John Maynard Keynes: Words to die by


I was listening in the car yesterday to a lecture on libertarianism by Emory University professor Patrick Allitt and thinking about the current economic situation, the deficit being run up for our grandchildren, how Social Security and Medicare are going broke.

Allitt was talking about the economists Adam Smith, Ludwig von Mises, Milton Frieman, F.A. Hayek, Murray Rothbard (right) and the like and their abhorrence for government interference in the free market. Then he mentioned John Maynard Keynes, whose theories about how government should borrow and spend in an economic downturn to stimulate the economy under the theory the debt could be paid off in subsequent boom times. FDR’s embrace of his ideas lengthened the Great Depression by several years.

The professor noted that Keynes was once asked how his theories would play out in the long run. I nearly ran off the road when, Allitt quoted Keynes as replying, “In the long run, we are all dead.”

That is precisely the attitude of Congress and the current administration. The long run, the debt of our grandchildren, is not their problem.

Rothbard, briefly a professor at UNLV, summarized his view of Keynes thusly:

“John Maynard Keynes, the man — his character, his writings, and his actions throughout life — was composed of three guiding and interacting elements. The first was his overweening egotism, which assured him that he could handle all intellectual problems quickly and accurately and led him to scorn any general principles that might curb his unbridled ego. The second was his strong sense that he was born into, and destined to be a leader of, Great Britain's ruling elite.

“Both of these traits led Keynes to deal with people as well as nations from a self-perceived position of power and dominance. The third element was his deep hatred and contempt for the values and virtues of the bourgeoisie, for conventional morality, for savings and thrift, and for the basic institutions of family life.”

Sound familiar?