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Sunday, April 9, 2017

John Maynard Keynes and history


Photo source: Wikimedia Commons, Walter Benington


John Maynard Keynes (1883-1946) is best known for advocating government intervention to smooth economic recessions and his 1936 book The General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money. But there is also much to be said about Keynes the philosopher. Referring to Keynes, Todd Bucholz said,


"No one embodied the Cambridge spirit of culture, fun, and public duty so much as Maynard Keynes. No one was more brilliant or charming. No economist in this century influenced politicians or the course of economics more." (New Ideas form Dead Economists)


The rest of this post is some quotes from Keynes.


What is a good economist?


"Good economists are scarce because the gift for using 'vigilant observation' to choose good models, although it does not require a highly specialised intellectual technique, appears to be a very rare one." (Letter to Roy Harrod, 1933)


"The paradox finds its explanation, perhaps, in that the master-economist must possess a rare combination of gifts. He must reach a high standard in several different directions and must combine talents not often found together. He must be mathematician, historian, statesman, philosopher – in some degree. He must understand symbols and speak in words. He must contemplate the particular in terms of the general, and touch abstract and concrete in the same flight of thought. He must study the present in the light of the past for the purposes of the future." (Essays In Biography, 1933)




"Ideas shape the course of history." (The Peter Plan: A Proposal for Survival by Lawrence Peter, 1976)


"The great events of history are often due to secular changes in the growth of population and other fundamental economic causes, which, escaping by their gradual character the notice of contemporary observers, are attributed to the follies of statesmen or the fanaticism of atheists." (The Economic Consequences of the Peace, 1919)


"This 'long run' is a misleading guide to current affairs. In the long run we are all dead. Economists set themselves too easy, too useless a task, if in tempestuous seasons they can only tell us, that when the storm is long past, the ocean is flat again." (A Tract on Monetary Reform, 1923)