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Was 1989 the most important year ever??

Discussion in 'Chit Chat' started by Halfhidden, Jan 21, 2011.

  1. Halfhidden

    Halfhidden Untouchable Staff Member Administrator

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    The years 1989 and 2009 are bookends to a fascinating period in Britain's political and economic history. Profound changes have happened, and for most of the intervening period the country enjoyed unprecedented economic prosperity and stability. In many respects, however, we have come full circle: the outlook now is as uncertain as it was in 1989.
    For the economy, 1989 was all about clearing up after the boom years. The 1980s, for so long a decade of rising unemployment and industrial strife, had given way to the full flowering of the Thatcherite economic revolution.
    Income-tax rates had been slashed, most notably in Nigel Lawson's 1988 budget and, free from the old controls on bank lending, people had been free to borrow at will. But there was, not for the first time, too much economic exuberance and the return of inflation, something the Thatcher government had vowed to destroy.
    Although she held office right up to November 1990, 1989 was the year that saw the writing on the wall for Britain's first woman prime minister. Her demotion of Sir Geoffrey Howe from his position as foreign secretary in July 1989, followed by the resignation of Lawson as chancellor of the exchequer in October, provided further evidence of a disintegrating government, torn apart from the top by a leader who had become increasingly stubborn and out of touch.
    Lawson's successor as chancellor, John Major, had a phrase for what the economy needed to go through. "If it isn't hurting, it isn't working," he said. It was hurting; interest rates had been pushed up to 15% and stayed there for a year, and house prices had begun to fall. The boom had come to an abrupt end, and among those hurt was the prime minister.
    For 1989 was a pivotal year for Thatcher in another respect. She faced a leadership challenge, the assumption having previously been that nobody would dare, and her "stalking horse" challenger. Sir Anthony Meyer, celebrated the fact that 60 of his parliamentary colleagues were prepared to "think the unthinkable" and not support the prime minister. Even more than that, the seeds of Thatcher's downfall were sown by policy decisions forced through in 1989. The poll tax, or community charge, was introduced in Scotland in April. Its unpopularity there, together with pressure from within the Tory party to abandon it entirely, failed to persuade her to abandon plans to bring it in during 1990 in England and Wales.
    "Nothing did more than the poll tax to precipitate Mrs Thatcher's downfall," wrote John Campbell, her biographer. "It seemed to epitomise the least attractive as peas of her political personality - a hard-faced inegalitarianism combined with a pig-headed authoritarianism - and at the same time demonstrated a fatal loss of political judgement."
    The irony was that, globally, events were occurring that provided the most powerful endorsement of Thatcher's broader political approach. The end of the cold war and the collapse of communism in the Soviet bloc were followed by the opening up of China to large-scale foreign investment and, soon afterwards, by India's economic reforms.
    "Globalisation" was hardly used as a description of these changes at the time — it came into popular usage during the 1990s — but the emergence of a global free market was the result of these changes.

    Professor Richard Freeman of Harvard University has described the doubling of the global labour force from 1.5 billion to 3 billion as a result of these changes — and the number of consumers with access to international markets — as the "one big fact" about the world economy.

    It did not have to happen like this; China's reaction to Tiananmen Square and the international condemnation that followed could easily have been to turn inwards. The eastern bloc's shift to capitalism was bumpy, and problems for some former Soviet-bloc economies persist to this day; Hungary, Ukraine and Serbia have been bailed out by the International Monetary Fund during the current crisis.

    But the sweeping global economic and political changes of 1989 had enduring consequences. The supply of low-cost goods from China and low-cost services from India

    helped destroy the inflation that marred Thatcher's time in office. The willingness of the populations of these newly emerging economies to save meant that people in the West, and particularly Britain and America, could get by with saving less. Thatcher's labour-market reforms, which severely curtailed the power of the unions, were too recent to have much impact by 1989, but job-market flexibility was an important component of the long upturn.

    These forces, together with the willingness and ability of households and businesses to take on debt, gave Britain the longest period of growth in modern economic history. Inflation stayed low and unemployment carried on falling.

    Though the upturn did not begin until 1992, many of the seeds were sown in 1989. And for 16 years, until the financial crisis brought it to a sudden end last year, Britain benefited from rising prosperity. What is interesting, in comparing public attitudes then and now, is how little of the legacy of that long upturn has survived the downturn into recession. YouGov, the pollsters, surveyed more than 2,500 people, replicating a series of questions asked in 1989. Even allowing for the current deep recession (its counterpart was looming in 1989 but had yet to have its full impact), we are much less satisfied than we were.

    Objectively, we are much better off now than then — real household disposable incomes have risen by 63% over
    the past 20 years — but it does not feel like it. In 1989, 18% of people were "very satisfied" with their standard of living and 57% "fairly satisfied", making 75% in all. Now the figures are 8% and 39% respectively, a total of 47%. Our satisfaction with our standard of living has dropped by more than a third.

    We were happier in our work back then; 34% were very satisfied with their job and 48% fairly satisfied, a total of 82%. Now the numbers are down to 24% and 43% respectively, a combined 67%.

    In 1989,44% agreed with the statement: "My life seems to have been full of new and challenging opportunities." Now the proportion is down to 36%. People may be glum but they have not lost hope, however. The proportion thinking that opportunities are better for ordinary families now compared with 20 years ago, 45%, is slightly higher than the 38% who believe that things have got worse.

    More encouragingly, looking to the future, 39% think things will be better in 20 years' time than now, compared with 24% who say they will be worse. Otherwise, the sense of dissatisfaction goes deep. Tony Blair thought that one of his proudest achievements was removing the culture of envy from the Labour party. Labour politicians were able to stand up at party conferences and defend high salaries. "Rewards for success" were acceptable to the left. In 1989, The Sunday Times Rich List — then featuring the wealthiest 200 people in Britain — was published for the first time. After the Queen and the Duke of Westminster came the Sainsbury family, with wealth of just under £2 billion; the Rausings, whose wealth was based on the TetraPak, were worth £1.9 billion; and Sir John Moores was worth £1.7 billion, based on the success of the family football-pools business.

    Then, 40% of people agreed that it was a good thing that some people became very wealthy. Now, perhaps as a result of bankers' bonuses and public anger over issues such as the former RBS chief executive Sir Fred Goodwin's pension, only 28% think so.

    Dissatisfaction with our lot extends to intense scepticism about politicians. In 1989, despite Thatcher's unpopularity, 35% thought politicians were generally good people. That proportion has halved to 17%. Then, 82% thought there was a big difference between the Conservatives and Labour. Now only 30% do. Confidence in the police has also subsided, from the 70% in 1989 who thought they generally did a good job, to only 46% now.

    Perhaps the most surprising change has been in attitudes towards the environment: 1989 was a high-water mark for environmental concerns, the Green party achieving a record share of the vote in UK European parliament elections. Recent years have seen climate change pushed to the very top of the political agenda, with government
    initiatives such as Lord Stern's report on the economics of global warming and an apparent consensus on the issue among mainstream scientists.

    Despite all this, the poll suggests that people are more sceptical about climate change than they were 20 years ago, Some of these shifts may reflect the fact that the recession has become a bigger priority for people and that environmental worries, riding high two years ago, have taken a back seat. But for those who believed that public opinion had moved on hugely, the findings are a wake-up call. On most of these questions we were more "enlightened" two decades ago.

    There is one final shift to report. At the end of the 1980s, if you were worried about the environment you were probably against nuclear power, so only 29% thought building nuclear power stations was a good thing. Perhaps led by a change of opinion on this issue by eminent scientists such as James Lovelock, that proportion has grown significantly. Now 44% think nuclear power is a good thing and only 18% are against it. That is the nearest thing to a public vote in favour of more nuclear power.
    Article transcribed from Sunday Times
    Last edited: Jan 21, 2011
  2. Pokerboy

    Pokerboy Dev Team Administrator

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    wow you found time to write all of this, I'd have to agree with your original title because I was born in 1989 and there for its the best year ever.
    But on a more serious note it is amazing at what has been achieved since 1989 - 2009 and beyond, most people don't really relate to economic or political changes as much as the advancement and development of technologies. This last 10 years has seen the growth of the internet or World Wide Web from something used by government's and universities through to a daily phonon used by millions.

    I'm interested to read on the replies to what other members think of this interesting but scary change our knowledge and advancements have lead us to achieve, who knows what we will be able to achieve in 10 years time from now.
  3. symons55

    symons55 Moderator Staff Member

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    I just find that as I get older I find it mind boggling the changes I've seen since a youngster, especially from the 60's onward, 89-09 may have been good but trust me, the changes from the 60's are really mind boggling. The older ones here on site will agree. All those e-mails you get about "when I was young" believe me they're true, maybe one day I'll list things from then to now. For me the 60's were a pivitol time in my life, you've all heard stories about those days, well, most of them are true, maybe I'll write some memories and put them on site, it'll take some reading. ::15:

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