When Margaret Thatcher's governments began "privatising" publicly owned assets (water, gas, electricity etc) it was one of her predecessors as Conservative Prime Minister, Harold Macmillan, who describe this as equal to the folly of "selling off the family silver " to make ends meet.
This is doubly foolish when what is sold is an income bearing asset rather than a non-productive treasure.
Yet at two levels Britain and its government continue with this folly.
Just before the election the government flogged off a 40% stake in Eurostar. That gave an immediate £750m boost to the deficit reduction strategy but means that "future generations" (people politicians pretend to be very concerned about when it suits them) will be deprived of its income for their governments.
Yesterday George Osborne announced the sale of the government's remaining stake in the Royal Mail. Ditto.
But there is a "double whammy" with some of these sales. The UK's most serious deficit is not on the government's internal account but the nation's external payments account, the balance of payments. This is currently in deficit at the of almost 6%of GDP, way above any acceptable level. And some of these sales go to foreign owners.
Part of the sale of Eurostar went to the Canadian investment company Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec, which means future Eurostar profits lead to an outflow of foreign exchange. And of course previously privatised railways and water companies are now in foreign ownership too.
Yet who is there left to object to this folly? Labour itself tried to privatise part of the Royal Mail, but failed. It was a Liberal Democrat business secretary who succeed, at a knock down price.
The long term way to improve our performance on the balance of payments is to improve our productivity. The long term way to reduce the government's internal deficit is to revive the economy and thus increase the tax-take. Instead of tackling these difficult issues we seem content to manage day to day with short-term sticking plaster measures.
All Britain's parties seem afflicted with this economic myopia. We need a party capable of lifting its eyes "unto the hills" of the long term The challenge for Liberal Democrats is to try to ensure that our revived party grows to fill that gap.