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Return of the Master

Public Affairs,

15 min read
10 take-aways
Audio & text

What's inside?

“In the long run,” said Keynes, “we are all dead.” But can a new wave of Keynesian economics save capitalism, long term?

Editorial Rating



  • Innovative


The modern recession casts doubt on many long-held economic beliefs, in particular, the validity of free markets. Unable to agree on causes or remedies, economists look on as politicians try various kinds of stimulus spending and corporate bailouts. Pundits call forth the ghost of John Maynard Keynes, often incorrectly labeled as a has-been socialist and tax-and-spend liberal. But Robert Skidelsky, Keynes’ biographer and a noted expert on the economist and his work, reveals how Keynes’ pre-World War II experiences shaped an economic worldview that still holds lessons for the 21st century. This scholarly book assumes that the reader has more than a nodding acquaintance with modern economic theory and philosophy, yet Skidelsky also injects literary references and sparks of wit that enliven the sometimes-challenging text. getAbstract suggests this abbreviated, but solid, look at Keynes to students of economic and political history, and to anyone who is trying to make sense of how the 2008 crisis happened and how to move forward.


How Do We Get Out of Here?

Most economists have explanations for how the 2008 world economic crisis happened, but opinions differ on the cause and the remedy. Many are looking to the past and to the ideas of economist John Maynard Keynes (1883-1946), who is known widely but superficially as a proponent of stimulus funding and government involvement in business. However, that explanation glosses over the complexities of his philosophy. Indeed, his experiences during the seminal economic events of his lifetime – World War I, the Great Depression and World War II – inspired him to create a new way of economic thinking. The harmonious functioning of capitalism became his goal, which included calling upon the state’s tempering hand to tame the system’s excesses. Some arguments as to how free markets around the world broke down beginning in 2007 and continuing into 2008 include:

  • “The collapse of the housing bubble” – By 2005 the rise in U.S. home prices accounted for 50% of U.S. gross domestic product (GDP) growth. Government entities expanded lending, and commercial lenders gave mortgages to subprime debtors. As housing prices grew, people borrowed...

About the Author

Robert Skidelsky, emeritus professor of Political Economy at the University of Warwick, is the award-winning author of a three-volume biography of John Maynard Keynes.

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    B. B. 1 decade ago
    This is the same rhetoric of every Keynesian, despite the poor results. These economists never look at the cause of the "free market" actions they claim to be at fault. If the free market failed so, why? Maybe because the central bank forced interest rates so low that banks either lend or lose. Why not be risky when you have a central bank to soak up the risk? A central bank running things is not free market, that's Keynesian and thats the problem... no naturally regulating standard such as the gold standard to rein in the central bank, that is free market, that is Keynes... I'd say our problems start there!

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