Yet that has been the British way now for several decades.
"Make do and mend" might have been a good slogan for the Second World War, it is not good enough in a world where China is building, in a single year, more highway than Britain has done in 30 years. Yet the root of the apparently necessary cost cutting on physical infrastructure remains the astonishing damage that Labour inflicted on the British social infrastructure. The imposition of absurd health and safety legislation combined with the diktat of an over mighty state has dramatically reduced the capacity of Society to handle crisis. Once upon a time voluntary associations like the WRVS could be relied upon to store blankets and tea urns- that staple of British togetherness- to use on occasions where, for example, large numbers of motorists got trapped in the snow.
It was precisely these organisations- WRVS, St Johns Ambulance, and so on- that provided respite in emergencies that were most damaged by Labour's arrogant view that the "State knows best". Now the flexibility is gone - and despite David Cameron's ambitions to resurrect these groups through "The Big Society", I am sceptical that these groups can be restored once they are lost.
The social infrastructure has been eroded by wider trends- the need for couples to have both incomes in order to afford a home, the increasing pressure of an affluent society where the most expensive thing is time. The increasing abuse that such volunteers face in places like hospitals where a Saturday night turns emergency rooms into a drunken parody of a field station on the Somme. All of this is driving people even further away from volunteering. The problem is that in a typically British way the country has botched its reforms. The cost of turning volunteers into professionals is beyond us, but the volunteers have now gone. The result is a poorer and nastier society.
Meanwhile even the most basic and necessary improvements to our physical infrastructure are delayed by a Stalinist planning procedure that nevertheless gives every barrack room lawyer their say. Big projects are delayed by endless wrangling that does not alter the final decision much- but does delay it by years or even decades. The abdication of the authority of politicians to the bureaucratic planning process is a prime example of political cowardice and a major failure of leadership.
So amid an increasingly failing social infrastructure- where the discourse is shrill and often ignorant as people take their cue from the no-nothing press- the frustration of working with decayed and under-invested physical infrastructure only adds to the sense of baffled anger that seems the prime characteristic of the UK today.
I fear the hopes of the Prime Minister of repairing the Social infrastructure through rebuilding the "Big Society" are doomed. It is very easy to turn an aquarium into fish soup, it is very difficult to reverse the process. The price of all this is that our physical infrastructure may end up going the same way.