Keynes Vs Hayek: The Clash that Defined Modern Economics
by Nicholas Whapshott
Published in September 2012
Thibault’s Score: 3/5
I was a bit disappointed with Keynes vs Hayek because I was hoping for a theoretical book on economics which explained and contrasted the two opposing theories of Keynes and Hayek. This book is actually a biography about Keynes and Hayek.
Despite the fact that I entered the book with incorrect expectations, I throughly enjoyed what I read. The author recounts the lives of Keynes and Hayek, and explains how the two have, at different times, clashed.
To anyone who is very interested in the life stories of Keynes or Hayek, this book is of extreme interest, but I don’t recommend it to a broader audience.
To my hour, Whapshott exposes Hayek as a narcissistic, arrogant, unfriendly, depressed man. He was a bad husband, and didn’t treat his students very well. Nobody could stand him, and everyone resented him.
Keynes wasn’t much better. Depictions that I have seen of liberals of Keynes are of a brutally oppressed homosexual, while depictions of the right are of a globalist banker plotting to bring about world socialism. Keynes was gay, but was extremely wealthy and never persecuted. He was charismatic, intelligent, and an excellent negotiator.
Keynes met Hayek several times, and the first chapter of the book opens with the interesting story of Keynes and Hayek working together to survive WW2’s bombings. No spoilers.
I was disappointed that the author, Nicholas Whapshott, didn’t spend more time going into the details of the arguments of the two economists. Overall, he remains very fair and impartial. He is very careful to not tread on the toes of either side.
This book will not change anyone’s mind on economics, but it is certainly full of interesting historical stories. It goes into depth and helps explain why institutions hold the ideas that they do today, and shows the spread and political implications of these ideas.
Road to Serfdom was my favorite book for many years, as it is responsible for planting the seed of many of my current political leanings. I always admired Hayek, and was very disappointed to hear how much of an asshole he was. But it also paradoxically felt a bit good seeing one of my idols taken down a notch, because it makes Hayek appear like a flawed human. And seeing Hayek as a flawed human makes his life achievements look a lot less daunting to me and the fellow travelers of my generation.
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