On the Thoughts and Works of John Maynard Keynes

Perhaps a good starting point for a discussion on the thoughts and works of John Maynard Keynes would be to highlight his magnum opus, titled “The General Theory of Employment, Interest, and Money.” Keynes openly declares in his “General Theory” that his arguments and conclusions are a direct challenge to “classical” thinking on economics. Keynes goes as far as declaring that the application of classical thinking amidst the kind of economic, political, and social circumstances which pervade Western societies would be “misleading and disastrous” given the “facts of experience” which are confronting Western peoples.

Keynes argued that “in contemporary conditions the growth of wealth, so far from being dependent on the abstinence of the rich, as is commonly supposed, is more likely to be impeded by it.” Keynes considered this particular idea or notion to be the “conclusion” of his argument. But Keynes did not stop with this idea or notion, and he went on to suggest that while a certain level of inequality is natural and justified, the kind of inequality which exists in the current day and age cannot be natural or justified. Keynes also touches on the very Aristotelian notion of excessive wealth being linked to tyranny.

Keynes was also a proponent of low interest rates, something which China has adhered to over the course of the last few decades. In turn, Keynes was a proponent of state regulation over money and finance, with the aim of “stability” in the price of the dollar vis-à-vis other currencies. At the moment, virtually all national currencies have gone down in value vis-à-vis the dollar, with the odd exception of the Russian Ruble. This is odd because the aim of Washington was to debauch Russia’s currency and to cause inflationary pressures on the Russian economy, which in turn would lead to political instability. Perhaps the reason why virtually all currencies have gone down vis-à-vis the dollar with the exception of the Russian Ruble is because war is the main or perhaps sole cause of inflation. Yet, war which comes out of the Pentagon has the highest payoff, utility, and guarantee of return or ROI for high finance.

Also, Keynes saw the “rentier” aspect of capitalism – or in other words, the extractive and exploitative aspect of capitalism – to be a “transitional phase” in the history of capitalism. In turn, while Keynes called for the involvement of the state in directing the energy and focus of the means of production, Keynes did not necessarily call for state ownership of the means of production. Keynes wrote:

“It is not the ownership of the instruments of production which it is important for the State to assume. If the State is able to determine the aggregate amount of resources devoted to augmenting the instruments and the basic rate of reward to those who own them, it will have accomplished all that is necessary. Moreover, the necessary measures of socialization can be introduced gradually and without a break in the general traditions of society.”

What Keynes meant by “the general traditions of society” were the traditions of individualism and personal freedom. Also, Keynes focused on the issue of employment, and how the role of the state plays into this issue. Keynes argued that while the state has long involved itself in the “direction” of employment, the state has failed on increasing the “volume” of employment. After all, about 40 percent of Americans are unemployed at the moment, whereas 70 to 80 percent of the government budget goes to the Pentagon and Pentagon-related activities. Therefore: “The central controls necessary to ensure full employment will, of course, involve a large extension of the traditional functions of government.”

Neoliberal and mainstream suggestions that high or full employment fostered by state investment in the people is not necessary equates to nothing more than the ditching of social responsibility on the part of the affluent and wealthy. Also, Keynes dismisses the idea or notion that state intervention in the national economy and free trade are mutually exclusive things.

In sum, these aforementioned arguments and ideas – in addition to the arguments and ideas put forth in previous blog posts – are a potent challenge to “vested interests” and the status quo. Keynes argued: “I am sure that the power of vested interests is vastly exaggerated compared with the gradual encroachment of ideas.” Keynes also wrote that “it is ideas, not vested interests, which are dangerous for good or evil.” Keynes also wrote something called “A Treatise on Probability,” the main argument of which is that chance or probability is not something random or subjective as purported by the logical atomists of the West. Rather, probability rests on objectivity, reality, and truth, in the sense that probability hinges on the qualitative relation between the evidence and conclusions of an argument. Considering all the aforementioned points, Keynes inferred in “The Economic Consequences of the Peace” that Western peace and stability is largely illusory, and the illusory nature of peace and stability in the West stems from a failure in “economic organization” which is evinced by the aforementioned points. This much may suffice on the thoughts and work of John Maynard Keynes for the time being.

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