John Maynard Keynes’ post-capitalist vision

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]

7 thoughts on “John Maynard Keynes’ post-capitalist vision”

  1. Keynes was a smidgen utopian, though, as was the fashion in his time. And (IIRC) he tended to see capitalism as an ideology or project (an attitude still very prevalent today) when in truth capitalism is an emergent system; it’s what happens when you leave people to get on with their lives. Corporatism, on the other hand, is a very nasty business indeed.

  2. Paul, we agree again!

    Are you a closet Libertarian?

    As an aside, if you believe on balance, a bias towards individual freedom is a superior way to organize one’s affairs, why the rush to believe the so called “scientific consensus” on AGW?

    BTW, this was another bad month…Jim Hansen’s group caught passing dodgy data. Are you surprised by this?

    You know bias is a very real problem in scientific research, doesn’t this make you wonder what else isn’t being checked properly?

  3. Anarchist more than libertarian, Jasper – Libertarianism has a lot of… biases. 😉

    And the AGW leap there strikes me as a bit of an apples and oranges comparison. For one thing, it’s not a “so-called” consensus unless you have a very different understanding of percentages to the one I picked up at school. But as I’ve said before, arguing the origin of GW is pointless and obfuscatory – it’s there, and we must do something about it, because we’re all in the same boat. I’m sure even you’d not go so far as to say that the GW phenomenon is a falsification in and of itself, because as much as you may believe something that I don’t, I’m not convinced that you’re actually insane.

    Now, please keep on topic – this is an economics post, so feel free to argue economics all you like. If you have an AGW point to add, I’m sure you’ll spot an opportune place some time soon. 🙂

  4. Being a small “l” Libertarian, I guess I do have my biases, and I prefer to believe my bias is tilted in favour “what has worked best for me”.

    Upon reading this post, I immediately thought of a scene in The Matrix movie when Agent Anderson confided to Morpheus that “the Matrix” was actually version 2.0.

    The first version was created to be a Utopia where every human wish was fulfilled.

    And Agent Anderson quipped: “It was a disaster”.

    I believe humans must struggle, fail and sometimes overcome to survive. It’s in our genes. It’s who we are at our very core.

    The Universe is a big place. With all do respect, I don’t think we will run out needs, wants or challenges anytime in the next 100 million years or so.

  5. I am sorry. I simply don’t trust this evangelical message anymnore. Communism is dead and gone. Now US style market kapitalism is being taken to the grave, all but dead. We are in dire need of a new way. For now I’ll stick with western-european social democracy, with a personal insistence on technoprogressivism.

    But if there is any doubt, under no circumstances will I ever tolerate the same level of market fundamentalism again. I want this american filth PURGED from my environment like a disease.

    Maybe this: ?

  6. Guess I am fashionably late with my input, but I love your minds. Regardless of your opinions, you are thinking and that is so refreshing. I an academic climate where the Bush Administration has sunk the final nail in the coffin of Academic Freedom, I thank you for your thoughts.

    I hope this blog is still alive, cause at soon to be 63, I am more motivated than ever to make a difference. Please leave me your thoughts if you would like to get involved in a process to change the definition of education in this country. I am serious, and have started a website, which will be launched as soon as I have found enough advisiors to contribute. I will be selective as this is not meant to piss off, but rather to bring about change through empowerment and inspiration, something that has been missing from the system of education since the mid 1970’s. The site not functioning yet, is

    The basic principals will include collaboration among students, teachers and administrators for the purpose of re-defining the system of education.


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