We have just received the following letter, suggesting a novel way of increasing our gross national product. Editor
I write in the hope that you will put before your readers my solution to the problem of relatively low productivity in the UK. I am tired of hearing alleged experts harping on this theme. Sooner or later all countries in our world will have to stop agonising about constantly increasing their gross domestic products (GDPs). There must be a limit to population growth and the demand for both goods and services, so we might as well get used to these related facts. For anyone who cannot yet do so, I offer a stopgap method of raising the level of output per person.
It has often been said that economists are people who know the price of everything and the value of nothing. If that is so, they should be satisfied with my answer to their moaning about UK production. As far as they are concerned, anything that requires increased efforts and rewards must be good for the economy, so obviously that includes destructive activities which necessitate remedial work. This kind of thing happens frequently, for instance where industry causes blight, which then has to be rectified by other exertions.
Most of us could make our contributions by indulging in whatever we feel best able to do. As indicated above, whether that be positive or negative does not matter in terms of boosting the economy. I could make many suggestions, but would prefer to leave the field open to other people who are interested in my notion, as they will doubtless be as inventive as I am in this respect. However, I like to think of myself as a pioneer, so I’m prepared to make a start by giving a practical demonstration of my method, and lest anyone should think that I have any inhibitions about putting my money where my mouth is, the one I have in mind is sure to involve me in some suffering. Allow me to explain.
Having studied the traffic patterns of the borough in which I live, I have established that, as in most urban areas, our roads are very busy at certain times. In this town (I am not prepared to divulge my address at present) there is usually a steady stream of vehicles in the main street on weekdays from about eight in the morning until six in the evening. I propose to avoid that period because for my purpose, whatever is on the road needs to be moving at close to the maximum speed allowed in a built-up area.
I will now set the scene by explaining that from about six-thirty p.m. onwards, very little traffic passes along the street in question, though several buses do so, and at shortly after seven o’clock a double-decker goes past a row of shops, including one occupied by a jeweller. There is no stop nearby, so the driver is usually proceeding as fast as the law permits, and is on the same side as the shop. Parking is prohibited on that side, but not on the opposite one, where one can always find some stationary cars, including at least two or three luxury ones. This is the picture and now let me disclose my intention.
On an evening of my choosing, I shall get into one of the expensive cars (I know how to do this). As the bus approaches, I shall cross the road and swerve in front of it, timing my action so that the bus driver will be unable to avoid a collision. I am going to ensure that the blow my vehicle receives is a hard sideswipe. I shall be injured, but not severely enough to make me lose control, so I will steer the car straight into the jeweller’s shop window, smashing the metal grille that protects the items behind it. They will be scattered around the shop’s interior and the adjacent pavement, or footway as I prefer to call the pedestrians’ space.
The consequences of my noble act of self-sacrifice will be considerable and I am giving here only those that occur to me immediately, though there may well be others.
First, as it will be easy to pick up the jeweller’s wares, people will appear like magic. Some of them are likely to make a genuine effort to help me and anyone else who may need assistance, while others, though ostensibly doing the same, will take the opportunity to pocket a few valuable objects. They will probably sell them for whatever cash they can get and then spend it.
Second, the medical people will need to do some work for me and perhaps for others, as I cannot guarantee that no nobody else will be hurt. After I have been patched up, I shall complain of mysterious side effects that will require further attention, possibly for some time because I have every intention of being an ‘interesting’ patient. The bus driver will be badly shaken and some of his passengers will probably also be affected in some way. Knowing how the compensation culture has taken hold here, it is certain that a number of these people will exploit the incident, demanding recompense for any physical effects and for ‘acute mental anguish’ endured as a result of the experience.
Third, there will be extensive work for builders, in restoring the shop to its normal condition, and for motor repair workers, who attend to the car and the bus. Both parties will seize the opportunity for making as much profit as they can, knowing that they are dealing with insurance claims.
Fourth, lawyers are sure to be involved, and they will have a fine time sorting out who should get what out of the event. Among other things, there will almost certainly be at least one court case, with all that implies.
It should be obvious to anyone who has read the above that my act of seeming irresponsibility will be quite the opposite and I shall become a great public benefactor because my deed will keep lots of people busy. All of them will have to be paid, so this will ensure a great deal of money coming into circulation that might otherwise have been tied up doing nothing. Since the gross national product and the national income are usually regarded as more or less synonymous, I envisage economists being enraptured at the thought that someone has finally worked out how to bring about a really substantial increase in our nation’s productivity. I commend my proposal to public and government alike and am hopeful that many may wish to follow my lead in their various ways.
Mr Anonymous – I do not wish to reveal my identity at present.
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