Let us not submit to the vile doctrine of the nineteenth century that every enterprise must justify itself in pounds, shillings and pence of cash income ... Why should we not add in every substantial city the dignity of an ancient university or a European capital ... an ample theater, a concert hall, a dance hall, a gallery, cafes, and so forth. Assuredly we can afford this and so much more. Anything we can actually do, we can afford. ... We are immeasurably richer than our predecessors. Is it not evident that some sophistry, some fallacy, governs our collective action if we are forced to be so much meaner than they in the embellishments of life? ...(Collected Works XXVII)
Yet these must be only the trimmings on the more solid, urgent and necessary outgoings on housing the people, on reconstructing industry and transport and on replanning the environment of our daily life. Not only shall we come to possess these excellent things. With a big programme carried out at a regulated pace we can hope to keep employment good for many years to come. We shall, in fact, have built our New Jerusalem out of the labour which in our former vain folly we were keeping unused and unhappy in enforced idleness.
Relevant today, obviously: Thirteen million people unemployed, 25 percent of industrial capacity idle, and capital, if the interest rate is any guide, more abundant than it's been in decades. If our masters were only interested in what's best for everyone, as they always claim, now would be the moment for new bridges, hospitals, subways, colleges, and public housing, and for parks, theaters, museums, and cafes. Not to mention wind farms. A recession isn't the time to trim sails and take short views, it's the time to go long. So let's build that New Jerusalem.