trough war to break "psychology of doom" would be WW3.

Spring is coming? The 'trough war' could drive a country out of depression, so they say, due to technological innovation and a sense of pulling together. I don't agree with that theory, because excess capacity worked off as debt or weapons is wasted in both cases, not to mention the cost in human life. One enriches financiers, the other arms manufacturers. The distinction between those two groups is disappearing, but so is the grip the outgoing generation have on the minds of the young.