The AFTER programme is something that Sir Herbert Hambling, Deputy Chairman of Barclays Bank and a Financial Member of the Ministry of Munitions from 1914 to 1919, would no doubt have referred to with pride in his inaugural address as president to the Institute of Bankers in November 1924. Yet for Sir Herbert, the war was not solely to blame for the unemployment problem.
It had, he believed, rather a lot to do with a disruption to foreign trade, a lack of co-operation between labour and capital, and the failure of each industry to recognise its dependence on the success of every other.
“…among the influences hampering a return to prosperity, the failure to realise this mutual dependence looms possibly largest of all.”
He was adamant, too, that unemployment was not simply a political problem.
"I am convinced,” he said, “that the ultimate solution to our problems lies largely in a wider diffusion of knowledge. A better understanding of the laws of economics would remove many difficulties because it would bring with it a realisation of the first principle of co-operation, which is that both profits and wages are drawn from the same source and they are both ultimately determined by the volume of wealth produced. It is in this direction that I think a great responsibility rests on the members of the banking profession.”
In 2008, in the heat of the banking crisis, former Bank of England Governor Lord King likened the economic situation facing us to that August of 1914. And while the recovery continues at varying speeds across the globe following the recent financial crisis, unemployment remains a significant problem worldwide. A problem that, if we are to solve it, will require us to think and act in different ways.