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« More Good News - DeFazio Gets Bus Money | Main | Let the Republicans Melt Down and Let's Get On With It »

January 30, 2009


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I suppose I shulod number myself among the military Keynesians, since I believe that overinvestment and underconsumption are real and chronic tendencies under state capitalism, and that the combination of military spending and large-scale global destruction of capital in WWII is what kept those tendencies from being fatal in Depression 1.0. (Although technically I think the stagnationist theory much better than Keynes did--Keynes saw investment only as a kind of spending, and really didn't see overaccumulation as a problem).But I'd much prefer to eliminate the forms of state intervention that create those tendencies, rather than leaving them in place and relying on a new layer of state policy to fix the problem.The Georgist Dan Sullivan wrote somewhere (I've never managed to track it down) that when state policies artificially reduce the returns to labor and increase the returns to land and capital, and thereby shift income from classes with a high propensity to spend to classes with a high propensity to save, there are only two possible ways to deal with the chronic crisis tendencies that result:1) You can eliminate the forms of privilege that create the maldistribution of purchasing power in the first place. Or2) You can add a new layer of government policy to redistribute purchasing power and stimulate aggregate demand.If you don't do 1, all that's left is 2.In any case, you're right that Bush deserves credit as the biggest Keynesian in many years, given the scale of his spending.


Good grief. This is a pop-culture piece. Everything they mentioned about Keynes is 100% true. They brought it up to add color to the piece, not to trash his ideas.

Is he one of the greatest economists of the 20th century? Yes. Was he also a bizarre, hugely promiscuous, sex monger? Yes. They are hardly mutually exclusive. Karl Marx once sold his only pair of pants to buy some cigars and stayed indoors for a week until Engels sent him some money. He was also completely wrong in his theory of social determinism. And, oh year, he also invented the idea of capital and capital stocks, completely revolutionizing economic theory forever.

And frankly, you're just wrong. Keynesianism is not about "common sense." Saying that reveals how ignorant most people are about Macro. Old school Keynsianism is about matching theories to observational data. There's a good reason it broke down in the 70s. It's because it's wrong. The complete misunderstanding of the Phillips Curve should convince anyone of that.

Does that mean that there isn't a place for Neo-Keynsianism? I don't know. Maybe. But people need to stop making bold claims about "common sense." I don't have all the answers, but I know good and well when other people don't.


That's a strange interpretation of that piece. I'm pretty sure the producers intended it to be pro-Keynesian. The fact that they interviewed some anti-Keynesians too does not mean that they were in agreement with their points of view. Ira Glass does not exactly have the reputation of a right-wing crusader for neo-classical economics.

Also, what is the basis of this distinction between "economics" and "Keynesianism"? Was Keynes himself not an economist? Is Alan Blinder not an economist? We're talking about two different schools of thought within the field of economics, not a challenge to the field as such.

Chuck Willer

Kelpie, your NPR comments appear to be spot on.

Keynes' was part of the Bloombury Group but from my read of his biography I believe it helped him see through the mist of classical economics.

Keynes' father urged him to go into mathematics since that appeared his strongest study. His dissertation (1921) was on probability and uncertainty. Because Keynes' was quite adept at mathematics he understood its limits.

Keynes never studied economics having taken but one class under Marshall. He learned economics through personal study, discussions with leading economists, and at his job at Treasury.

NPR pap about Keynes reflects that they likely lack the expertise to seriously address his economic works.

Few economists today have read Keynes and the post-Keynesian theory that they have learned was stripped of its main insights (how a capitalist economy operates through institutional processes of finance under uncertainty) after WWII by Hicks, Samuelson, and others.

Anna in PDX

Hi Kelpie!

I saw Paul Krugman last night at the Schnitzer, and he is about the most unapologetic Keynesian I have ever heard, particularly in this day and age. I hope that a transcript is made available at some point. It was sponsored by the World Affairs Council - OR.

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