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Latest Issue

That Time Keynes Had a Point

September 20, 2019

“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.”

―John Maynard Keynes

I begin with this Keynes quote because, while true, it doesn’t go far enough. The problem isn’t simply defunct economists or “scribblers of a few years back.” We are in the grip of economists who, far from being defunct, hold great power. Whether they hear voices in the air (or Twitter), I can’t say, but they are indeed madmen in authority.

Not all economists are in that category. Many provide valuable insight or are at worst harmless. They don’t pretend they can change human nature or prevent the inevitable. Unfortunately, some economists do believe those things. Worse, they are in places from which they can wreak havoc, and they are.

Last weekend I received two emails referring me to articles about the economics profession. They came within minutes of each other, from two different associates who don’t know each other. That seemed like an odd coincidence but it stirred my writing juices.

Please note, I don’t agree with everything in the articles I’ll describe today. They are nonetheless important because they try, at least, to describe and possibly fix the problem Keynes identified. We have to address them, not just economically but politically. We can’t just put our heads in the sand...

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