Earlier in the 20th century, governments treated public money with the same puritanical respect that people generally treated their own money in a famously frugal age. It wasn’t that these governments never wasted public money, never misused it. It was that they did everything parsimoniously.
But government waste, though infuriating for taxpayers, is a small thing. The real tragedy lies in the inexorable rise in deliberate spending. In the exponential increases cited by Gordon Robertson, across two or three decades, the most unnecessary spending was entirely intentional, duly instigated by government and duly authorized by Parliament.