Dead economists you ought to know: John Maynard Keynes

December 9, 2013

“Portrait of John Maynard Keynes 1883-1946” oil on Canvas. Roger Eliot Fry, via Wikigallery – image for non-commercial use only

NPR’s Morning Edition ran a three part series on the some of the people most influential in modern economics. Well, three people — Ayn Rand, Friedrich von Hayek, and John Maynard Keynes.

The series is a good one, and each piece is pretty good at explaining what the economists and Rand were about and why you should know them and their work.

There’s not much that survives of Keynes’ own spoken words, but he can be heard in an old British newsreel, in which he delivered a stern admonition.

“We must free ourselves from the bondage of old ideas,” he said.

One of the “old ideas” Keynes sought most to debunk was the notion that economies in trouble would naturally fix themselves, thanks to the magic of the marketplace. Princeton economist Alan Blinder says Keynes put his finger on a key economic problem — namely, that insufficient demand leads to growing unemployment.

“It’s very simple, that if there aren’t enough buyers, the sellers won’t produce,” Blinder says. “And if they don’t produce, they don’t hire workers. And if they don’t hire workers, the workers don’t have income — and if the workers don’t have income, they can’t buy stuff.”

Keynes was, after all, an economist of crises. The economic stimulus he prescribed for an ailing economy, he made clear, was merely a short-term remedy. In the long term, he wrote, we’re all dead.

In Keynes’ seminal 1936 book, The General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money, he argued that markets do indeed fail, and that if individuals or private enterprise cannot or will not spend in the short term, then the government must, to boost employment.

Here’s the Keynes v. Hayek rap mentioned in the story:

I gave economics students extra credit for reading chapters of Keynes’s book, The General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money, or otherwise studying this material. It’s something far too few people do.

[Much of this post appeared earlier at Mr. Darrell’s Pin Factory; used here with express permission.]


Quote of the moment: Gold standard a “barbarous relic” – Keynes

January 18, 2012

Portrait of John Maynard Keynes as a younger man

Portrait of John Maynard Keynes as a younger man (who is the artist? where does it hang?)

  • In truth, the gold standard is already a barbarous relic.
    • John Maynard Keynes, Monetary Reform (1924), p. 172

    Did Keynes foresee the rise of Ron Paul, even in 1924?

    Gold Key, weighing one kilogram is used to acc...

More, resources:

More Keynes v. Hayek rap: Fight of the Century, Round II

November 18, 2011

Oddly, Black Flag actually tracked down the follow up to the Keynes/Hayek video.

What do you think?

FDR takes over

March 31, 2009

Leisure Guy, in his leisure no doubt, has some time to look seriously at political criticism and its accuracy.  For example, recently he wondered about the claim that FDR didn’t do anything to help the U.S. out of the depression, and perhaps helped prolong it.  [I have corrected a minor error; he had FDR being inaugurated in January of 1933.  Franklin Delano Roosevelt was the last president to be inaugurated in March; the term was changed to start in January during his presidency.]

This graph is from an interesting post by Paul Krugman, but I was fascinated to see that you can tell when FDR took office. He was elected, as you know, at the end of 1932, and he took office in late January [March] of 1933. Can you find that spot on the graph?


But of course, Right Wingers will tell you that FDR made the Depression worse. Some will even say that FDR started the Great Depression.

Leisure Guy didn’t include a link to Krugman’s post, drat it.  It doesn’t appear to be this one, though it covers some of the same territory.  Update: Oh, here it is:  “Partying like it’s 1931.”

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