Monday, January 11, 2010


I recently read Peter Clarke's relatively brief (180 page) biography, "Keynes". I found it a bit disappointing. I am most interested in Keynes's views on economics but these aren't discussed in any great depth. More space is devoted to the British politics of the time and Keynes's participation therein which I am not all that interested in.

One good point the book makes is that Keynes's beliefs evolved over time as he came to believe the economics he had been taught was inadequate to explain the real economy and he struggled to formulate better theories. So charges that his published works are inconsistent are true but pointless. It also means that Keynes's own writings aren't necessarily the best explication of Keynesian economics as his followers continued to refine and clarify his ideas.

I was interested to read that, with respect to his personal finances, Keynes was a risk-taker who in 1920 persuaded family and friends to back him in a currency speculation syndicate that was wiped out within months but that he was then able to obtain additional funds from his backers and soon recovered all of the losses.

Another point about his personal life that I found interesting was that although Keynes was a practising homosexual for 20 years he then entered into a seemingly normal and successful marriage. Apparently this was not unique in his milieu. Which makes me wonder how true the current party line that homosexuality is immutable really is.

In summary this book is not a good introduction to Keynesian economics. I found some points of interest in the discussion of his personal life but I found a lot of the material less than compelling. In general this book is probably mostly of specialized interest.

No comments:

Post a Comment