The economy is too important to be left to economists. Theirs is not a science but a series of experiments, usually at the expense of the poorest and most vulnerable, and largely based on political prejudice rather than empirical facts. Their track record is appalling, akin to treating cancer with leeches, but you can be sure that a decade or so from now one of their feted ones will write a book about how we handled it all wrong after lockdown. And it looks as if we will do.

Already those who brought 10 years of austerity are preparing to do it all over again. The architect of it, former chancellor George Osborne, is already on the record. “When this is over there is going to be a very large amount of debt and it’s not going to be bonanza time,” he said. “We’ll be going back into a period of retrenchment and trying to bring public-sector debt down. That is something we can focus on later.” The IMF has his back.

No George, now! Steep cuts in welfare spending hit the poorest hardest, catapulted hundreds of thousands into universal debt not credit, brought in zero-hours contracts, the exponential growth in foodbanks, poverty cooks telling us how to live off insects or foraging, the rise of cut-price supermarkets, and a drop in real wages – if you were fortunate enough to have a job in the public sector. In the private, of course, executive salaries and bonuses mushroomed while wages and conditions collapsed.

Are we going back there? Major employers are already using the present Covid crisis to cut back on staff, with the likes of BA handing out redundancy notices to thousands of staff holding out that some may be brought back on reduced salaries and fewer rights.

One in four employers expects to make substantial redundancies according to one authoritative survey, while academics at the University of Essex are predicting six-and-a-half million on the dole, with the hardest hit young people.

At the end of the Second World War, Britain came out of it with debt at around 270% of GDP, and just 12 years after it the prime minister, Harold Macmillan, was able to boom: “You’ve never had it so good.” This was down to massive increases in the major industries in production of the things we don’t have any more here – steel, coal and motor cars. As well as in the public sector with the creation of the welfare state.

In the 1930s after the Great Depression, Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal in the US invested in a series of programmes and public works projects, providing support for farmers, the unemployed and old and young people, and also culture.

It was Margaret Thatcher who destroyed the post-war consensus, the belief in a mixed economy, and implemented the ideas of right-wing economic zealots like Milton Friedman and FA Hayek, as well as her tub-thumping chief adviser Keith Joseph, a man who makes Dominic Cummings look like a rule-following diligent.

Just as there was no such thing as society – a nonsense that has been disproved, not least in the current crisis – the “nanny state” had to be dismembered. Full employment was ditched, job insecurity made workers more malleable, establishing in this country one of the most deregulated economies in the Western world – the Big Bang – and selling off state enterprises, after years of starved investment, like water, British Airways, British Telecom, gas, electric and railways. Does any sentient being today believe that rail is better than it was?

There was economic growth, although nothing compared with that of our competitors. And growth, as someone said, hopefully not an economist, has the marvellous quality of stilling discontent while maintaining privilege. That growth, over the decades, made the debts of the Second World War inconsequential, although getting debt down was the obsession of George Osborne, a man with a history degree who ought to have known better. The burden of inherited debt was brought down over time without austerity.

The state cupboard is bare now. The sales went to make comparatively few people obscenely wealthy and paid pension funds. The latest prediction is that the cost of state intervention (that sound is Mrs Thatcher rolling over) which has saved mass poverty and, who knows, rioting in the streets, may cost £177 billion. It could cost considerably more. UK GDP is around £3 trillion with Government debt, as a proportion, at 85% as of March last year. Nothing like at the end of the Second World War.

The cost of borrowing is now almost negligible. If rates stay low, as they will for some years, then doubling debt would still mean the Treasury would be paying less to service it than at any time in the 20th century.

So, we should borrow to invest, even if we double or treble our debt. Why the Government obsession with debt and borrowings, the stick which the Tories used to beat the hapless Labour administration into decades of powerlessness? Debt could be rolled over forever, meaning we’d never have to pay it back.

The UK tax system is also viciously unjust, it favours income from capital over labour, benefiting the well-off. UK tax rates are also low compared to other G7 countries. The Institute for Fiscal Studies, hardly a raging inferno of Trotskyism, reports that the middle and top earners pay less than other developed countries and the Treasury take from income taxes is also below average.

We need a tax on trading transactions, the Tobin tax, an increase in the derisory low rate of corporation tax, local taxes realistically based on property values, not moored in the last century, and a comprehensive revision of the tax system to make it equitable.

And we need to put a stop to absurd vanity projects like the Trident upgrade – costing north of £200bn, but take your own guess, it will probably be as accurate – where another country, the US, holds the keys anyway, and HS2, at £100bn-plus and rising, and put the money into social projects, extending the existing rail network, job creation, the NHS, planning for the pandemics to come, a universal income, councils and infrastructure.

Governments throughout the world have shown that faced with immediate and catastrophic danger they can react swiftly, if less so in the UK, and that paying for it is not an inhibitant.

It’s the less pressing, but ultimately planet-ending ones, like global warming that we’re laggardly, or in denial, over. It’s fine all of us putting our waste in different bins but until governments take measures to stop pollution rather than jetting in to exotic places to talk about it, it’s like taking an egg cup to bail out a bath.

The revival has to put those who were last first, the workers in the NHS, in care homes, transport and essential services, the ones who are presently saving us, with proper wages and conditions that value their crucial contribution.

This isn’t socialism, it’s economic common sense. Properly invest in the NHS, in a Green New Deal, however those who know more about it define it.

It’s the politics which matter, not the eggheads with calculators and graphs. You don’t have to follow his model but, as John Maynard Keynes accurately put it, if economists could manage to get themselves thought of as humble, competent people on a level with dentists, that would be splendid.