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Introduction

John Maynard Keynes (5 June 1883 – 21 April 1946) was a British economist whose ideas have fundamentally affected the theory and practice of modern macroeconomics, and informed the economic policies of governments. He built on and greatly refined earlier work on the causes of business cycles, and is widely considered to be one of the founders of modern macroeconomics and the most influential economist of the 20th century. His ideas are the basis for the school of thought known as Keynesian economics, and its various offshoots.

In the 1930s, Keynes spearheaded a revolution in economic thinking, overturning the older ideas of neoclassical economics that held that free markets would, in the short to medium term, automatically provide full employment, as long as workers were flexible in their wage demands. Keynes instead argued that aggregate demand determined the overall level of economic activity, and that inadequate aggregate demand could lead to prolonged periods of high unemployment. According to Keynesian economics, state intervention was necessary to moderate "boom and bust" cycles of economic activity.[6] He advocated the use of fiscal and monetary measures to mitigate the adverse effects of economic recessions and depressions. Following the outbreak of World War II, Keynes's ideas concerning economic policy were adopted by leading Western economies. In 1942, Keynes was awarded a hereditary peerage as Baron Keynes of Tilton in the County of Sussex.  Keynes died in 1946, but during the 1950s and 1960s the success of Keynesian economics resulted in almost all capitalist governments adopting its policy recommendations.

Keynes's influence waned in the 1970s, partly as a result of problems that began to afflict the Anglo-American economies from the start of the decade, and partly because of critiques from Milton Friedman and other economists who were pessimistic about the ability of governments to regulate the business cycle with fiscal policy.[8] However, the advent of the global financial crisis of 2007–08 caused a resurgence in Keynesian thought. Keynesian economics provided the theoretical underpinning for economic policies undertaken in response to the crisis by President George W. Bush of the United States, Prime Minister Gordon Brown of the United Kingdom, and other heads of governments.[9]

In 1999, Time magazine included Keynes in their list of the 100 most important and influential people of the 20th century, commenting that: "His radical idea that governments should spend money they don't have may have saved capitalism."[10] He has been described by The Economist as "Britain's most famous 20th-century economist."[11] In addition to being an economist, Keynes was also a civil servant, a director of the Bank of England, a part of the Bloomsbury Group of intellectuals,[12] a patron of the arts and an art collector, a director of the British Eugenics Society, an advisor to several charitable trusts, a successful private investor, a writer, a philosopher, and a farmer.

See also

Memorable Quotes

  1. When the capital development of a country becomes a by-product of the activities of a casino, the job is likely to be ill-done, JM Keynes, General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money Ch 12, p142 in Google Book edition, Atlantic Publishers
  2. The 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 past the ocean is flat again.
  3. Capitalism is the extraordinary belief that he nastiest of men, for the nastiest of reasons, will somehow work for the benefit of us all.
  4. Words ought to be a little wild for they are the assaults of thought on the unthinking.
  5. If economists could manage to get themselves thought of as humble, competent people on a level with dentists, that would be splendid. John Maynard Keynes, "The Future" Ch. 5,
  6. The market can stay irrational longer than you can stay solvent.
  7. The difficulty lies, not in the new ideas, but in escaping from the old ones, which ramify, for those brought up as most of us have been, into every corner of our minds. John Maynard Keynes, The General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money (13 December 1935)
  8. It is generally agreed that casinos should, in the public interest, be inaccessible and expensive. And perhaps the same is true of Stock Exchanges.
  9. The importance of money essentially flows from its being a link between the present and the future.
  10. The outstanding faults of the economic society in which we live are its failure to provide for full employment and its arbitrary and inequitable distribution of wealth and incomes.
  11. It is ideas, not vested interests, which are dangerous for good or evil.
  12. They offer me neither food nor drink — intellectual nor spiritual consolation... [Conservatism] leads nowhere; it satisfies no ideal; it conforms to no intellectual standard, it is not safe, or calculated to preserve from the spoilers that degree of civilization which we have already attained.
  13. “The ideas of economists and political philosophers, both when they are right and when they are wrong, are more powerful than is commonly understood. Indeed the world is ruled by little else. Practical men, who believe themselves to be quite exempt from any intellectual influence, are usually the slaves of some defunct economist.
  14. It is better to be roughly right than precisely wrong

  15. Successful investing is anticipating the anticipations of others.
  16. Education is the inculcation of the incomprehensible into the indifferent by the incompetent
  17. There is nothing so disastrous as a rational investment policy in an irrational world
  18. Worldly wisdom teaches that it is better for the reputation to fail conventionally than to succeed unconventionally
  19. The avoidance of taxes is the only intellectual pursuit that still carries any reward.
  20. The power of vested interests is vastly exaggerated compared with the gradual encroachment of ideas

Other interesting quotes

  1. 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. Chapter II, Section I, pg.14-15 
  2. Capitalism is the astounding belief that the most wickedest of men will do the most wickedest of things for the greatest good of everyone.

  3. Ideas shape the course of history.

  4. The day is not far off when the economic problem will take the back seat where it belongs, and the arena of the heart and the head will be occupied or reoccupied, by our real problems / the problems of life and of human relations, of creation and behavior and religion.

  5. By a continuing process of inflation, government can confiscate, secretly and unobserved, an important part of the wealth of their citizens.

  6. The best way to destroy the capitalist system is to debauch the currency. By a continuing process of inflation, governments can confiscate, secretly and unobserved, an important part of the wealth of their citizens.

  7. The biggest problem is not to let people accept new ideas, but to let them forget the old ones.

  8. I do not know which makes a man more conservative to know nothing but the present, or nothing but the past.

  9. In truth, the gold standard is already a barbarous relic

  10. The power of vested interests is vastly exaggerated compared with the gradual encroachment of ideas

  11. If economists could manage to get themselves thought of as humble, competent people on a level with dentists, that would be splendid.

  12. The difficulty lies, not in the new ideas, but in escaping the old ones, which ramify, for those brought up as most of us have been, into every corner of our minds.

  13. The social object of skilled investment should be to defeat the dark forces of time and ignorance which envelope our future.

  14. He [Clemenceau] had one illusion - France; and one disillusion - mankind.

  15. A study of the history of opinion is a necessary preliminary to the emancipation of the mind.

  16. It is better that a man should tyrannize over his bank balance than over his fellow citizens.

  17. Like Odysseus, the President looked wiser when he was seated.

  18. Regarded as a means, (the businessman) is tolerable; as an end, he is not so satisfactory.

  19. Most men love money and security more, and creation and construction less, as they get older.

  20. For at least another hundred years we must pre­tend to ourselves and to every one that fair is foul and foul is fair; for foul is useful and fair is not. Avarice and usury and precaution must be our gods for a little longer still.

  21. The engine which drives enterprise is not thrift, but profit

  22. There is no harm in being sometimes wrong -- especially if one is promptly found out.

  23. The importance of money flows from it being a link between the present and the future.

  24. Words ought to be a little wild, for they are the assaults of thoughts on the unthinking.

  25. It would not be foolish to contemplate the possibility of a far greater progress still.

  26. Nothing mattered except states of mind, chiefly our own.

  27. Americans are apt to be unduly interested in discovering what average opinion believes average opinion to be...

  28. It is better that a man should tyrannize over his bank balance than over his fellow-citizens and whilst the former is sometimes denounced as being but a means to the latter, sometimes at least it is an alternative.

  29. Words ought to be a little wild for they are the assaults of thought on the unthinking.

  30. The love of money as a possession -- as distinguished from the love of money as a means to the enjoyments and realities of life -- will be recognized for what it is, a somewhat disgusting morbidity, one of those semi-criminal, semi-pathological propens”

    When the accumulation of wealth is no longer of high social importance, there will be great changes in the code of morals. We shall be able to rid ourselves of many of the pseudo-moral principles which have hag-ridden us for two hundred years, by which we have exalted some of the most distasteful of human qualities into the position of the highest virtues. We shall be able to afford to dare to assess the money-motive at its true value. The love of money as a possession — as distinguished from the love of money as a means to the enjoyments and realities of life — will be recognized for what it is, a somewhat disgusting morbidity, one of those semi-criminal, semi-pathological propensities which one hands over with a shudder to the specialists in mental disease ... But beware! The time for all this is not yet. For at least another hundred years we must pretend to ourselves and to everyone that fair is foul and foul is fair; for foul is useful and fair is not. Avarice and usury and precaution must be our gods for a little longer still. For only they can lead us out of the tunnel of economic necessity into daylight.

    "The Future", Essays in Persuasion (1931) Ch. 5, JMK, CW, IX, pp.329 - 331, Economic Possibilities for our Grandchildren (1930); as quoted in "Keynes and the Ethics of Capitalism" by Robert Skidelsy

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