In this episode of Talks at GS, author Zachary Carter shares insights from his new book on the life and times of economist John Maynard Keynes and why he believes Keynesian economics are key to understanding the policy response to the pandemic.
On the modern definition of Keynesianism: “Keynes never wanted to be remembered as sort of this therapist of debt. He was concerned with the great social problems of his day, which for his lifetime began with the First World War, continued into the Great Depression, and then escalated into the Second World War. And he was trying to address war and peace and social harmony and the flowering of art and culture. He wasn't just sort of this technician. And I think there's sort of this ironic paradox around Keynesianism where if he hadn't been taken up by the economics profession as somebody who was the standard bearer for economics in the '50s, '60s, and into the '70s, his legacy as an intellectual probably wouldn't be remembered at all today. But because he was taken up by the economics profession and not by, say, the philosophy profession or academic linguists or something else like that, his theory became reduced to a series of very technical kind of policy maneuvers, which don't really make a whole lot of sense, I think, divorced from his broader social theory.”
On how he thinks Keynes would respond to the current economic crisis: “I think he would say immediately in the short term you have to address the public health crisis. If you don't deal with public health, there's no sort of either/or trade-off between public health and economic growth, economic prosperity. You have to address public health in order to do economic prosperity. But after that, we have all these big geopolitical questions that are quite a journey. And I think he would have a lot to say about the state of American manufacturing, I think, and particularly about how to make sure that the United States doesn't lose its ability to take care of public health in an emergency like this without throwing out the sort of international ideals around globalization that I think he certainly would have been quite attached to.”