John Maynard Keynes

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John Maynard Keynes : biography

5 June 1883 – 21 April 1946

Friedman suggested that sustained Keynesian policies could lead to both unemployment and inflation rising at once – a phenomenon that soon became known as stagflation. In the early 1970s stagflation appeared in both the US and Britain just as Friedman had predicted, with economic conditions deteriorating further after the 1973 oil crisis. Aided by the prestige gained from his successful forecast, Friedman led increasingly successful criticisms against the Keynesian consensus, convincing not only academics and politicians but also much of the general public with his radio and television broadcasts. The academic credibility of Keynesian economics was further undermined by additional criticism from other Monetarists trained in the Chicago school of economics, by the Lucas Critique and by criticisms from Hayek’s Austrian School. So successful were these criticisms that by 1980 Robert Lucas was saying economists would often take offence if described as Keynesians.

Keynesian principles fared increasingly poorly on the practical side of economics – by 1979 they had been displaced by Monetarism as the primary influence on Anglo-American economic policy. However many officials on both sides of the Atlantic retained a preference for Keynes, and in 1984 the Federal Reserve officially discarded monetarism, after which Keynesian principles made a partial comeback as an influence on policy making.

Not all academics accepted the criticism against Keynes – Minsky has argued that Keynesian economics had been debased by excessive mixing with neo-classical ideas from the 1950s, and that it was unfortunate the branch of economics had even continued to be called "Keynesian". Writing in The American Prospect Robert Kuttner argued it was not so much excessive Keynesian activism that caused the economic problems of the 1970s but the breakdown of the Bretton Woods system of capital controls, which allowed capital flight from regulated economies into unregulated economies in a fashion similar to Gresham’s Law (where weak currencies undermine strong currencies).

Reviewing Capital Rules: The Construction of Global Finance, by Rawi Abdelal, Harvard University Press, and The Bridge at the Edge of the World: Capitalism, the Environment, and Crossing From Crisis to Sustainability, by James Gustave Speth, Yale University Press 

Historian Peter Pugh has stated a key cause of the economic problems afflicting America in the 1970s was the refusal to raise taxes to finance the Vietnam War, which was against Keynesian advice.

A more typical response was to accept some elements of the criticisms while refining Keynesian economic theories to defend them against arguments that would invalidate the whole Keynesian framework – the resulting body of work largely composing New Keynesian economics. In 1992 Alan Blinder was writing about a "Keynesian Restoration" as work based on Keynes’s ideas had to some extent become fashionable once again in academia, though in the mainstream it was highly synthesised with Monetarism and other neo-classical thinking. In the world of policy making, free-market influences broadly sympathetic to Monetarism remained very strong at government level – in powerful normative institutions like the World Bank, IMF and US Treasury, and in prominent opinion-forming media such as the Financial Times and The Economist.

The Keynesian resurgence of 2008–2009

Economist and current prime Minister of India [[Manmohan Singh spoke in favour of Keynesian fiscal stimuli at the 2008 G-20 Washington summit.]]

The 2007–2012 global financial crisis led to public skepticism about the free market consensus even from some on the economic right. In March 2008, Martin Wolf, chief economics commentator at the Financial Times, announced the death of the dream of global free-market capitalism.

In the same month macroeconomist James K. Galbraith used the 25th Annual Milton Friedman Distinguished Lecture to launch a sweeping attack against the consensus for monetarist economics and argued that Keynesian economics were far more relevant for tackling the emerging crises.