THE depression we are enduring is longer than that of the 1930s, if not quite as devastating on lives, and it was caused in large part by Britain’s failure to pay its way in the world for more than 30 years.
For a generation, we have bought more from other countries than we have sold to them. That has contributed to a rise in the overall debt bearing down on the British economy to record and unsustainable levels.
It is the perceived need to reduce those debts – banking debts, household debts, company debts, government debts, together equivalent to five times the value of everything we produce every year – that has stymied the recovery.
The corollary is that sustainable long-term prosperity requires us to produce far more of the goods and services that the rest of the world wants.
Which is a pretty good reason, if we really needed one, to prod our young people to aim high.
For me, that link between young people’s hunger to achieve and our economic prospects motivated me to create Speakers for Schools. It is a charity that aims to get our most inspirational and brilliant minds to give talks for free in state schools.
These are not careers talks, although our sister organisation, Inspiring The Future, does provide those. They are an attempt to bring school students together with inspirational individuals who can share exciting knowledge and – perhaps more importantly – their own stories of how graft and application opens up worlds of opportunity.
If I am on a personal mission here it is because I discovered that the schools that, relatively speaking, have it all – our leading fee-paying schools – take it for granted that the world’s top people will share their wisdom gratis with their students.
But the kind of comprehensives which made me, for better or worse, lack the confidence and networks to do the same.
Speakers for Schools, which launches this week in Scotland, is an attempt to level the playing field between Eton and Gasworks Comp.
• Robert Peston is BBC business editor and author of How do we fix this mess? For more information, visit www.speakers4schools.org