Aug 14 2011: Equality by R.H. Tawney (Halley Stewart Lectures, 1929)
The last time levels of economic and social inequality reached present-day levels was, according to recent statistics, in the 1920s, so it seems worth looking at the Halley Stewart Lectures, delivered by R.H. Tawney, on the eve of the Great Crash of 1929, since in these we may find reflections on circumstances very close to our present situation and some indications as to what the measures for resolution of current problems – to the benefit of many more people than now – might be. The best retrospective analysis of the Great Crash itself, and the economic and political actions that first exacerbated and (eventually, after a change of direction during the 1930s and 40s) helped resolve its devastating effects, remains J.K. Galbraith’s very readable account published in 1955.
What follow are a few brief extracts from the concluding section of Tawney’s 1929 Halley Stewart lecture series. They strike many powerful echoes with our own, sadly amnesiac, political moment: