john maynard keynes

Keynes On The Guilefully Preserved Order

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 14/07/2018 - 5:47pm in

… In short, we repudiated all versions of the doctrine of original sin, of there being insane and irrational springs of wickedness in most men. We were not aware that civilisation was a thin and precarious crust erected by the personality and the will of a very few, and only maintained by rules and conventions skilfully put across and guilefully preserved. We had no respect for traditional wisdom or the restraints of custom. We lacked reverence, as Lawrence observed and as Ludwig with justice also used to say— for everything and everyone. It did not occur to us to respect the extraordinary accomplishment of our predecessors in the ordering of life (as it now seems to me to have been) or the elaborate framework which they had devised to protect this order. Plato said in his Laws that one of the best of a set of good laws would be a law forbidding any young man to enquire which of them are right or wrong, though an old man remarking any defect in the laws might communicate this observation to a ruler or to an equal in years when no young man was present. — John Maynard Keynes, in The Collected Writings Of John Maynard Keynes, Volume 10: Essays In BiographyPart VI – Two Memoirs, Chapter 39: My Early Beliefs, pages 447-448:

Cambridge University Press link. Quote h/t Ann Pettifor.

Misinterpretation Of Joan Robinson’s Quote On Dropping Rocks

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 12/07/2018 - 1:11am in

In her famous 1937 articleBeggar-My-Neighbour Remedies For Unemployment, Joan Robinson made this famous remark about dropping rocks into our harbours, i.e., imposing tariffs as retaliation:

The popular view that free trade is all very well so long as all nations are free-traders, but that when other nations erect tariffs we must erect tariffs too, is countered by the argument that it would be just as sensible to drop rocks into our harbours because other nations have rocky coasts.6 This argument, once more, is unexceptionable on its own ground. The tariffs of foreign nations (except in so far as they can be modified by bargaining) are simply a fact of nature from the point of view of the home authorities, and the maximum of specialization that is possible in face of them still yields the maximum of efficiency. But when the game of beggar-my-neighbour has been played for one or two rounds, and foreign nations have stimulated their exports and cut down their imports by every device in their power, the burden of unemployment upon any country which refuses to join in the game will become intolerable and the demand for some form of retaliation irresistible. The popular view that tariffs must be answered by tariffs has therefore much practical force, though the question still remains open from which suit in any given circumstances it is wisest to play a card.

6 Beveridge, op. cit., p. 110. [Tariffs: the Case Examined]

[bolding and italics mine]

Joan Robinson

Joan Robinson, left. Picture credit: Nationaal Archief

This quote however gets misinterpreted often as a recent Financial Times article did:

… All these complications are real, but they do not change the fundamental nature of the argument about trade, which was best summarised by the British economist Joan Robinson. In 1937 she pointed out that, except as a narrow negotiating ploy, it made little sense to meet tariffs with tariffs: “It would be just as sensible to drop rocks into our harbours because other nations have rocky coasts.”

This quote makes it look like Joan Robinson was a free trader, whereas Robinson was opposed to it from the very beginning to the end and her stand free trade was far ahead and louder than John Maynard Keynes.

But what Robinson is saying is that according to the arguments of those for free trade, retaliation is wrong. But as Joan says, it has a practical force. Robinson is saying that if you retaliate you don’t believe in free trade.

Michał Kalecki, 1933 – Stimulating The World Business Upswing

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 04/07/2018 - 3:03am in

Michał Kalecki in “Stimulating the World Business Upswing,” in Collected Works of Michał Kalecki, vol. 1, Capitalism: Business Cycles and Full Employment, ed. Jerzy Osiatyński, trans. Chester Adam Kisel (Oxford: Clarendon, 1990), 156–64 (possibly ahead of John Maynard Keynes):

We very often encounter the argument against building new factories while the old ones are still unemployed. This simple truism shares the fate of many of its fellows—it is false. In order for existing capital equipment to be fully employed, it must be continually expanded, since then accumulated profits are invested. If they are not invested, profits fall and, along with the fall in profits, there is a decline in the capacity utilization of existing factories.

Let us assume, as often happens in the USA, that two competing railway lines run between two cities. Traffic on both lines is weak. How does one deal with this? Paradoxically, one should build a third railway line, for then materials and people for construction of the third will be transported on the first two. What should be done when the third one is finished? Then one should build a fourth and a fifth one … This example, as we warned, is paradoxical, since unquestionably it would be better to undertake some other investment near the first two railway lines rather than build a third one; nevertheless, it perfectly illustrates the laws of development of the capitalist system as a whole.

Michał Kalecki

Michał Kalecki, picture credit: PWN

quote h/t Jan Toporowski

Empire of things

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 30/06/2018 - 3:30pm in

When we talk about consumerism, the emotive arguments for and against are always black and white. Consumerism is painted as unnecessary and low or no growth is seen as the optimum state for people and planet. But what if acquiring objects and possessions is intrinsic to human nature? What if, in reality, the consumerism argument is far more nuanced, which should make us rethink how we spend, what we buy and which things are most important to us. Joining us to work out where next for consumer spending and give historical context to the rampant consumerism we seem to love is the author of 'The Empire of Things', Professor Frank Trentmann.

The post Empire of things appeared first on Renegade Inc.

The Burden Of Adjustment And Keynes’ Solution

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 09/06/2018 - 10:02pm in

Argentina had a balance-of-payments crisis recently and required help. The IMF has agreed for a stand-by arrangement of $50 billion on the condition in the IMF’s own words:

“At the core of the government’s economic plan is a rebalancing of the fiscal position. We fully support this priority and welcome the authorities’ intention to accelerate the pace at which they reduce the federal government’s deficit, restoring the primary balance by 2020. This measure will ultimately lessen the government financing needs, put public debt on a downward trajectory, and as President Macri has stated, relieve a burden from Argentina’s back.

So Argentina has to agree on policies with deflationary bias to its output. John Maynard Keynes made this observation, had a completely different attitude than the IMF and proposed to change it. From The Collected Writings Of John Maynard Keynes, Volume XXV: Shaping The Post-War World: The Clearing Union, Chapter 1, The Origins Of The Clearing Union, 1940-1942, pages 27-30:

III. The Analysis of the Problem

I believe that the main cause of failure (except in special, transient conditions) of the freely convertible international metallic standard (first silver and then gold) can be traced to a single characteristic. I ask close attention to this, because I should argue that this provides the clue to the nature of any alternative which is to be successful.

It is characteristic of a freely convertible international standard that it throws the main burden of adjustment on the country which is in the debtor position on the international balance of payments,—that is on the country which is (in this context) by hypothesis the weaker and above all the smaller in comparison with the other side of the scales which (for this purpose) is the rest of the world.

Take the classical theory that the unlimited free flow of gold automatically brings about adjustments of price-levels and activity between the debtor country and the recipient creditor, which will eventually reverse the pressure. It is usual to-day to object to this theory that it is too dependent on a crude and now abandoned quantity theory of money and that it ignores the lack of elasticity in the social structure of wages and prices. But even to the extent that it holds good in spite of these grave objections, if a country is in economic importance even a fifth of the world as a whole, a given loss of gold will presumably exercise four times as much pressure at home as abroad, with a still greater disparity if it is only a tenth or a twentieth of the world, so that the contribution in terms of the resulting social strains which the debtor country has to make to the restoration of equilibrium by changing its prices and wages is altogether out of proportion to the contribution asked of its creditors. Nor is this all. To begin with, the social strain of an adjustment downwards is much greater than that of an adjustment upwards. And besides this, the process of adjustment is compulsory for the debtor and voluntary for the creditor. If the creditor does not choose to make, or allow, his share of the adjustment, he suffers no inconvenience. For whilst a country’s reserve cannot fall below zero, there is no ceiling which sets an upper limit. The same is true if international loans are to be the means of adjustment. The debtor must borrow; the creditor is under no such compulsion.

… Thus it has been an inherent characteristic of the automatic international metallic currency (apart from special circumstances) to force adjustments in the direction most disruptive of social order, and to throw the burden on the countries least able to support it, making the poor poorer.

I conclude, therefore, that the architects of a successful international system must be guided by these lessons. The object of the new system must be to require the chief initiative from the creditor countries, whilst maintaining enough discipline in the debtor countries to prevent them from exploiting the new ease allowed them in living profligately beyond their means.

So Keynes proposed to change this so that creditors also share the burden. In his plan for Bretton Woods, he proposed to impose a penalty on creditor nations and also require them to take measures such as:

(a) Measures for the expansion of domestic credit and domestic demand.
(b) The appreciation of its local currency in terms of bancor, or, alternatively, the encouragement of an increase in money rates of earnings;
(c) The reduction of tariffs and other discouragements against imports.
(d) International development loans.

– page 24 of The Keynes Plan

Of course we are past the Bretton Woods system and have a system of a mix of fixed and floating exchange rates but it hasn’t provided the market mechanism required to resolve imbalances. The adjustment is still on output and employment. Hence the need for an official mechanism to resolve imbalances. Bancor isn’t relevant now, but official intervention is.

The Burden Of Adjustment

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 09/06/2018 - 3:40pm in

Argentina had a balance-of-payments crisis recently and required help. The IMF has agreed for a stand-by arrangement of $50 billion on the condition in the IMF’s own words:

“At the core of the government’s economic plan is a rebalancing of the fiscal position. We fully support this priority and welcome the authorities’ intention to accelerate the pace at which they reduce the federal government’s deficit, restoring the primary balance by 2020. This measure will ultimately lessen the government financing needs, put public debt on a downward trajectory, and as President Macri has stated, relieve a burden from Argentina’s back.

So Argentina has to agree on policies with deflationary bias to its output. John Maynard Keynes made this observation, had a completely different attitude than the IMF and proposed to change it. From The Collected Writings Of John Maynard Keynes, Volume XXV: Shaping The Post-War World: The Clearing Union, Chapter 1, The Origins Of The Clearing Union, 1940-1942, pages 27-28:

III. The Analysis of the Problem

I believe that the main cause of failure (except in special, transient conditions) of the freely convertible international metallic standard (first silver and then gold) can be traced to a single characteristic. I ask close attention to this, because I should argue that this provides the clue to the nature of any alternative which is to be successful.

It is characteristic of a freely convertible international standard that it throws the main burden of adjustment on the country which is in the debtor position on the international balance of payments,—that is on the country which is (in this context) by hypothesis the weaker and above all the smaller in comparison with the other side of the scales which (for this purpose) is the rest of the world.

Take the classical theory that the unlimited free flow of gold automatically brings about adjustments of price-levels and activity between the debtor country and the recipient creditor, which will eventually reverse the pressure. It is usual to-day to object to this theory that it is too dependent on a crude and now abandoned quantity theory of money and that it ignores the lack of elasticity in the social structure of wages and prices. But even to the extent that it holds good in spite of these grave objections, if a country is in economic importance even a fifth of the world as a whole, a given loss of gold will presumably exercise four times as much pressure at home as abroad, with a still greater disparity if it is only a tenth or a twentieth of the world, so that the contribution in terms of the resulting social strains which the debtor country has to make to the restoration of equilibrium by changing its prices and wages is altogether out of proportion to the contribution asked of its creditors. Nor is this all. To begin with, the social strain of an adjustment downwards is much greater than that of an adjustment upwards. And besides this, the process of adjustment is compulsory for the debtor and voluntary for the creditor. If the creditor does not choose to make, or allow, his share of the adjustment, he suffers no inconvenience. For whilst a country’s reserve cannot fall below zero, there is no ceiling which sets an upper limit. The same is true if international loans are to be the means of adjustment. The debtor must borrow; the creditor is under no such compulsion.

So Keynes proposed to change this so that creditors also share the burden. In his plan for Bretton Woods, he proposed to impose a penalty on creditor nations and also require them to take measures such as:

(a) Measures for the expansion of domestic credit and domestic demand.
(b) The appreciation of its local currency in terms of bancor, or, alternatively, the
encouragement of an increase in money rates of earnings;
(c) The reduction of tariffs and other discouragements against imports.
(d) International development loans

– page 24 of The Keynes Plan

Of course we are past the Bretton Woods system and have a system of a mix of fixed and floating exchange rates but it hasn’t provided the market mechanism required to resolve imbalances. The adjustment is still on output and employment. Hence the need for an official mechanism to resolve imbalances. Bancor isn’t relevant now, but official intervention is.

How economics professors can stop failing us

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 19/05/2018 - 3:30pm in

Many students today continue to be deceived by their professors who, even after the great financial crisis, still teach a fantasy, or other worldly version of economics. So on this program we ask: How do we begin to reverse a heavily entrenched education system that manufactures economists that have such a detrimental effect on wider society? Joining us to discuss how academics are failing us: renegade economist, Professor Steve Keen, and author and economist, Dr Steven Payson.

The post How economics professors can stop failing us appeared first on Renegade Inc.

How economics professors can stop failing us

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 19/05/2018 - 3:30pm in

Many students today continue to be deceived by their professors who, even after the great financial crisis, still teach a fantasy, or other worldly version of economics. So on this program we ask: How do we begin to reverse a heavily entrenched education system that manufactures economists that have such a detrimental effect on wider society? Joining us to discuss how academics are failing us: renegade economist, Professor Steve Keen, and author and economist, Dr Steven Payson.

The post How economics professors can stop failing us appeared first on Renegade Inc.

Preface To The French Edition Of The General Theory

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 14/05/2018 - 2:45am in

The French edition of Keynes’ The General Theory, has a nice preface explaining what his book is all about. It is dated 20 February 1939.

This is available in The Collected Writings Of John Maynard Keynes, Volume VII – The General Theory Of Employment, Interest And Money. The Collected Writings has volumes I-XXX.

First, Keynes announces how he is breaking from orthodoxy:

For a hundred years or longer English Political Economy has been dominated by an orthodoxy. That is not to say that an unchanging doctrine has prevailed. On the contrary. There has been a progressive evolution of the doctrine. But its presuppositions, its atmosphere, its method have remained surprisingly the same, and a remarkable continuity has been observable through all the changes. In that orthodoxy, in that continuous transition, I was brought up. I learnt it, I taught it, I wrote it. To those looking from outside I probably still belong to it. Subsequent historians of doctrine will regard this book as in essentially the same tradition. But I myself in writing it, and in other recent work which has led up to it, have felt myself to be breaking away from this orthodoxy, to be in strong reaction against it, to be escaping from something, to be gaining an emancipation.

Then Keynes says what he is doing:

I have called my theory a general theory. I mean by this that I am chiefly concerned with the behaviour of the economic system as a whole,—with aggregate incomes, aggregate profits, aggregate output, aggregate employment, aggregate investment, aggregate saving rather than with the incomes, profits, output, employment, investment and saving of particular industries, firms or individuals. And I argue that important mistakes have been made through extending to the system as a whole conclusions which have been correctly arrived at in respect of a part of it taken in isolation.

Keynes, I imagine thought that the root of all orthodoxy is the saving-investment identity. Once this is understood, things follow more easily. He says:

Let me give examples of what I mean. My contention that for the system as a whole the amount of income which is saved, in the sense that it is not spent on current consumption, is and must necessarily be exactly equal to the amount of net new investment has been considered a paradox and has been the occasion of widespread controversy. The explanation of this is undoubtedly to be found in the fact that this relationship of equality between saving and investment, which necessarily holds good for the system as a whole, does not hold good at all for a particular individual. There is no reason whatever why the new investment for which I am responsible should bear any relation whatever to the amount of my own savings. Quite legitimately we regard an individual’s income as independent of what he himself consumes and invests. But this, I have to point out, should not have led us to overlook the fact that the demand arising out of the consumption and investment of one individual is the source of the incomes of other individuals, so that incomes in general are not independent, quite the contrary, of the disposition of individuals to spend and invest; and since in turn the readiness of individuals to spend and invest depends on their incomes, a relationship is set up between aggregate savings and aggregate investment which can be very easily shown, beyond any possibility of reasonable dispute, to be one of exact and necessary equality.

He then says how output is determined not by the capacity to produce but dynamic demand-led processes:

Rightly regarded this is a banale conclusion. But it sets in motion a train of thought from which more substantial matters follow. It is shown that, generally speaking, the actual level of output and employment depends, not on the capacity to produce or on the pre-existing level of incomes, but on the current decisions to produce which depend in turn on current decisions to invest and on present expectations of current and prospective consumption. Moreover, as soon as we know the propensity to consume and to save (as I call it), that is to say the result for the community as a whole of the individual psychological inclinations as to how to dispose of given incomes, we can calculate what level of incomes, and therefore what level of output and employment, is in profit-equilibrium with a given level of new investment; out of which develops the doctrine of the Multiplier.

and introducing the paradox of thrift:

Or again, it becomes evident that an increased propensity to save will ceteris paribus contract incomes and output; whilst an increased inducement to invest will expand them. We are thus able to analyse the factors which determine the income and output of the system as a whole;—we have, in the most exact sense, a theory of employment. Conclusions emerge from this reasoning which are particularly relevant to the problems of public finance and public policy generally and of the trade cycle.

Keynes then argues against the typical claim that the rate of interest adjusts to bring saving equal to investment:

Another feature, specially characteristic of this book, is the theory of the rate of interest. In recent times it has been held by many economists that the rate of current saving determined the supply of free capital, that the rate of current investment governed the demand for it, and that the rate of interest was, so to speak, the equilibrating price-factor determined by the point of intersection of the supply curve of savings and the demand curve of investment. But if aggregate saving is necessarily and in all circumstances exactly equal to aggregate investment, it is evident that this explanation collapses. We have to search elsewhere for the solution. I find it in the idea that it is the function of the rate of interest to preserve equilibrium, not between the demand and the supply of new capital goods, but between the demand and the supply of money, that is to say between the demand for liquidity and the means of satisfying this demand.

Keynes then announces his break away from Monetarism:

I have called this book the General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money; and the third feature to which I may call attention is the treatment of money and prices. The following analysis registers my final escape from the confusions of the Quantity Theory, which once entangled me. I regard the price level as a whole as being determined in precisely the same way as individual prices; that is to say, under the influence of supply and demand. Technical conditions, the level of wages, the extent of unused capacity of plant and labour, and the state of markets and competition determine the supply conditions of individual products and of products as a whole. The decisions of entrepreneurs, which provide the incomes of individual producers and the decisions of those individuals as to the disposition of such incomes determine the conditions. And prices—both individual prices and the price-level— emerge as the resultant of these two factors. Money, and the quantity of money, are not direct influences at this stage of the proceedings. They have done their work at an earlier stage of the analysis. The quantity of money determines the supply of liquid resources, and hence the rate of interest, and in conjunction with other factors (particularly that of confidence) the inducement to invest, which in turn fixes the equilibrium level of incomes, output and employment and (at each stage in conjunction with other factors) the price-level as a whole through the influences of supply and demand thus established.

And finally attacks the docrine of Say’s Law:

I believe that economics everywhere up to recent times has been dominated, much more than has been understood, by the doctrines associated with the name of J.-B. Say. It is true that his ‘law of markets’ has been long abandoned by most economists; but they have not extricated themselves from his basic assumptions and particularly from his fallacy that demand is created by supply. Say was implicitly assuming that the economic system was always operating up to its full capacity, so that a new activity was always in substitution for, and never in addition to, some other activity. Nearly all subsequent economic theory has depended on, in the sense that it has required, this same assumption. Yet a theory so based is clearly incompetent to tackle the problems of unemployment and of the trade cycle. Perhaps I can best express to French readers what I claim for this book by saying that in the theory of production it is a final break-away from the doctrines of J.-B. Say and that in the theory of interest it is a return to the doctrines of Montesquieu.

If you have read Monetary Economics by Wynne Godley and Marc Lavoie, you will notice that their approach is quite close to this spirit. In their approach, the components of demand which are exogenous are government expenditure and exports. Etc.

What is Economics? Read Keynes’ definition

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 04/04/2018 - 2:15am in

In July 1938, an English economist Roy Harrod sent John Maynard Keynes his lecture “Scope and Method of Economics” which he intended to deliver as a Presidential Address at one of the sections of the British Association. In his reply, after … Continue reading →

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