La relevancia de keynes

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Cambridge Journal of Economics 2011, 35, 1–13
Advance Access publication 22 November 2010

The relevance of Keynes
Robert Skidelsky*

Key words: Keynes, Uncertainty, Money, Liquidity preference, Stimulus, Macropolicy, Political economy, Economics
JEL classifications: B30, E44, E60, F50

1. The return of the master
When I finished my biography of Keynes in 2001(Skidelsky, 1983, 1992, 2000), his star
seemed to have set. Despite a medley of New Keynesians, post-Keynesians, synthesisers,
eclectics, trimmers, and occasional outbreaks of common sense by policy-makers, the
dominant tendency in theory and policy was being set by the doctrines of the Chicago
School. Their ‘new classical economics’ was simply a mathematically souped-up version of
the oldclassical economics, which Keynes had overthrown in the 1930s. Markets were
deemed to be optimally self-regulating; the macroeconomic task of government was
restricted to maintaining ‘sound money’; government’s task in the micro-economy was to
free up markets in order to lower the ‘natural rate of unemployment’. The fall of communism in 1990 made possible for the first time since 1914 the restorationof a single world
economy based on balanced budgets, free trade and unrestricted capital movements—the
pre-1914 recipe for economic success. ‘Globalisation’ was the name given to this worldwide extension of the market system.
Recent events have brought Keynes back to life. The so-called ‘Great Moderation’,
which seemed to vindicate the new regime of deregulated markets, lasted less than 10years: from today’s perspective it resembles nothing so much as the ‘roaring twenties’,
which preceded the Great Depression of 1929–32. With the financial collapse of 2007–8
the ‘new classical’ belief in self-regulating markets has proved to be as illusory as the old
classic belief.
Manuscript received 26 March 2010; final version received 29 September 2010.
Address for correspondence:
*Paper first delivered as the Robinson Lecture, Cambridge University, 2 February 2010.
Ó The Author 2010. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the Cambridge Political Economy Society.
All rights reserved.

Downloaded from at University of Notre Dame on June 11, 2011

This paper argues that the thinking of John Maynard Keynes remainshighly relevant
to an understanding of the financial collapse of 2007–8 and for policy measures to
enable the world to escape from the ‘great recession’. The essay explains the role of
uncertainty in Keynes’s theory, and the Keynesian case for fiscal and monetary
‘stimulus’. It provides a Keynesian perspective on the reform of the world’s monetary system, and concludes with reflections on therole of the state and the state of


R. Skidelsky

Since I wrote my biography, my ideas of what was significant in Keynes have shifted,
partly because the world has changed. What I want to do to is indicate the topics with
which I believe a contemporary Keynesian should be most concerned. I have selected five:
the role of uncertainty, the debate over the stimulus, the reform ofthe international monetary system, a new Keynesian political economy and the state of economics. I will deal with
them in turn.

2. The role of uncertainty


See for example the Treatise on Money (Keynes, 1971B, pp. 322–4).

Downloaded from at University of Notre Dame on June 11, 2011

I would now assign a much greater weight to uncertainty in Keynes’srevolution than I did
when I wrote my biography. It was not that I was unaware of it, but I did not place it at the
heart of my account of Keynes’s theory. In this I followed the usual treatment. The purpose
of the General Theory (Keynes, 1973A) was to explain how an economy could get stuck in
a low employment trap. This explanation was provided by the theory of effective demand.
Demand is...
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