Samuel Brittan

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Full name: Samuel Brittan

Area of interest: Economics, Government and Politics

Journals/Organisation: Financial Times


Personal website:








  • Cambridge University - taught by Peter Bauer and Milton Friedman. Honorary Fellow of Jesus College, Cambridge; Hon. Doctor of Letters (Heriot-Watt University, Edinburgh); Hon. Doctor of the University of Essex. Was also a visiting Professor at the Chicago Law School, Visiting Fellow of Nuffield College, Oxford, Honorary Professor of Politics at Warwick

Career: Economics editor at the Observer (1961-64). Economic commentator with the Financial Times since 1966

see: profile

Current position/role: Commentator

  • also writes/has written for:

Other roles/Main role: Author

Other activities: Author

  • Advisor, Department of Economic Affairs (1965)
  • Peacock Committee on the Finance of the BBC (1985-86)



see: Interviews

Broadcast media:


Controversy/Criticism: Defended Margaret Thatcher's economic policy when, in March 1981, 364 leading economists wrote to The Times in criticism

Awards/Honours: Awarded the George Orwell, Senior Harold Wincott and Ludwig Erhard prizes. Knighted for “services to economic journalism”, 1993; Chevalier de la Legion d’Honneur, 1993


Other: Brother of Leon Brittan, the Lord Brittan of Spennithorne

Books & Debate:

Against the flow Samuel Brittan.jpg

Latest work: Against the flow: reflections of an individualist OCLC 56912653 , 2005 (reviews & articles about)

see also: Books | Speeches



Financial Times:

Column name:

Remit/Info: Economics, Government and Politics

Section: Comment

Role: Commentator



Website: / Samuel Brittan

Commissioning Editor:

Days published: Friday

Regularity: Fortnightly

Column format:

Average length: 1000 words

Articles: 2014

Articles: 2013

Articles: 2012

Articles: 2011

Articles: 2010

Articles: 2009

  • Patterns in the eye of the beholder - Is there such a thing as regular business cycles? Or are all fluctuations just an irregular wave-like movement - 11th December
  • Changing government is never easy - The problem when the ruling party might be voted out is how much contact the civil service has with the opposition while continuing to serve the government - 27th November
  • Simple truths about the economy - Cutting deficits can wait - 13th November
  • Freedom for Sale - John Kampfner studies the US, Italy, Russia, China and India as he attacks the thesis that capitalism leads to personal and political freedom - 6th November
  • Goodbye to the pre-crisis trend line - The latest IMF World Economic Outlook points out that much of the loss of output in a severe recession is permanent - 30th October
  • Whatever happened to imbalances? - In dollar terms the sums seemed huge. In relative terms they are less frightening. At their 2008 peak, on IMF estimates, global imbalances amounted to 2½ per cent of world gross national product - 16th October
  • A cool look at the current deficit hysteria - In the early Victorian period the debt ratio was nearly 200 per cent and almost reached that level again in the early 1920's - 2nd October
  • Worse evils exist than corruption - Politicians and officials in emerging economies are estimated to receive bribes of between $20bn and $40bn annually - 18th September
  • We do not prosper by income or happiness alone - It is worth removing specific injustices on a piecemeal basis even if it is impossible to construct a perfectly just society or even agree on what such a society would look like - 4th September
  • Why the case for assisted dying is unanswerable - The main reason it is so difficult to reform the law on assisted dying is that those on the fundamentalist side will be prepared to base their votes on this issue, while humanist utilitarians will see it as only one of many issues - 8th August
  • Economists shuffle the deckchairs - What matters is whether economists can identify significant turning points and systemic failures in good time - 7th August
  • How the budget hole developed - There is now more danger of economic stimuli being reversed too soon than of their being continued too long - 24th July
  • A new guide for the perplexed - Attempts to make sense of the financial crisis often lead to even more confusion. Here is an attempt to outline the main issues - 10th July
  • ‘Green shoots’ debate misleads policymakers - It is highly likely that we will have before long a quarter or two of stable output. The interesting question is where we go from there - 26th June
  • It is time to put Europe on hold - Institutional deepening must be halted - 12th June
  • Inflation can act as a safety valve - As Keynes and others have observed, workers accept more readily a real wage cut arising from a rise in the general level of prices than an actual reduction in what they are paid - 29th May
  • Green shoots and dud forecasts - New mathematical theories provide insights but no alternatives. We just have to accept that the future cannot be foreseen in the way many governments and businessmen would like - 15th May
  • A catechism for a system that endures - The Future of Capitalism: The assumption that the pursuit of self-interest within the rules and conventions of society will also promote the public interest may be succeeded by a mushy collectivist pseudo-altruism, in which jealousy and envy are given a free ride - 1st May
  • A long cool look at budget deficits - In 1992 the strategy of the then-chancellor Norman Lamont was a parody of St Augustine’s “Let me be chaste but not yet”. Could it work again - 17th April
  • Why UK should not fret about national debt - The more reluctant people and corporations are to spend, the greater the case for the state to spend to fill the gap - 27th March
  • It seems not all recessions are created equal - The authors of an IMF working paper found one out of six recessions was associated with a credit crunch, one in four with a house price bust and one in three with an equity crash - 13th March
  • Demand matters, not animal spirits - To be induced to expand output, businessmen require an improved market and not a rush of optimism - 27th February
  • Economic dominoes are still falling - Obama’s fiscal package contains favourite pork barrel projects. But a non-ideal stimulus is better than nothing - 13th February
  • Deflation is the wrong enemy - A sustained period of falling prices has sometimes been associated with falling output, but not always - 30th January
  • Where the bishops have gone wrong - If they only would step back from their grandstanding, religious leaders could find opportunities in the downturn - 16th January
  • The problem with all this economic doom and gloom - It is a logical absurdity that there should exist unsatisfied wants side by side with idle workers willing to supply them - 2nd January

Articles: 2008

  • Lessons from the original New Deal - When fighting a slump concentrate on demand and output. Do not interfere with prices and wages - 19th December 2008
  • ‘A framework for economic stability’ - The biggest error was to take too seriously voices clamouring for a path to sound finance once the recession is over - 5th December 2008
  • Why the Brown critics are wrong - The pre-Budget report package is likely to be received with cries of ‘It won’t work’ by many City analysts - 21st November 2008
  • This ‘bold’ cut is barely adequate - The ultimate weapon would be a fiscal stimulus financed by money creation – the equivalent of the helicopter drop - 7th November 2008
  • The big myth of taxpayer cost - The burden on the citizen is little if anything over the next couple of years and perhaps not much looking further ahead - 23rd October 2008
  • Keynes, thou shoulds’t be living . . . - Maxims about debt that might be prudent for families can be the height of folly for governments - 10th October 2008
  • Make the world safe from crusaders - We could be always at war against cruelty if we did not judge whether our intervention might not add to the sum of misery - 26th September 2008
  • Capitalism and the credit crunch - There will be no ‘glad confident morning’ for free-market principles for a long time to come - 11th September 2008
  • The wrong kind of Third Way - The political process, far from correcting the distortions of unbridled capitalism, has made them worse - 29th August 2008
  • Why those ‘expectations’ matter - If the main economic actors expect the policy to be abandoned, any monetary squeeze just reduces output - 15th August 2008
  • Conditions for a rebalanced economy - What matters is that demand rises fast enough to support growth but not so fast as to generate runaway inflation - 1st August 2008
  • The fallacy of the 'choice agenda' - Ideas popular with politicians that aim to empower users to select from among public service providers do not provide enough choice - 18th July 2008
  • What drives the race to the top - A safer way of helping the poor would be through increases in taxes at all incomes or targeted cuts in spending - 3rd July 2008
  • Why the Irish were right to say no - If you are looking for examples of nonsense on stilts you could hardly find a better instance than the reactions of the European political establishment to the Irish No vote in the referendum on the Lisbon treaty - 20th June 2008
  • A limited defence of Gordon Brown - 6th June 2008
  • Augeries for a 'vile' decade - It sometimes pays to look beyond the headline statistics. The increase in the UK annual inflation rate, measured by the consumer price index, from 2.5 per cent in March to 3 per cent in April - way above the official 2 per cent target - caused quite a stir and a spate of pessimistic comment about the prospects of bank rate reductions - 23rd May 2008
  • The financial crises of capitalism - 9th May 2008
  • A third way on immigration - On October 25 2001, in a column entitled Let the huddled masses go free (reprinted in my book Against the Flow), I proposed abolishing the tenuous distinction between economic immigrants and asylum seekers and conducting a five-year experiment in which anyone who wished could come and go - 25th April 2008
  • The case for a 'dual mandate' - The world's main central banks have lived up to their reputations - 11th April 2008
  • When inflation comes from abroad - The discussion of world credit problems has concentrated too much on the trees and not enough on the wood - 28th March 2008
  • Budget's diminished role - British Budgets are not what they were. Much of the job of steering the economy has shifted from fiscal to monetary policy and therefore to the Bank of England - 14th March 2008
  • The pressure on UK living standards - While the army of investment analysts has been trying to guess whether the Bank rate will be cut by a quarter per cent, a half per cent or not at all - it could even rise - the governor of the Bank of England said something much more important and interesting in his press conference on the Bank's February inflation report - 29th February 2008
  • The British budget conundrum - How did the UK move from Gordon Brown's initial "prudence" as chancellor to a state where, according to the Institute for Fiscal Studies, 19 out of 21 comparable countries have done more to improve their structural budget balances? - 15th February 2008
  • High time for us all to 'buck-up' - Many years ago we had a family friend of Lithuanian Jewish descent who had picked up a smattering of idiomatic English expressions. One of these was "buck up" - 1st February 2008
  • We have defences against a slump - A theme heard among financial analysts is that governments and central banks are running out of "ammunition" to fight a setback in economic activity - 18th January 2008
  • Business growth is not an end in itself - The beginning of a new year should be a good time for business leaders to reflect on how they are seen by the educated but non-specialist public, for instance the arts community - 4th January 2008

Articles: 2007

Samuel articles: 1999/2006

1999 | 2000 | 2001 | 2002 | 2003 | 2004 | 2005 | 2006

News & updates:

  • An ode to Sam - Off Message: Former comment editor, John McDermott, looks back over conversations with the FT economics commentator Samuel Brittan - 31st March 2014