SEE THE FOLLOWING FOR THE OTHER PARTS:
5[Mises, Planning for Freedom, chap. 6, pp. 50–63.]
It would be a mistake, also, to blame Keynes for the faults and failures
of contemporary British economic and fi nancial policies. When he began
to write, Britain had long since abandoned the principle of laissez-faire.
That was the achievement of such men as Thomas Carlyle and John Ruskin
and, especially, of the Fabians. Those born in the eighties of the nineteenth
century and later were merely epigones of the university and parlor Socialists of the late Victorian period. They were no critics of the ruling system,
as their predecessors had been, but apologists of government and pressure group policies whose inadequacy, futility and perniciousness became
more and more evident.
Professor Seymour E. Harris has just published a stout volume of
collected essays by various academic and bureaucratic authors dealing
with Keynes’s doctrines as developed in his General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money, published in 1936. The title of the volume is The
New Economics, Keynes’ Influence on Theory and Public Policy.8
Whether Keynesianism has a fair claim to the appellation “new economics” or
whether it is not, rather, a rehash of often-refuted Mercantilist fallacies
and of the syllogisms of the innumerable authors who wanted to make
everybody prosperous by fiat money, is unimportant. What matters is not
whether a doctrine is new, but whether it is sound.
The remarkable thing about this symposium is that it does not even
attempt to refute the substantiated objections raised against Keynes by
serious economists. The editor seems to be unable to conceive that any
honest and uncorrupted man could disagree with Keynes. As he sees it,
opposition to Keynes comes from “the vested interests of scholars in the
older theory” and “the preponderant infl uence of press, radio, fi nance
and subsidized research.” In his eyes, non-Keynesians are just a bunch of
bribed sycophants, unworthy of attention. Professor Harris thus adopts
the methods of the Marxians and the Nazis, who preferred to smear their
critics and to question their motives instead of refuting their theses.
A few of the contributions are written in dignifi ed language and are reserved, even critical, in their appraisal of Keynes’s achievements. Othersare simply dithyrambic outbursts. Thus Professor Paul A. Samuelson tells us:
“To have been born as an economist before 1936 was a boon — yes. But not
to have been born too long before!” And he proceeds to quote Wordsworth:
‘Bliss was it in that dawn to be alive, But to be young was very heaven!’
Descending from the lofty heights of Parnassus into the prosaic valleys of quantitative science, Professor Samuelson provides us with exact
information about the susceptibility of economists to the Keynesian gospel of 1936.
Those under the age of 35 fully grasped its meaning after some
time; those beyond 50 turned out to be quite immune, while economists
in-between were divided. Aft er thus serving us a warmed-over version
of Mussolini’s giovanezza theme, he offers more of the outworn slogans
of fascism, e.g., the “wave of the future.” However, on this point another
contributor, Mr. Paul M. Sweezy, disagrees. In his eyes Keynes, tainted by
“the shortcomings of bourgeois thought” as he was, is not the savior of
mankind, but only the forerunner whose historical mission it is to prepare
the British mind for the acceptance of pure Marxism and to make Great
Britain ideologically ripe for full socialism.
8Alfred A. Knopf, New York, 1947
The Mises Reader–Unabridged, pp. 349-350, Shawn Ritenour, Editor
Keynes possessed only a very limited knowledge of economics in general, and of the market processes of entrepreneurial coordination in particular