Economics as Ideology: Keynes, Laski, Hayek, and the Creation of Contemporary Politics
Ebeling, Richard M., Freeman
Economics as Ideology: Keynes, Laski, Hayek, and the Creation of Contemporary Politics by Kenneth R. Hoover Rowman and Littlefield * 2003 * 328 pages * $75.00 hardcover; $27.95 paperback
Why do people hold the views that they do, including and especially their political and ideological views? That question has generated a vast library of what has generally come to be called "psychobabble," wherein the author attempts to "deconstruct" his biographical subject and demonstrate why the subject's upbringing and social circumstances made him the way he was, including his ideas about the social, political, and economic world in which he lived.
A recent contribution to this genre is Kenneth R. Hoover's Economics as Ideology. A political science professor at Western Washington University, Hoover wants to find out what made Harold Laski a socialist, F. A. Hayek a proponent of free-market liberalism, and John Maynard Keynes, well, a Keynesian.
Laski was one of the most prominent and influential advocates of socialism in Great Britain in the decades from World War I to the early 1950s. His writings and political activities helped move his country in the direction of central planning and the welfare state. Hoover concludes that Laski's ideology and politics were driven by a falling out with his businessman father and the Orthodox judaism of his family. His whole life was supposedly a revolt against the chains and apparent social insensitivity of religious and cultural conservatism.
Keynes was the product of a British intellectual elite and a generation at the beginning of the twentieth century that was determined to break free of Victorian morality. A focus on the pleasures of the moment and a probabilistic theory of uncertainty concerning the future resulted in Keynes discounting many of the long-run consequences from short-run policies. In Hoover's account, his homosexual adventures as a young man and his failure to father children after he married also made him think a lot less about the future impact of present policies.
Hayek, on the other hand, resented the rules and regulations that come with greater government control of social and economic affairs because of a bad marriage he entered into when he was a young man and a difficult divorce immediately after World War II. Untangling himself from an unwanted marriage, according to Hoover, supposedly is the key to understanding Hayek's desire for a society with fewer restraints on the choices of individuals.
The difficulty with taking all such psychoideological analyses seriously is that they can be used to explain almost anything, and therefore explain nothing. There have been Jews who renounced their religious and cultural ancestry and became classical liberals. There have been free-spirited homosexuals who became social and political conservatives. And there have been people trapped in bad marriages and difficult divorces who became radical socialists.
An equally crucial weakness in Hoover's book is his failure to come to grips with many of the important issues and arguments that separated these three protagonists in the decades between the two world wars. …