John Maynard Keynes / 1883–1946 / United Kingdom / Economist, Mathematician, Biographer
Capitalism is the astonishing belief that the nastiest motives of the nastiest men somehow or other work for the best results in the best of all possible worlds.
Source: attribution in George Schuster, Christianity and Human Relations (Epworth Press, 1951); multiple versions.
How can I accept the Communist doctrine, which sets up as its bible, above and beyond criticism, an obsolete textbook which I know not only to be scientifically erroneous but without interest or application to the modern world? How can I adopt a creed which, preferring the mud to the fish, exalts the boorish proletariat above the bourgeoisie and the intelligentsia, who with all their faults, are the quality of life and surely carry the seeds of all human achievement? Even if we need a religion, how can we find it in the turbid rubbish of the red bookshop? It is hard for an educated, decent, intelligent son of Western Europe to find his ideals here, unless he has first suffered some strange and horrid process of conversion which has changed all his values.
Marxian Socialism must always remain a portent to the historians of opinion — how a doctrine so illogical and so dull can have exercised so powerful and enduring an influence over the minds of men, and, through them, the events of history.Source: The End of Laissez-Faire (Hogarth Press, 1926); chapter 3.
The ideas of economists and political philosophers, both when they are right and when they are wrong are more powerful than is commonly understood. Indeed, the world is ruled by little else. Practical men, who believe themselves to be quite exempt from any intellectual influences, are usually slaves of some defunct economist. Madmen in authority, who hear voices in the air, are distilling their frenzy from some academic scribbler of a few years back.
If economists could manage to get themselves thought of as humble, competent people, on a level with dentists, that would be splendid!Source: Essays in Persuasion (Macmillan, 1931).
German Reparations for WWI
I cannot leave this subject as though its just treatment wholly depended either on our own pledges or economic facts. The policy of reducing Germany to servitude for a generation, of degrading the lives of millions of human beings, and of depriving a whole nation of happiness should be abhorrent and detestable — abhorrent and detestable, even if it were possible, even if it enriched ourselves, even if it did not sow the decay of the whole civilized life of Europe. Some preach it in the name of Justice. In the great events of man’s history, in the unwinding of the complex fates of nations Justice is not so simple. And if it were, nations are not authorized, by religion or by natural morals, to visit on the children of their enemies the misdoings of parents of rulers.Source: The Economic Consequences of the Peace (Macmillan, 1919).
The difficulty lies not so much in developing new ideas as in escaping from old ones.
Soon or late, it is ideas, not vested interests, which are dangerous for good or evil.Source: The General Theory of Employment, Interest, and Money (Palgrave Macmillan, 1936).
Of the maxims of orthodox finance, none, surely, is more antisocial than the fetish of liquidity…. It forgets that there is no such thing as liquidity of investment for the community as a whole.Source: The General Theory of Employment, Interest, and Money (Palgrave Macmillan, 1936); chapter 12.
Long run is a misleading guide to current affairs. In the long run we are all dead.Source: A Tract on Monetary Reform (Macmillan, 1923); chapter 3.
Love of Money
The love of money as a possession—as distinguished from the love of money as a means to the enjoyments and realities of life—will be recognized for what it is, a somewhat disgusting morbidity, one of those semi-criminal, semi-pathological propensities which one hands over with a shudder to the specialists in mental disease.Source: Essay in Persuasion (Macmillan, 1931); part V.
When the final result is expected to be a compromise, it is often prudent to start from an extreme position.Source: The Economic Consequences of the Peace (Macmillan, 1919).
Markets can remain irrational longer than you can remain solvent.Source: misattribution; coined by financial analyst Gary Shilling in an oral presentation to AmSouth Bank in Montgomery, AL, in 1986, as reported in the Montgomery Advertiser.
The engine which drives Enterprise is not Thrift, but Profit.
If enterprise is afoot, wealth accumulates, whatever may be happening to thrift; and if enterprise is asleep, wealth decays, whatever thrift may be doing.Source: A Treatise on Money (two volumes) (Macmillan, 1930).
Words ought to be a little wild for they are the assault of thoughts on the unthinking.Source: New Statesman and Nation, July 15, 1933.