Daily Archives: June 12, 2012

One + Two Equals Three Books About John Maynard Keynes

This time around I thought I’d roll out a new, irregular feature I’m going to weave into my posts: One + Two.  What’s this? Well, besides the obvious answer of three, One + Two will feature three books on the same topic. The first listing will offer a longer annotation, while the other two will have shorter, one sentence summations.  It’s a “quick-hit” on a topic of interest.  So with this debut post, we’ll tackle the economy through the lens of one of Western society’s most influential thinkers.

Times are tough and economists and policy wonks from both the Right and the Left throw a lot of buzzwords around. Most of these arguments boil down to the role government should play in shaping economic policy and managing the current crisis.  Readers will glean much insight into the problems we grapple with today by checking out these books on seminal economic thinker John Maynard Keynes.

Keynes Hayek: The Clash That Defined Modern Economics  by Nicholas Wapshott.
New York: W.W. Norton & Co., 2011.
This erudite and lucidly written history details the clash of ideas between world famous economists John Maynard Keynes and Friedrich von Hayek. Author Nicholas Wapshott thoroughly examines the ideas behind the struggle of the two men’s starkly different economic ideologies. Hayek’s strict adherence to non-intervention by government in the free markets was born from his experiences with hyper-inflation in post WWI Austria, while Keynes’ belief that government does have an important role to play in managing markets was only reinforced by the economic turmoil of the Great Depression. In the end Mr. Wapshott juxtaposes the two men’s ideologies with current events to argue that the pragmatism of Keynesian thinking may have saved the world’s economy during the height of the Great Recession of 2008.

The Fall and Rise of Keynesian Economics by John Eatwell.  New York: Oxford University Press, 2011.
Eatwell and  Milgate present a scholarly argument for the application of Keynesian policies to deal with the issues of the current economic crisis.

Where Keynes Went Wrong: And Why World Governments Keep Creating Inflation, Bubbles, and Busts by Hunter Lewis. Mount Jackson, VA: Axios Press, 2009.
Hunter Lewis pens an ardent retort to the Keynesian approach to solving our recent financial crisis, arguing that putting off the short-term pain of market corrections will only lead to graver long-term troubles down the road.

No matter which side of the political continuum you come at economics from, understanding Mr. Keynes will better equip you for understanding the pressing issues of our day, and it just might win you an argument or two at that next cocktail party!

–Scott

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