Every generation since the industrial revolution has believed that it is living through a period of unprecedented economic change. Such a view is a commonplace today, and if it were true it would render discussion of past Labour Governments of little interest to today’s policy-making. Yet evidence for such a view of today is scarce. At the most general level, we would surely expect ‘unprecedented change’ to be accompanied by particularly rapid growth of productivity, yet there is no sign of this. The trend in productivity growth in all OECD countries has been slower since the 1970s than before, even if, as seems sensible, we ignore the 1974-79 period as a distinct and unique crisis period, inclusion of which distorts long-run patterns.1