John Maynard Keynes’ post-capitalist vision

Tom James @ 25-11-2008

With the recent economic troubles many commentators have brought up the economic ideas of John Maynard Keynes with regard to fiscal stimulus to avert or ameliorate the effects of a recession.

One of the most interesting comments I’ve read talks about Keynes’ attitude to capitalism in general, from John Nalsh in The Times, is a reference to an essay entitled Economic Possibilities for Our Grandchildren in which he predicted:

The strenuous purposeful money-makers may carry all of us along with them into the lap of economic abundance. But it will be those peoples, who can keep alive, and cultivate into a fuller perfection, the art of life itself and do not sell themselves for the means of life, who will be able to enjoy the abundance when it comes.

This is a brilliant point. Keynes is basically saying that capitalism is necessary to create wealth – but it is not the be all and end all of human existence. Consuming and speculating is a means to an end.

The aim of capitalism is in the long run to make capitalism irrelevant. Once everyone on the planet has a high standard of living then we can all get on with other things.

[essay available here, via The Times][image from Jacob Bøtter on flickr]