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Olduvai III: Catacylsm
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The Problem With Keynesian Economics

The Problem With Keynesian Economics

In The General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money, John Maynard Keynes wrote:

“The ideas of economists and political philosophers, both when they are right and when they are wrong, are more powerful than is commonly understood. Indeed the world is ruled by little else. Practical men, who believe themselves to be quite exempt from any intellectual influences, are usually the slaves of some defunct economist.”

I think Lord Keynes himself would appreciate the irony that he has become the defunct economist under whose influence the academic and bureaucratic classes now toil, slaves to what has become as much a religious belief system as an economic theory.

Men and women who display appropriate skepticism on other topics indiscriminately funnel facts and data through a Keynesian filter without ever questioning the basic assumptions. Some go on to prescribe government policies that have profound effects upon the citizens of their nations.

And when those policies create the conditions that engender the income inequality they so righteously oppose, they often prescribe more of the same bad medicine. Like 18th-century physicians applying leeches to their patients, they take comfort that all right-minded people will concur with their recommended treatments.

This is an ongoing series of a discussion between Ray Dalio and myself (read Part 1Part 2Part 3, and Part 4) . Today’s article addresses the philosophical problem he is trying to address: income and wealth inequality.

Last week I dealt with the equally significant problem of growing debt in the United States and the rest of the world. The Keynesian tools much of the economic establishment wants to use are exacerbating the problems. Ray would like to solve it with a blend of monetary and fiscal policy, what he calls Monetary Policy 3.

The Problem with Keynesianism

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Don’t Blame Trump When the World Ends

Don’t Blame Trump When the World Ends

There was, indeed, a time when clear thinking and lucid communication via the written word were held in high regard.  As far as we can tell, this wonderful epoch concluded in 1936.  Everything since has been tortured with varying degrees of gobbledygook.

The fall from grace was triggered by the 1936 publication of John Maynard Keynes’ The General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money.  The book is rigorously indecipherable.  What’s more, it has the ill-effect of making those who read it dumber.

Nonetheless, politicians and establishment economists remain enamored with Keynes’ gibberish.  For it offers academic rationale for governments to do what they love to do most – borrow money and spend it on inane programs.  In particular, Keynes advocated filling bottles with money and burying them in coalmines for people to dig up as a way to end unemployment.  Somehow, this public works egg hunt would make everyone rich.

Over the years this reasoning has inspired countless government stunts to save the economy from itself.  Not long ago, Keynes devotee, Paul Krugman, took this logic and ran with it to the outer limits of deep space.  In the process, he seems to have lost his mind.

According to Krugman, the proper way to propel an economic growth chart up and to the right is to borrow massive amounts of money and spend it preparing for an alien invasion. Naturally, it takes a Nobel Prize winning economist to come up with such nonsense.

Better Markets

Unfortunately, Keynes’ drivel became the archetypical for illogical economic thought, and still infects economic discourse to this day.  You can hardly browse the headlines of Yahoo finance without your eyeballs being lacerated by it.

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Olduvai IV: Courage
In progress...

Olduvai II: Exodus
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