John Maynard Keynes: National Self-Sufficiency

“It is not intelligent, it is not beautiful, it is not just, it is not virtuous – and it doesn’t even deliver the goods.” Thus spoke the most influential economist of the 20th century John Maynard Keynes on the inter-war economic system.

Keynes had been a great believer in traditional economics, that is, until the Great Depression. Then everything changed. In the following essay Keynes explains the flaws in free market economics, his plan for the future, and the pitfalls that must be avoided.

In his argument for an expanded dialogue on economics, Tony Judt frequently references Keynes. Judt opines that we must also discuss economics in terms of justice; rather than purely in the terms of a narrow minded accountant. In this sense, Keynes’s work is the perfect antidote to the multiplied bray of the free market loudspeaker.
I was brought up, like most Englishmen, to respect free trade not only as an economic doctrine which a rational and instructed person could not doubt, but almost as a part of the moral law. I regarded ordinary departures from it as being at the same time an imbecility and an outrage. I thought England’s unshakable free trade convictions, maintained for nearly a hundred years, to be both the explanation before man and the justification before Heaven of her economic supremacy. As lately as 1923 I was writing that free trade was based on fundamental “truths” which, stated with their due qualifications, no one can dispute who is capable of understanding the meaning of the words.

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