Friedman (posthumously) on Keynes and the Keynesians

dimanche 15 novembre 2009 ·

In my post about Keynes's philosophy on eugenics, I mentionned in the comments section that it would be wise to dissociate Keynes from the Keynesians.

A good reason for that would be that the "golden age of Keynesianism" and fine tuning of policy to try to get an excellent trade-off between inflation and unemployement arrived nearly a decade after Keynes died. Second of all, because I think we have put the word keynesian too easilyon the policies now known as keynesians. Most of the ideas that we now think of as Keynesians were developped party from the works of Keynes, but mostly from the work of others like Phillips (that gave his name to the now famous curve), Meade and Samuelson.

Interestingly enough, Milton Friedman made the same comment some twenty-odd years ago. However, he thinks the definition of "Keynesian" is more political than academic. What we now qualify of "Keynesian" was a public relations coup from politicians. According to Friedman, "Keynes's economic theories appealed to a group far broader than economists primarily because of their link to his political approach" (p.55)

It was probably naivity on Keynes's part to believe that "moderate planning will be safe if those carrying it out are rightly orientated in their own minds and hearts to the moral issue" (p.55). It is true that Keynes never said that it was acceptable to run deficits for thirty years in a row, but politicians did and applied the word "keynesian" to it.

It doesn't mean we have to agree with Keynes, I personally don't and would tend to be closer to views that contradicts Keynes. But I believe it would somewhat unfair to think that Keynesianism was all about Keynes and thus because of its monumental flop in political application that it lacks any academic interests.

Friedman Milton. 1986. « Keynes's political legacy ». In John Burton(ed), Keynes's General Theory: Fifty years on. London: Institute of Economics Affairs, 45-57.

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Bryan Breguet est candidat au doctorat en sciences économiques à l’université de Colombie-Britannique. D’origine Suisse, il a passé les cinq dernières années au Québec au cours desquelles il s’est engagé en politique provinciale malgré le fait qu’il ne possédait pas encore la citoyenneté canadienne. Il détient un B.Sc en économie et politique ainsi qu’une maitrise en sciences économiques de l’université de Montréal. Récipiendaire de plusieurs prix d’excellences et bourses, il connaît bien les méthodes quantitatives et leurs applications à la politique.

Vincent Geloso holds a master’s degree in economic history from the London School of Economics, with a focus on business cycles, international development, labor markets in preindustrial Europe and the new institutional economics. His research work examined the economic history of the province of Quebec from 1920 to 1960. He holds a bachelor’s degree in economics and political science from the Université de Montréal. He has also studied in the United States at the Washington Centre for Academic Seminars and Internships. Mr. Geloso has been an intern for the Prime Minister’s cabinet in Ottawa and for the National Post. He has also been the recipient of a fellowship from the Institute for Humane Studies and an international mobility bursary from the Ministère des Relations internationales du Québec. Currently, he is an economist at the Montreal Economic Institute.

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