11 NOVEMBER 1932, Page 6

Rockets and Roman candles banging round me on Saturday prompted

some reflections on the latest phases of the save-or-spend controversy. For there could be no better lesson in elementary economics than Guy Fawkes Day provides. Let it be admitted that it is a good thing to spend and thus provide employment. To buy fireworks and let them off undoubtedly does that. So does burning your house down ; it is an admirable thing for the building trade. But there is something to be said, after all, for wise spending as well as for mere spending pure and simple. Spend the total cost of the nation's fireworks on houses and the houses remain. People needing houses can live in them and pay someone rent for them. Spend it on bridges and you save people time and shoe-leather. Spend it on a wireless set or a gramophone and you, at any rate, get continuous enter- tainment and perhaps some enlargement of mental out- look. And now comes Sir Ernest Benn's demand that we should go in this year for a burst of spending on Christmas presents. Whatever that is I refuse to regard it as wise spending. In the main you give as a duty something the recipient never wanted, thus laying on him the moral obligation (as Sir Ernest acutely points out) to bestow on you a similar white elephant in return. That process is full of pitfalls, to say nothing of the mental wear and . tear. If we must give Christmas presents, carefully chosen minor luxuries (people buy necessities for themselves anyhow) probably satisfy the economic requirements best, particularly if they owe their attraction to the work put into them, not to mere scarcity value. * *