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DLT: John Maynard Keynes 1883-1946

Duncan Brack and Ed Randall, authors of the Dictionary of Liberal Thought, have kindly agreed to let us publish extracts on Lib Dem Voice. Last month’s instalment was Mary Wollstonecraft

This month’s entry on Keynes has been selected as it is particularly topical in the current financial climate – and the next two entries to appear, Keynesianism in Februrary, and the Keynes Forum in March, complete the series.  If you can’t wait until March, the entire Dictionary of Liberal Thought is available on Amazon here and can also be bought at the Westminster Bookshop.

John Maynard Keynes 1883–1946

The most influential and important economic thinker of the twentieth century, Keynes’s most important academic works were concerned not only with challenging accepted economic theory but also with finding solutions to real economic problems; his ideas came to underpin the post-war economic strategy of Western governments. He was an active Liberal and contributed to Lloyd George’s reshaping of Liberal Party policy in the 1920s; he also helped to found the Liberal Summer School.

Key ideas

• Human decision-making under uncertainty is necessarily based on subjective expectations of utility (this reflects the fact that human beings lack a sound basis for calculating probabilities).

• Economic recovery from war requires great magnanimity in order to fashion a programme of economic assistance and cooperation that serves the best interests of victors and vanquished alike.

• A stable world requires the strong to help the weak, and intelligent international cooperation is essential in order to build the foundations for general prosperity and diminish the risks of future conflict.

• It is possible that where an economy’s aggregate output is below its potential, it will suffer an extended period of high unemployment and depressed output; public policy should therefore be designed so that government is equipped to raise effective demand in such circumstances.

• The need for an international reserve currency, managed by an international clearing union.

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