Keynes: The Return of the Masterby Robert Skidelsky
Pub. Date: 09/15/2009
"This is the worst global turndown since the Great Depression. But it is highly unlikely to be as bad. The years 1929-32 saw twelve successive quarters of economic contraction. If repeated, this would mean the economic slide will continue till mid-2011. But the present contraction will be neither as deep nor as long, and this for two reasons. First, the will to… See more details below
"This is the worst global turndown since the Great Depression. But it is highly unlikely to be as bad. The years 1929-32 saw twelve successive quarters of economic contraction. If repeated, this would mean the economic slide will continue till mid-2011. But the present contraction will be neither as deep nor as long, and this for two reasons. First, the will to international cooperation is stronger. Second, we do have Keynes."
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Table of Contents
|Introduction: The man and economist||1|
|2||Keynes's philosophy of practice||34|
|3||The monetary reformer||49|
|4||The General Theory||70|
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The modern recession casts doubt on many long-held economic beliefs, in particular, the validity of free markets. Unable to agree on causes or remedies, economists look on as politicians try various kinds of stimulus spending and corporate bailouts. Pundits call forth the ghost of John Maynard Keynes, often incorrectly labeled as a has-been socialist and tax-and-spend liberal. But Robert Skidelsky, Keynes' biographer and a noted expert on the economist and his work, reveals how Keynes' pre-World War II experiences shaped an economic worldview that still holds lessons for the 21st century. This scholarly book assumes that the reader has more than a nodding acquaintance with modern economic theory and philosophy, yet Skidelsky also injects literary references and sparks of wit that enliven the sometimes-challenging text. getAbstract suggests this abbreviated, but solid, look at Keynes to students of economic and political history, and to anyone who is trying to make sense of how the 2008 crisis happened and how to move forward.
Dont buy this book via the nook reader for iPod. B&n wouldn't provide the download and their customer service desk don't know what the problem could be.
Robert Skidelsky, Emeritus Professor of Political Economy at the University of Warwick and biographer of John Maynard Keynes, has written a brilliant little book. He shows how Keynes' ideas can help us to get out of the slump. He compares the effects of the Keynesian paradigm with the effects of Thatcherism: "the former had less unemployment, higher growth, lower exchange-rate volatility and lower inequality." Between 1951 and 1973 global GDP grew by 4.8 per cent a year; between 1980 and 2009, by 3.2 per cent. In Britain, GDP fell from 2.5 per cent to 2.1 per cent, while unemployment soared from 1.6 per cent to 7.4 per cent. Skidelsky writes, "Keynes (like Anthony Crosland in the 1950s) thought that managerial control of large corporations would expand their 'public motives'. He did not foresee the explosion of the bonus culture, which would give managers incentives to rip off both shareholders and the wider public." Capitalism grows less, not more, public-spirited, as bankers grow more rent-seeking and free-riding. Printing more money will not bring recovery; we need 'government action to increase aggregate spending', not cuts. As the author notes, "Experience of Japan's great recession of the 1990s confirms that if the private sector is de-leveraging - reducing spending to reduce its debts - then public sector de-leveraging - cutting its deficit - will deepen, not lighten, recession." Britain's investment is now 25 per cent down from pre-slump levels. Keynes wrote aptly, "a somewhat comprehensive socialisation of investment will prove the only means of securing an approximation to full employment." But he did not ask how we could do this when Britain's 'politically dominant financial sector' used 'state power to promote financial interests'. Skidelsky sums up that we need to tame finance (as the Glass-Steagall act of 1933 did) by splitting commercial from investment banking; we need high public spending for full employment; we need 'a government-backed infrastructure bank', 'more equitable distribution of wealth and incomes', 'control of hot money flows' and protection of our industries. (As Keynes observed, it is better to produce cars inefficiently than to produce nothing at all.)
This is a well written and interesting book. It is something of an appetizer in that it is short. I think it could have done with more technical insights. In that sense it is a little superficial. Worth reading but one is left wanting more.