Expectations and the Meaning of Institutions: Essays in Economics

By Ludwig Lachmann; Don Lavoie | Go to book overview

12

JOHN MAYNARD KEYNES

A view from an Austrian window [1983]

INTRODUCTION

By tradition, ancient and cherished, the hundredth birthday of a thinker who has made his mark provides an occasion for reconsideration of his work and re-examination of his thought. We may find justification for doing so in the hope that the distance history provides and the cooling of passions will permit us to arrive at judgements more settled and mature, if not more acute, than was formerly possible. Indeed, unless we are ready to believe that as time goes by our state of knowledge changes, there would be little point in such centenary reflections.

In Keynes's case we encounter a number of difficulties. In his life-time his work was the subject of a number of controversies not all of which have subsided since. From the enormous literature that has grown up we may conclude that there must have been 'many Keyneses' rather than one Keynes, and Keynes's wellknown pragmatic inclination seems to support this conclusion. It is hardly an exaggeration to say that today almost every reputable economist holds and cherishes his own view of 'what Keynes really meant'. Moreover, there is the ancient problem of the relationship between the master and his disciples, emerging today in the form of 'Keynes and the Keynesians'. We have no reason to expect that on the occasion of the centenary all these views will suddenly begin to converge. What perhaps we might hope for is that, gradually and to some extent, most of these divergent views will become tempered by the wisdom of history.

As the years go by, such a state of mind should become easier to attain. Economists may even learn to distinguish between 'Keynesian' economic policies and Keynes's (authentic?) economic

-184-

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