By Lord Robbins
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Extra info for Against Inflation: Speeches in the Second Chamber 1965–1977
I believe it would be an exaggeration to say that under the last Government, inspired by the best will in the world, the operations of the Prices and Incomes Board restrained the rise ofincomes by more than a negligible percentage. I am bound to say, having searched long and far in this connection, that if there is a workable incomes policy it has not yet been made clear-at any rate, an incomes policy in this sense of detailed regulation all round. So I am forced to the conclusion, unpalatable to some on the crossbenches, I fancy, that the main instruments of control must be overall rather than particular.
It seems to me probable that we ourselves should feel impelled to do this, and I am sure that quite a number of other centres would do likewise. In such a state of affairs the centres which continued to maintain the old parity with gold would be at an increasing disadvantage in markets in which their producers were in competition with members of the Dollar Group, as were members of the old Gold Block in the years following President Roosevelt's experiment with adjustable dollar rates. The probability is, therefore, that they would be tempted to devaluations in terms of gold, and this in turn would easily lead to further depreciation of the floating dollar and associated currencies.
But elsewhere, outside the public sector, throughout the rest of the economy, it is not at all clear to me that long-run success is to be expected from this sort of policy. Indeed, my fear is that the remedy may prove as bad as the disease. B. did very much to restrain inflation. I would go further and say that I suspect that the setting of norms, so-called, may in fact have made things worse and prompted claims that might otherwise have been more moderate. Anyway, it is clear to me that, as a permanent long-run policy, control of prices and incomes from the centre can work effectively only with much more interference with individual liberty, and much more control from the centre than the majority of this people are as yet prepared to put up with.
Against Inflation: Speeches in the Second Chamber 1965–1977 by Lord Robbins