An Insight into the Mind of Keynes: 1

While it is not possible to get a complete picture of a person’s mind from a few quotes, there is often little else to go by. So my insight into the mind of John Maynard Keynes is based not only in my biases, his biases but the biases of those who wrote about him.

I would recommend others to read the full list at the wikiquote link (above) AND his books.

“I work for a Government I despise for ends I think criminal.” -Letter to Duncan Grant (15 December 1917)

Can you think of an American economist who was, or is, this honest?

“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.”

A Tract on Monetary Reform (1923) Ch. 3; many have thought this meant Keynes supported short terms gains against long-term economic performance, but he was actually criticizing the belief that inflation would acceptably control itself without government intervention.

The famous quote, which is often misunderstood or misquoted.

“In truth, the gold standard is already a barbarous relic.” – Monetary Reform (1924), p. 172


Newton was not the first of the age of reason. He was the last of the magicians, the last of the Babylonians and Sumerians, the last great mind that looked out on the visible and intellectual world with the same eyes as those who began to build our intellectual inheritance rather less than 10 000 years ago.” – Address to the Royal Society Club (1942), as quoted in A Dictionary of Scientific Quotations (1977) by Alan L. MacKay, p.140

Most people do not like to hear that.

“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 civilisation which we have already attained.”- On the Conservative Party; Skidelsky (1992:231) quoting Collected Writings Volume IX page 296-297

That is the truth about CONservatism,

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) Chapter II, Section I, pg.14-15

Sounds familiar.

“The immense accumulations of fixed capital which, to the great benefit of mankind, were built up during the half century before the war, could never have come about in a Society where were wealth was divided equitably.” – The Economic Consequences of the Peace (1919) Chapter II, Section III, pg.19

The truth.

“The duty of “saving” became nine-tenths of virtue and the growth of the cake the object of true religion.” – Chapter II, Section III, pg.20

Saving money as religion.

Jevons saw the kettle boil and cried out with the delighted voice of a child; Marshall too had seen the kettle boil and sat down silently to build an engine.- Alfred Marshall, p. 188

Trashing Jevons paradox.

From his most famous book – The General Theory of Employment Interest and Money (1935)

“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.” – Preface

But most people do not get it.

“All production is for the purpose of ultimately satisfying a consumer.” – Book 2, Chapter 5, Section 1, pg.46

Asians and germans still do NOT get that concept.

“Thus public works even of doubtful utility may pay for themselves over and over again at a time of severe unemployment, if only from the diminished cost of relief expenditure.” – Book 3, chapter 10, Section 5, pg.127

It is better to create unnecessary jobs than create a society based on meagre handouts.

“Professional investment may be likened to those newspaper competitions in which the competitors have to pick out the six prettiest faces from a hundred photographs, the prize being awarded to the competitor whose choice most nearly corresponds to the average preferences of the competitors as a whole;” – Book 4, Chapter 12, Section 5, pg.156

Tell that to the suited conmen who run 401k plans or help you manage wealth, and the morons who believe them

“Americans are apt to be unduly interested in discovering what average opinion believes average opinion to be; and this national weakness finds its nemesis in the stock market.” – Book 4, Chapter 12, Section 6, pg. 159

No comments..

“The introduction of a substantial Government transfer tax on all transactions might prove the most serviceable reform available,with a view to mitigating the predominance of speculation in the United States.”- Book 4, Chapter 12, Section 6, pg.160

Still one of the best ideas to prevent excessive speculation.

If I am right in supposing it to be comparatively easy to make capital-goods so abundant that the marginal efficiency of capital is zero, this may be the most sensible way of gradually getting rid of many of the objectionable features of capitalism. – Book 4, Chapter 16, Section 4, pg.221

Yes, I channel keynes.

Too large a proportion of recent “mathematical” economics are mere concoctions, as imprecise as the initial assumptions they rest on, which allow the author to lose sight of the complexities and interdependencies of the real world in a maze of pretentious and unhelpful symbols.” – Book 5, Chapter 21,Section 3, pg.298

As true in 2010 as 1935.

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. – Book 6, Chapter 24, Section 1, pg.372

Once again, he was honest unlike other economic shysters.

“But whilst there may be intrinsic reasons for the scarcity of land, there are no intrinsic reasons for the scarcity of capital.” – Book 6, Chapter 24, Section 2, pg.376

One of the many concepts that CONservatives cannot grasp.

“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. Madmen in authority, who hear voices in the air, are distilling their frenzy from some academic scribbler of a few years back. I am sure that the power of vested interests is vastly exaggerated compared with the gradual encroachment of ideas.” – Ch. 24 “Concluding Notes” pg.383


  1. meofio
    October 7, 2013 at 2:20 pm

    this is just dead white guy worship.

    • The Plague Doctor
      October 8, 2013 at 6:54 am

      Dissention is right on almost all subjects, but eCONomics is not his strong point. Just try to read everything eclectically, and always think for yourself.

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