Eating with a friend a few days ago, I mentioned I had just finished the new Keynes bio. They asked me who Keynes was.
This is a perfectly legitimate response for someone who has never studied economics. Nor is it surprising, because there is a very real sense in which economics exists in an ivory tower. We know it is there, and from time to time it ventures out – shrouded in numbers and jargon – to issue warnings or prescribe rules. It is unknown in the way God once was: impossible to understand but impossible to ignore.
It is not necessarily an issue. I don’t understand how a fuse box works or why turning my router on and off always fixes it; the world is full of mysteries reserved for specialists.
Still, it is a tragedy for a profession concerned, at its root, with human flourishing. This can be and should be communicated in the language of values and vision, resonating with passion and feeling.
So, even though I have already spoken about the book, I could resist a final few quotes from what has been a truly inspiring read that I recommend highly:
Keynesianism in this purest, simplest form is not so much a school of economic thought as a spirit of radical optimism, unjustified by most of human history and extremely difficult to conjure up precisely when it is most needed: during the depths of depression or amid the fevers of war.
“Down with those who declare we are dumped and damned,” the twenty-one-year-old Keynes cried in 1903. “Away with all schemes of redemption and retaliation!” A better future was not beyond our control if the different peoples of the world worked together, leading one another to prosperity.
I have written about how economic planning is making a comeback. Let us remember vision too.