John Maynard Keynes | Robert Skidelsky

Summary of: John Maynard Keynes: 1883-1946: Economist, Philosopher, Statesman
By: Robert Skidelsky

Introduction

Dive into the fascinating world of John Maynard Keynes, a pioneering economist, philosopher, and statesman whose life and works continue to influence economic thought today. This book summary of Robert Skidelsky’s ‘John Maynard Keynes: 1883-1946: Economist, Philosopher, Statesman’ offers a captivating exploration of Keynes’ upbringing, education, personal life, and his crucial contributions to the field of economics. Throughout our summary, you’ll learn about the development of Keynesian economic theory, his thoughts on monetary policy and the gold standard, the impact of his famed work The General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money, and his role in shaping the postwar financial system at Bretton Woods.

The Life and Times of John Maynard Keynes

John Maynard Keynes, born in 1883, was the first child of Neville Keynes and his wife Florence Ada Brown. Neville studied economics and lectured at Cambridge University, where he met and married Florence Ada Brown. John showed early talent for logic and mathematics and excelled in these subjects, winning numerous academic prizes and a place at Eton. He joined the Cambridge Union, where he spoke frequently on politics and demonstrated impressive forensic abilities. Keynes also became a member of the Cambridge Conversazione Society, an elite and introverted secret society that exercised a formative influence on him. Overall, Keynes was born into and inherited the aspirations and tensions of a particular moment in history, making him one of its foremost products.

The Bloomsbury Circle

Keynes and Strachey’s homosexuality led them to create a code of ethics they called “higher sodomy.” They believed men were superior to women, and their male lovers were preferable. When they helped a young man, Arthur Lee Hobhouse, get elected to the Apostles in favor of sex appeal over intellect, it split Strachey and Keynes. While Keynes had love affairs with men, he met ballerina Lydia Lopokova in 1918. Their marriage lasted until Keynes’ death in 1946.

Keynes and the Pervasiveness of Uncertainty

The life and works of Maynard Keynes were shaped by his interest in monetary policy, which was motivated by his sense of the precariousness of capitalist civilization. Keynes’ most persistent ideas concerned the pervasiveness of uncertainty and the duty of governments to keep economic life up to the mark. His book, Indian Currency and Finance, proposed a new currency management regime that predicted “the ideal currency of the future.” During World War I, Keynes worked for the Treasury and participated in the first conference to organize war credits among the allies, which led to a complicated system of loans and grants that led to problems after the war. Keynes’ plea to finance the war via taxation instead of government debt to avoid inflation was not heeded, leading to an unfavorable impression on Lloyd George. Keynes was then engaged in trying to extricate Britain from another fiscal crisis caused by the U.S. Federal Reserve Board’s directive to restrict credit abroad. His book, The Economic Consequences of the Peace, predicted that peace would be short-lived because politics dominated economics at Versailles and the liability imposed on Germany was unrealistic.

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