The role of government

From Keynes 1926 essay “The end of Laissez-Faire

We cannot therefore settle on abstract grounds, but must handle on its merits in detail what Burke termed ‘one of the finest problems in legislation, namely, to determine what the State ought to take upon itself to direct by the public wisdom, and what it ought to leave, with as little interference as possible, to individual exertion.’ We have to discriminate between what Bentham, in his forgotten but useful nomenclature, used to term Agenda and Non-Agenda, and to do this without Bentham’s prior presumption that interference is, at the same time, ‘generally needless’ and ‘generally pernicious.’ Perhaps the chief task of economists at this hour is to distinguish afresh the Agenda of government from the Non-Agenda; and the companion task of politics is to devise forms of government within a democracy which shall be capable of accomplishing the Agenda.

John Maynard Keynes © Tim Gidal/Picture Post/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

3 thoughts on “The role of government

  1. Keynes statement in 1926 ” the chief task of economists at this hour is to distinguish afresh the Agenda of government from the Non-Agenda”, resonates today in the work of Mariana Mazzucato. In “The Entrepreneurial State”, Mazzucato, presents a perspective on government as private sector partner to drive innovation and wealth creation through mission oriented policies. I highly recommend you this book.
    Fernando

    Like

    1. Thanks Fernando. I recall reading the book a few years ago and being very impressed. Her work seems to be shifting the policy conversation in a positive way.

      Like

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