So I was waiting for a work call and I picked up RH Tawney’s The Acquisitive Society off the top of a pile of books. Published in 1920, the introduction contained some good advice which, I fear – as I am now listening to George Osborne beat the UK’s head against a brick wall for another year – no one in government can hear.
There are times which are not ordinary, and in such times it is not enough to follow the road. It is necessary to know where it leads, and, if it leads nowhere, to follow another. The search for another involves reflection, which is uncongenial to the bustling people who describe themselves as practical, because they take things as they are and leave them as they are. But the practical thing for a traveller who is uncertain of his path is not to proceed with the utmost rapidity in the wrong direction: it is to consider how to find the right one. And the practical thing for a nation which has stumbled upon one of the turning points of history is not to behave as though nothing very important were involved, as if it did not matter whether it turned right or left, went up hill or down dale, provided that it continued doing with a little more energy what it has done hitherto; but to consider whether what it has done hitherto is wise and, if it is not wise, to alter it.