From the nineteen-forties Britain entered the age of intensive national economic management. This required the government to ‘manage the people’ alongside the deployment of new policy instruments, requiring in turn a representation of economic arguments aimed at persuading a mass electorate. The result was a ubiquitous representation of economic issues in moral terms – a re-invention of ideas about the ‘moral economy’ which many historians of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries have seen as crucial to arguments about economic life in those years. This article analyses the origins, deployment and consequences of the use of such arguments in this new context.