(note: this node is about Britain
only, I know nothing about any other countries.)
The order of priority that economic objectives are given depends on the government in office. The notion that the government should take actions to manage the economy to achieve its objectives is, in historical terms, a relatively new idea. In Winston Churchill's budget speech of 1929, he said,
'It is the orthodox Treasury dogma that, whatever the social and political advantages, no permanent additional employment can be created by state borrowing and public expenditure.'
Since then, however, economic advisers have been appointed by the government to measure and analyse economic trends and to suggest policy for their manipulation.
The turning-point for governments being responsible for economic objectives occurred after the Second World War. For example, the White Paper on Employment published in May 1944 stated that the Government accepted 'as one of their primary aims and responsibilities the maintainance of a high and stable level of employment after the war.'
Since this statement of intent in 1944, employment policy has been an important criterion for all governments. During the 1980s, it dropped from the number one slot to allow a more concentrated effort on curbing inflation. For example, the Chancellor of the Exchequer in 1991 said:
'Rising unemployment and the recession have been the price that we've had to pay to get inflation down. That is a price worth paying.'
In the 1990s, however we have seen full employment return as the most important economic issue.