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Why Keynes angers conservatives

Conservatives have long linked Keynes’ economic theories to his claimed homosexuality. But Keynes was was one these reasonable people who didn’t like to see people suffer unnecessarily.

Keynes endorsed love. Quote:

“John Maynard Keynes was the sexiest economist who ever lived. This might seem like half-hearted praise since in our mind’s eye the typical economist appears as a dowdy and almost always balding man, full of prudential advice about thrift and the miracle of compound interest. Keynes, with his caterpillar moustache and mesmerizing bedroom eyes, cut a more dashing figure.

He had many lovers of both genders, and was married to one of the great beauties of the age, the ballerina Lydia Lopokova. His genius at playing the stock market allowed him to enjoy the life of bon vivant, socializing with the writers and artists of the Bloomsbury group such as Virginia Woolf and E.M. Forster rather than dull number crunchers he knew at Cambridge and in the British Treasury. While other economists focused on maximizing economic growth, Keynes wanted to go further and maximize the pleasures of life”.

HT: Sir Henry

Update: Robert Skidelsky on Ferguson and on Keynes’ view of the future.

HT: JK.

9 comments to Why Keynes angers conservatives

  • No Harry he angers them because he was in the main right as we have observed since the GFC hit the world not because he was bi-sexual.

    He was a member of the bloomsbury group after-all

  • Sir Henry Casingbroke

    I think the point is here, to put it simply, that in the long run we are all dead; therefore, as someone with a strong sex drive he realised the importance of enjoying it while we can; hence there may be a link from this attitute to the theory of flooding the market with government money during a recession. Someone tried to disprove this concept (Reinhart and Rogoff?) but they made an errror in a spreadsheet in doing so. But that is another story except to say that puritanism remains a force in society.

  • Jim Rose

    Did not keynes fall out of favour in the 1970s before his sexuality was an issue. Friedman and lucas carried the day by pointing out that keynesian macroeconomics empirical failure on a grand scale

  • hc

    Jim, They pointed out no such thing. The orthodoxy is correct – both monetary and fiscal policy generally have impacts on the level of economic activity. Sustained monetary expansions to prop up depression-prone economies cause inflation. Excessive debt should be avoided during the good times since expansionary fiscal policy is a good instrument in recessions.

    As the article points out these sorts of claims about Keynes’ sexuality date back to Schumpeter. They are not only recent. They are ridiculous. As JK points out to me Ferguson forgets Keynes’ concern with his grandchildren:

    http://www.aspeninstitute.org/sites/default/files/content/upload/Intro_Session1.pdf

  • Jim,

    I would be very happy if you pointed to one single occurrance of a liquidity trap in the 70’s!

  • Jim Rose

    HC, Lucas and Sargent from After Keynesian Macroeconomics (1979):

    For policy, the central fact is that Keynesian policy recommendations have no sounder basis, in a scientific sense, than recommendations of non-Keynesian economists or, for that matter, non-economists

    Robert Lucas from Tobin and Monetarism: A Review Article (1981):

    Keynesian theory is in deep trouble, the deepest kind of trouble in which an applied body of theory can find itself: It appears to be giving serious wrong answers to the most basic questions of macroeconomic policy.

    Proponents of a class of models which promised 3 to 4 percent unemployment to a society willing to tolerate annual inflation rates of 4 to 5 percent have some explaining to do after a decade such as we have just come through.

    A forecast error of this magnitude and central importance to policy has consequences, as well it should. (Lucas 1981, pp. 559-560).

    We got the high-inflation decade, and with it as clear-cut an experimental discrimination as macroeconomics is very likely to see, and Friedman and Phelps were right. (Lucas, 1981, p. 560).

  • Jim Rose

    nottrampis, every effort should be made to bring on liquidity traps for the reasons set-out in http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=566881 The Case for Open-Market Purchases in a Liquidity Trap.

    they show in the AER 2005 that ‘Japan can achieve a substantial welfare improvement through large open-market purchases of domestic government debt’ in a liquidity trap.

    trading money for interest-bearing public debt reduces future debt-service requirements.

    you can buy back the public debt at no fiscal cost because people trade bonds for cash that they then hide under the bed because of perfect substitutability of money and bonds in so called liquidity traps.

  • My comment is on the piece you linked to, not your piece here, but since that is three years old I assume if I posted it there it wouldn’t get read.

    That piece tries to link opposition to usury with opposition to homosexuality, and both somehow to economics. It includes the claim that Smith was opposed to usury, although apparently not hostile to homosexuality.

    “Usury” in that context means charging interest, and Smith was not opposed to charging interest–unlike Aristotle, Catholic doctrine, and Muslim doctrine. He was in favor of maximum interest limits. That’s a rule against usury in the modern sense of the word but not in the sense relevant to the article’s argument.

    Also, one of the comments to that post points out that the argument linking Keynes’ childlessness to his supposed short-run attitude was suggested not only by conservative critics but by Keynes’ biographer Skidelsky. It’s the childlessness, not the homosexuality, that’s relevant to the argument, since Keynes was bisexual and married.

    Wanting to “maximize the pleasures of life,” incidentally, is a somewhat simplified description of utilitarianism, a view that played a major role in the development of economics long before Keynes and is at least as orthodox with non-Keynesian as with Keynesian economists.

  • Of course our economic problem is to distribute wealth in an economy that is not (at least in its production of physical goods) growing. And like Keynes, to have fun before we die…

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