Further Essays on Economic Theory and Policy

By Nicholas Kaldor; F. Targetti et al. | Go to book overview
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7
ORIGINS OF THE NEW MONETARISM*

I think I had best begin by making my own position clear--I regard 'monetarism' as a terrible curse, a visitation of evil spirits, with particularly unfortunate, one could almost say devastating, effects on our own country, Britain. The biological process of natural selection should make for the development of favourable traits in the human character--and that includes the acceptance of ideas and beliefs that promote progress and the rejection of ideas that have the opposite effect. As we all know this is not, unfortunately, either a smooth or a continuous process--it proceeds by fits and starts. The religion of most societies contains the basic dualism between good and evil spirits, between angels and devils, between the purveyors of good advice and the purveyors of bad advice. The choice between them is often represented as a moral issue whereas it is more truly a matter of flair and intuition which sometimes works and sometimes does not. Decadence, according to Nietzsche, is a state in which the individual intuitively goes for the bad solutions for getting out of difficult situations, and fails to pick out the good ones.

The alarming thing is not that some people should hold crackpot ideas. The alarming thing is when crackpot ideas sweep the board--when they capture the minds of a wide selection of important and influential people. This has been the case with the rapid spread of monetarism among academics, journalists, bankers and politicians in the last five to ten years. It has also been the case with the rapid spread of racialism, the mass conversions to Fascist or Nazi ideas and ideals in the 1920s and 30s; and no doubt many other examples could be given. Ultimately the devil fails--at least this has been the case hitherto, otherwise we should not be here. But the cost is sometimes horrendous--whether through wars, revolutions or the misery and agony inflicted by mass unemployment,

____________________
*
The Page Fund Lecture, delivered at University College, Cardiff on 3 December 1980, first published by University College Cardiff Press, 1981.

-160-

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