Panning in and out can make things look different. Take, for example, current fear that we are saddling our children and grandchildren with public debt on an unprecedented scale. Here’s a graph from the Telegraph, entirely accurate, portraying the problem of balooning public debt as a percentage of GDP: Dire times, you may say, and a real problem for us all.
But, you may wonder, what about the bigger picture? As public sector requirement has risen down the years, we’ve always funded it by borrowing. We never did, for example, save up in a Jam Jar until the nation could afford, say, an army and navy for the Napoleonic Wars. How does our present apocalyptic orgy of public debt sit within a historical range?
OK. Here is UK Public Debt as a percentage of GDP going back to, er, 1700. Hmm. Lies, damned lies and statistics, you may say. But it does indicate that statistics need to be placed in context.
By all means let’s not saddle our grandchildren with unnecessary debt — but let’s try and do so on rational grounds.