Keynes: The Return of the Master
by Robert Skidelsky
Published in late 2009
Thibault’s Score: 3/5
Keynes is a 20th century economist who argued that reducing interest rates and increasing government infrastructure spending could help smooth out recessions which are a natural byproduct of capitalism. This book was exactly what I expected and nothing more. It outlined Keyne’s biography and life story while simultaneously explaining his most important ideas. “Keynes: The Return of the Master” was much better than the other book about Keynes that I recently reviewed called: “Keynes vs Hayek.”
Skidelsky opens the book by explaining the 2008 recession from a Keynesian point of view. He then uses this explanation to introduce numerous basic Keynesian ideas and the character of Keynes.
While Skidelsky spends some time dwelling into Keyne’s personal life, he wastes no time getting into the crux of Keyne’s economic theories. Here are 5 interesting facts that I learned:
1. Uncertainty is the basis for most Keynesian principles
2. Keynes thought that economics was impossible to predict on a fundamental level
3. Republicans like Nixon and Reagan implemented many of Keyne’s ideas
4. Keynes thought that the purpose of economics was to help poor people instead of maximizing efficiency
5. Keynes was pro-capitalism and pro-market by today’s standards and would probably (ironically) be a Republican today
I think that while libertarians have vilified Keynes and unjustly depicted him as a communist plotting to slowly bring about the people’s state, the author, Skidelsky is an uncritical devotee. He spends a lot of ink praising Keynes and brushes past all of Keyne’s personal moral failings and, more importantly, the shortcomings in Keyne’s theory.
Overall, this book wasn’t great, nor did it perfectly explain Keynes, but it certainly helped broaden my economic perspective. I wouldn’t recommend this book but don’t regret reading it.
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