The Economics of Digging a Hole

‘If the Treasury were to fill old bottles with banknotes, bury them at suitable depths in disused coalmines which are then filled up to the surface with town rubbish, and leave it to private enterprise on well-tried principles of laissez-faire to dig the notes up again (the right to do so being obtained, of course, by tendering for leases of the note-bearing territory), there need be no more unemployment and, with the help of the repercussions, the real income of the community, and its capital wealth also, would probably become a good deal greater than it actually is. It would, indeed, be more sensible to build houses and the like; but if there are political and practical difficulties in the way of this, the above would be better than nothing.’

– Keynes. J.M. (1936) The General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money, Book III: The Propensity to Consume London, United Kingdom: Palgrave Macmillan p. 129

A Sacrifice for your Country

In the second world war, civil servants from the ministry of labour visited the big estates to see if some people could be released for essential war work. This work of the civil servants involved checking several duties and timing labour activities of members of staff. While visiting the household of the Duke of Devonshire one civil servant remarked:

“Well your grace, we can understand that you need forty-seven gardeners and thirteen under-gardeners, several grooms, chauffeurs, upstairs maids, downstairs maids, in-between maids, laundry room maids, stool room maids, kitchen maids, nurse maids, housemaids, and parlour maids. And we understand you need the boys to scrape your knives and polish your shoes, the butlers, and four footman. But we were wondering if a minor economy could be made; is it truly necessary your grace needs two pastry chefs?”

To which the Duke replied: “Oh damn it! Can’t a man have a biscuit?”

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