John Maynard Keynes quotes

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John Maynard Keynes

Birthdate: 5. June 1883
Date of death: 21. April 1946

John Maynard Keynes, 1st Baron Keynes , was a British economist whose ideas fundamentally changed the theory and practice of macroeconomics and the economic policies of governments. He built on and greatly refined earlier work on the causes of business cycles, and is widely considered to be one of the most influential economists of the 20th century and the founder of modern macroeconomics theory and a mixed economy based system called social capitalism. His ideas are the basis for the school of thought known as Keynesian economics, Social capitalism, social market economy and its various offshoots.

In the 1930s, Keynes spearheaded a revolution in economic thinking, challenging the ideas of neoclassical economics that held that free markets would, in the short to medium term, automatically provide full employment, as long as workers were flexible in their wage demands. He instead argued that aggregate demand determined the overall level of economic activity and that inadequate aggregate demand could lead to prolonged periods of high unemployment. Keynes advocated the use of fiscal and monetary policies to mitigate the adverse effects of economic recessions and depressions.

Following the outbreak of World War II, the leading Western economies adopted Keynes's policy recommendations, and in the two decades following Keynes's death in 1946, almost all capitalist governments had done so. Keynes's influence waned in the 1970s, partly as a result of the stagflation that plagued the Anglo-American economies during that decade, and partly because of criticism of Keynesian policies by Milton Friedman and other monetarists. He and other economists had disputed the ability of government to regulate the business cycle favourably with fiscal policy.

The advent of the global financial crisis of 2007–2008 caused a resurgence in Keynesian thought. Keynesian economics provided the theoretical underpinning for economic policies undertaken in response to the crisis by President Barack Obama of the United States, Prime Minister Gordon Brown of the United Kingdom, and other heads of governments.

When Time magazine included Keynes among its Most Important People of the Century in 1999, it said that "his radical idea that governments should spend money they don't have may have saved capitalism." The Economist has described Keynes as "Britain's most famous 20th-century economist." In addition to being an economist, Keynes was also a civil servant, a director of the Bank of England, and a part of the Bloomsbury Group of intellectuals.

Works

A Revision of the Treaty
A Revision of the Treaty
John Maynard Keynes
A Treatise on Money
A Treatise on Money
John Maynard Keynes

Quotes John Maynard Keynes

„When my information changes, I alter my conclusions. What do you do, sir?“

—  John Maynard Keynes

Reply to a criticism during the Great Depression of having changed his position on monetary policy, as quoted in "The Keynes Centenary" by Paul Samuelson, in The Economist Vol. 287 (June 1983), p. 19; later in The Collected Scientific Papers of Paul Samuelson, Volume 5 (1986), p. 275; also in Understanding Political Development: an Analytic Study (1987) by Myron Weiner, Samuel P. Huntington and Gabriel Abraham Almond, p. xxiv; this has also been paraphrased as "When the facts change, I change my mind. What do you do, sir?"
Attributed

„It is better to be roughly right than precisely wrong.“

—  John Maynard Keynes

Not attributed to Keynes until after his death. The original quote comes from Carveth Read and is:
It is better to be vaguely right than exactly wrong.
Logic, deductive and inductive (1898), p. 351 http://www.gutenberg.org/files/18440/18440-h/18440-h.htm#Page_351
Misattributed

„I should have drunk more champagne.“

—  John Maynard Keynes

Last Words, as quoted in Ben Trovato's Art of Survival (2007) by Ben Trovato, p. 196
Attributed

„Comfort and habits let us be ready to forgo, but I am not ready for a creed which does not care how much it destroys the liberty and security of daily life, which uses deliberately the weapons of persecution, destruction and international strife.“

—  John Maynard Keynes, book Essays in Persuasion

Essays in Persuasion (1931), A Short View of Russia (1925)
Context: Comfort and habits let us be ready to forgo, but I am not ready for a creed which does not care how much it destroys the liberty and security of daily life, which uses deliberately the weapons of persecution, destruction and international strife. How can I admire a policy which finds a characteristic expression in spending millions to suborn spies in every family and group at home, and to stir up trouble abroad?

„But beware! The time for all this is not yet. For at least another hundred years we must pretend to ourselves and to everyone that fair is foul and foul is fair; for foul is useful and fair is not. Avarice and usury and precaution must be our gods for a little longer still.“

—  John Maynard Keynes, book Essays in Persuasion

as quoted in "Keynes and the Ethics of Capitalism" by Robert Skidelsy http://www.webcitation.org/query?id=1256603608595872&url=www.geocities.com/monedem/keyn.html
Essays in Persuasion (1931), Economic Possibilities for our Grandchildren (1930)
Context: When the accumulation of wealth is no longer of high social importance, there will be great changes in the code of morals. We shall be able to rid ourselves of many of the pseudo-moral principles which have hag-ridden us for two hundred years, by which we have exalted some of the most distasteful of human qualities into the position of the highest virtues. We shall be able to afford to dare to assess the money-motive at its true value. The love of money as a possession — as distinguished from the love of money as a means to the enjoyments and realities of life — will be recognised for what it is, a somewhat disgusting morbidity, one of those semi-criminal, semi-pathological propensities which one hands over with a shudder to the specialists in mental disease … But beware! The time for all this is not yet. For at least another hundred years we must pretend to ourselves and to everyone that fair is foul and foul is fair; for foul is useful and fair is not. Avarice and usury and precaution must be our gods for a little longer still. For only they can lead us out of the tunnel of economic necessity into daylight.

„To our generation Einstein has been made to become a double symbol — a symbol of the mind travelling in the cold regions of space, and a symbol of the brave and generous outcast, pure in heart and cheerful of spirit.“

—  John Maynard Keynes

Collected Writings volume xxviii pages 21-22
Context: The boys, who cannot grow up to adult human nature, are beating the prophets of the ancient race — Marx, Freud, Einstein — who have been tearing at our social, personal and intellectual roots, tearing with an objectivity which to the healthy animal seems morbid, depriving everything, as it seems, of the warmth of natural feeling. What traditional retort have the schoolboys but a kick in the pants?...
To our generation Einstein has been made to become a double symbol — a symbol of the mind travelling in the cold regions of space, and a symbol of the brave and generous outcast, pure in heart and cheerful of spirit. Himself a schoolboy, too, but the other kind — with ruffled hair, soft hands and a violin. See him as he squats on Cromer beach doing sums, Charlie Chaplin with the brow of Shakespeare...
So it is not an accident that the Nazi lads vent a particular fury against him. He does truly stand for what they most dislike, the opposite of the blond beast — intellectualist, individualist, supernationalist, pacifist, inky, plump... How should they know the glory of the free-ranging intellect and soft objective sympathy to whom money and violence, drink and blood and pomp, mean absolutely nothing? Yet Albert and the blond beast make up the world between them. If either cast the other out, life is diminished in its force. When the barbarians destroy the ancient race as witches, when they refuse to scale heaven on broomsticks, they may be dooming themselves to sink back into the clods which bore them.

„In truth, the gold standard is already a barbarous relic.“

—  John Maynard Keynes

A Tract on Monetary Reform (1923), p. 172
Context: Those who advocate the return to a gold standard do not always appreciate along what different lines our actual practice has been drifting. If we restore the gold standard, are we to return also to the pre-war conceptions of bank-rate, allowing the tides of gold to play what tricks they like with the internal price-level, and abandoning the attempt to moderate the disastrous influence of the credit-cycle on the stability of prices and employment? Or are we to continue and develop the experimental innovations of our present policy, ignoring the "bank ration" and, if necessary, allowing unmoved a piling up of gold reserves far beyond our requirements or their depletion far below them? In truth, the gold standard is already a barbarous relic.

„How should they know the glory of the free-ranging intellect and soft objective sympathy to whom money and violence, drink and blood and pomp, mean absolutely nothing?“

—  John Maynard Keynes

Collected Writings volume xxviii pages 21-22
Context: The boys, who cannot grow up to adult human nature, are beating the prophets of the ancient race — Marx, Freud, Einstein — who have been tearing at our social, personal and intellectual roots, tearing with an objectivity which to the healthy animal seems morbid, depriving everything, as it seems, of the warmth of natural feeling. What traditional retort have the schoolboys but a kick in the pants?...
To our generation Einstein has been made to become a double symbol — a symbol of the mind travelling in the cold regions of space, and a symbol of the brave and generous outcast, pure in heart and cheerful of spirit. Himself a schoolboy, too, but the other kind — with ruffled hair, soft hands and a violin. See him as he squats on Cromer beach doing sums, Charlie Chaplin with the brow of Shakespeare...
So it is not an accident that the Nazi lads vent a particular fury against him. He does truly stand for what they most dislike, the opposite of the blond beast — intellectualist, individualist, supernationalist, pacifist, inky, plump... How should they know the glory of the free-ranging intellect and soft objective sympathy to whom money and violence, drink and blood and pomp, mean absolutely nothing? Yet Albert and the blond beast make up the world between them. If either cast the other out, life is diminished in its force. When the barbarians destroy the ancient race as witches, when they refuse to scale heaven on broomsticks, they may be dooming themselves to sink back into the clods which bore them.

„I have sought with some touches of detail to bring out the solidarity and historical continuity of the High Intelligentsia of England, who have built up the foundations of our thought in the two and a half centuries, since Locke, in his Essay Concerning Human Understanding, wrote the first modern English book.“

—  John Maynard Keynes

Source: Essays In Biography (1933), Preface, p. viii
Context: I have sought with some touches of detail to bring out the solidarity and historical continuity of the High Intelligentsia of England, who have built up the foundations of our thought in the two and a half centuries, since Locke, in his Essay Concerning Human Understanding, wrote the first modern English book. I relate below the amazing progeny of Sir George Villiers. But the lineage of the High Intelligentsia is hardly less interbred and spiritually inter-mixed. Let the Villiers Connection fascinate the monarch or the mob and rule, or seem to rule, passing events. There is also a pride of sentiment to claim spiritual kinship with the Locke Connection and that long English line, intellectually and humanly linked with one another, to which the names in my second section belong. If not the wisest, yet the most truthful of men. If not the most personable, yet the queerest and sweetest. If not the most practical, yet of the purest public conscience. If not of high artistic genius, yet the most solid and sincere accomplishment within many of the fields which are ranged by the human mind.

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„If not the wisest, yet the most truthful of men. If not the most personable, yet the queerest and sweetest. If not the most practical, yet of the purest public conscience. If not of high artistic genius, yet the most solid and sincere accomplishment within many of the fields which are ranged by the human mind.“

—  John Maynard Keynes

Source: Essays In Biography (1933), Preface, p. viii
Context: I have sought with some touches of detail to bring out the solidarity and historical continuity of the High Intelligentsia of England, who have built up the foundations of our thought in the two and a half centuries, since Locke, in his Essay Concerning Human Understanding, wrote the first modern English book. I relate below the amazing progeny of Sir George Villiers. But the lineage of the High Intelligentsia is hardly less interbred and spiritually inter-mixed. Let the Villiers Connection fascinate the monarch or the mob and rule, or seem to rule, passing events. There is also a pride of sentiment to claim spiritual kinship with the Locke Connection and that long English line, intellectually and humanly linked with one another, to which the names in my second section belong. If not the wisest, yet the most truthful of men. If not the most personable, yet the queerest and sweetest. If not the most practical, yet of the purest public conscience. If not of high artistic genius, yet the most solid and sincere accomplishment within many of the fields which are ranged by the human mind.

„When the accumulation of wealth is no longer of high social importance, there will be great changes in the code of morals.“

—  John Maynard Keynes, book Essays in Persuasion

as quoted in "Keynes and the Ethics of Capitalism" by Robert Skidelsy http://www.webcitation.org/query?id=1256603608595872&url=www.geocities.com/monedem/keyn.html
Essays in Persuasion (1931), Economic Possibilities for our Grandchildren (1930)
Context: When the accumulation of wealth is no longer of high social importance, there will be great changes in the code of morals. We shall be able to rid ourselves of many of the pseudo-moral principles which have hag-ridden us for two hundred years, by which we have exalted some of the most distasteful of human qualities into the position of the highest virtues. We shall be able to afford to dare to assess the money-motive at its true value. The love of money as a possession — as distinguished from the love of money as a means to the enjoyments and realities of life — will be recognised for what it is, a somewhat disgusting morbidity, one of those semi-criminal, semi-pathological propensities which one hands over with a shudder to the specialists in mental disease … But beware! The time for all this is not yet. For at least another hundred years we must pretend to ourselves and to everyone that fair is foul and foul is fair; for foul is useful and fair is not. Avarice and usury and precaution must be our gods for a little longer still. For only they can lead us out of the tunnel of economic necessity into daylight.

„There is no subtler, no surer means of overturning the existing basis of society than to debauch the currency. The process engages all the hidden forces of economic law on the side of destruction, and does it in a manner which not one man in a million is able to diagnose.“

—  John Maynard Keynes, book The Economic Consequences of the Peace

Source: The Economic Consequences of the Peace (1919), Chapter VI, pp. 235-236
Context: Lenin is said to have declared that the best way to destroy the capitalist system was to debauch the currency. By a continuing process of inflation, governments can confiscate, secretly and unobserved, an important part of the wealth of their citizens. By this method they not only confiscate, but they confiscate arbitrarily; and, while the process impoverishes many, it actually enriches some. The sight of this arbitrary rearrangement of riches strikes not only at security, but at confidence in the equity of the existing distribution of wealth. Those to whom the system brings windfalls, beyond their deserts and even beyond their expectations or desires, become 'profiteers,' who are the object of the hatred of the bourgeoisie, whom the inflationism has impoverished, not less than of the proletariat. As the inflation proceeds and the real value of the currency fluctuates wildly from month to month, all permanent relations between debtors and creditors, which form the ultimate foundation of capitalism, become so utterly disordered as to be almost meaningless; and the process of wealth-getting degenerates into a gamble and a lottery.
Lenin was certainly right. There is no subtler, no surer means of overturning the existing basis of society than to debauch the currency. The process engages all the hidden forces of economic law on the side of destruction, and does it in a manner which not one man in a million is able to diagnose.

„Men will not always die quietly.“

—  John Maynard Keynes, book The Economic Consequences of the Peace

Source: The Economic Consequences of the Peace (1919), Chapter VI, p. 228

„The ideas of economists and political philosophers, both when they are right and when they are wrong, are more powerful than is commonly understood. Indeed the world is ruled by little else. Practical men, who believe themselves to be quite exempt from any intellectual influence, are usually the slaves of some defunct economist.“

—  John Maynard Keynes, book The General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money

Source: The General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money (1936), Ch. 24 "Concluding Notes" p. 383-384
Context: The ideas of economists and political philosophers, both when they are right and when they are wrong, are more powerful than is commonly understood. Indeed the world is ruled by little else. 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. I am sure that the power of vested interests is vastly exaggerated compared with the gradual encroachment of ideas. Not, indeed, immediately, but after a certain interval; for in the field of economic and political philosophy there are not many who are influenced by new theories after they are twenty-five or thirty years of age, so that the ideas which civil servants and politicians and even agitators apply to current events are not likely to be the newest. But, soon or late, it is ideas, not vested interests, which are dangerous for good or evil.

„By a continuing process of inflation, governments can confiscate, secretly and unobserved, an important part of the wealth of their citizens.“

—  John Maynard Keynes, book The Economic Consequences of the Peace

Source: The Economic Consequences of the Peace (1919), Chapter VI, pp. 235-236
Context: Lenin is said to have declared that the best way to destroy the capitalist system was to debauch the currency. By a continuing process of inflation, governments can confiscate, secretly and unobserved, an important part of the wealth of their citizens. By this method they not only confiscate, but they confiscate arbitrarily; and, while the process impoverishes many, it actually enriches some. The sight of this arbitrary rearrangement of riches strikes not only at security, but at confidence in the equity of the existing distribution of wealth. Those to whom the system brings windfalls, beyond their deserts and even beyond their expectations or desires, become 'profiteers,' who are the object of the hatred of the bourgeoisie, whom the inflationism has impoverished, not less than of the proletariat. As the inflation proceeds and the real value of the currency fluctuates wildly from month to month, all permanent relations between debtors and creditors, which form the ultimate foundation of capitalism, become so utterly disordered as to be almost meaningless; and the process of wealth-getting degenerates into a gamble and a lottery.
Lenin was certainly right. There is no subtler, no surer means of overturning the existing basis of society than to debauch the currency. The process engages all the hidden forces of economic law on the side of destruction, and does it in a manner which not one man in a million is able to diagnose.

„Newton was not the first of the age of reason. He was the last of the magicians“

—  John Maynard Keynes

Address to the Royal Society Club (1942), as quoted in A Dictionary of Scientific Quotations (1977) by Alan L. MacKay, p. 140
Essays In Biography (1933), Newton, the Man
Context: Newton was not the first of the age of reason. He was the last of the magicians, the last of the Babylonians and Sumerians, the last great mind that looked out on the visible and intellectual world with the same eyes as those who began to build our intellectual inheritance rather less than 10 000 years ago.

„This is a nightmare, which will pass away with the morning. For the resources of nature and men's devices are just as fertile and productive as they were. The rate of our progress towards solving the material problems of life is not less rapid.“

—  John Maynard Keynes, book Essays in Persuasion

Referring to economics and the Great Depression
Essays in Persuasion (1931), The Great Slump of 1930 (1930)
Context: This is a nightmare, which will pass away with the morning. For the resources of nature and men's devices are just as fertile and productive as they were. The rate of our progress towards solving the material problems of life is not less rapid. We are as capable as before of affording for everyone a high standard of life … and will soon learn to afford a standard higher still. We were not previously deceived. But to-day we have involved ourselves in a colossal muddle, having blundered in the control of a delicate machine, the working of which we do not understand. The result is that our possibilities of wealth may run to waste for a time — perhaps for a long time.

„The love of money as a possession — as distinguished from the love of money as a means to the enjoyments and realities of life — will be recognised for what it is, a somewhat disgusting morbidity, one of those semi-criminal, semi-pathological propensities which one hands over with a shudder to the specialists in mental disease“

—  John Maynard Keynes, book Essays in Persuasion

as quoted in "Keynes and the Ethics of Capitalism" by Robert Skidelsy http://www.webcitation.org/query?id=1256603608595872&url=www.geocities.com/monedem/keyn.html
Essays in Persuasion (1931), Economic Possibilities for our Grandchildren (1930)
Context: When the accumulation of wealth is no longer of high social importance, there will be great changes in the code of morals. We shall be able to rid ourselves of many of the pseudo-moral principles which have hag-ridden us for two hundred years, by which we have exalted some of the most distasteful of human qualities into the position of the highest virtues. We shall be able to afford to dare to assess the money-motive at its true value. The love of money as a possession — as distinguished from the love of money as a means to the enjoyments and realities of life — will be recognised for what it is, a somewhat disgusting morbidity, one of those semi-criminal, semi-pathological propensities which one hands over with a shudder to the specialists in mental disease … But beware! The time for all this is not yet. For at least another hundred years we must pretend to ourselves and to everyone that fair is foul and foul is fair; for foul is useful and fair is not. Avarice and usury and precaution must be our gods for a little longer still. For only they can lead us out of the tunnel of economic necessity into daylight.

„Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetuer adipiscing elit. Etiam egestas wisi a erat. Morbi imperdiet, mauris ac auctor dictum.“

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