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John Maynard Keynes (1926): From "The End of Laissez-Faire": Weekend Reading

School of Athens

John Maynard Keynes (1926): from The end of Laissez-Faire: "The early nineteenth century... harmonised the conservative individualism of Locke, Hume, Johnson, and Burke with the socialism and democratic egalitarianism of Rousseau, Paley, Bentham, and Godwin.... The idea of a divine harmony between private advantage and the public good is already apparent in Paley. But it was the economists who gave the notion a good scientific basis.... To the philosophical doctrine that the government has no right to interfere, and the divine that it has no need to interfere, there is added a scientific proof that its interference is inexpedient.... The principle of laissez-faire had arrived to harmonise individualism and socialism.... The political philosopher could retire in favour of the business man.... Thus the ground was fertile for a doctrine that, whether on divine, natural, or scientific grounds, state action should be narrowly confined and economic life left, unregulated so far as may be, to the skill and good sense of individual citizens actuated by the admirable motive of trying to get on in the world.... By the time that the influence of Paley and his like was waning, the innovations of Darwin were shaking the foundations of belief..... Survival of the fittest could be regarded as a vast generalisation of the Ricardian economics. Socialist interferences became, in the light of this grander synthesis, not merely inexpedient, but impious, as calculated to retard the onward movement of the mighty process by which we ourselves had risen like Aphrodite out of the primeval slime of ocean...

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John Maynard Keynes (1926): The End of His ""The End of Laissez-Faire": Weekend Reading

Il Quarto Stato

Weekend Reading: John Maynard Keynes (1926): The end of his "The End of Laissez-Faire": "These reflections have been directed towards possible improvements in the technique of modern capitalism.... There is nothing in them which is seriously incompatible with... the essential characteristic... the dependence upon an intense appeal to... money-making and money-loving instincts.... I may do well to remind you... that the fiercest contests and the most deeply felt divisions of opinion are likely to be waged in the coming years... round... questions... psychological or, perhaps, moral...

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Yes, Societal Well-Being Depends on a Very Strong Distributional Bias Along the Lines of "To Each According to Their Need". Why Do You Ask?

Il Quarto Stato

At least half of our wealth comes from the ideas and investments of those who are now dead. And as we grow richer, that proportion grows as well. None of the living have any just exclusive claim on any portion of this cornucopian storehouse of technologies. The dead have no just claim on it either: respect for their legacy does not entail honoring their wishes as to its use, if that honoring upsets the principle of equal opportunity. Thus the most bedrock moral-philosophical principal is that more than half of our wealth is held in common for the human community to distribute as it decides is good.

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Samuel Brittan (1980): Hayek, the New Right, and the Crisis of Social Democracy: Weekend Reading

This—written forty years ago—is still the best short summary of left-neoliberalism I have every seen. Indeed, I think meditating on it, while walking up Drury Lane between the LSE and Bloomsbury in the summer of 1982, was how I became a card-carrying left-neoliberal in the first place:

School of Athens

Samuel Brittan (1980): Hayek, the New Right, and the Crisis of Social Democracy: "SINCE THE PUBLICATION of his Road to Serfdom in 1944, Friedrich Hayek has been cursed by sneerers, who dismiss everything he has to say without giving it a hearing, and even more by admirers, who agree with it before they have studied it, and regard it mainly as a highbrow stick with which to beat the Left. Yet there are many reasons for trying to come to terms with what he has been saying. The completion of The Political Order of a Free People, the third and last volume of his Law, Legislation and Liberty, provides a suitable opportunity for an interim assessment...

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It is interesting to note that Adam Smith's one explicit use of the phrase "Invisible Hand" in his Wealth of Nations is not a situation in which the competitive market equilibrium is Pareto-optimal. It is of a situation with two market failures—a home bias psychological failure among the merchants of Amsterdam, and agglomeration economies for mercantile activity in Amsterdam. And the two offset each other: if merchants were rational, the free-market equilibrium would ternate an inefficient sacrifice the agglomeration economies. If the agglomeration economies were absent, psychological home bias would lead to an inefficient concentration of activity:

Glory Liu: How the Chicago School Changed the Meaning of Adam Smith’s ‘Invisible Hand’: "For Friedman and Stigler, economics’ scientific power came from its ability to predict outcomes based on two central insights... in The Wealth of Nations... self-interest... [and,] of course, the invisible hand.... Few economists were as successful as Friedman in spreading this interpretation of Smith’s ideas to the public... populariz[ing] this interpretation of Smith’s invisible hand for an overtly conservative political agenda.... What makes the Smith of Milton Friedman and George Stigler so... problematic... is that they 'economized' Smith in a way that obscured if not precluded the relevance of his moral philosophy and political theory.... Whether his political value stems from the idea that he is an economist or moral philosopher or something else, however, is something that we—Smith’s readers—get to decide...

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Hoisted from the Archiyes: Why We Hate Chickenhawks: Selections from SFF Author David Drake

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David Drake, a good chunk of whose work is best classified as horror and is really about his experiences as an interrogator in the 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment, the "Blackhorse", when it went through the Cambodian market town of Snuol:

I [now] had much more vivid horrors than Lovecraft's nameless ickinesses to write about.... I wrote about troopers doing their jobs the best they could with tanks that broke down, guns that jammed—and no clue about the Big Picture.... I kept the tone unemotional: I didn't tell the reader that something was horrible, because nobody told me.... Those stories... were different. They didn't fit either of the available molds: "Soldiers are spotless heroes," or... "Soldiers are evil monsters"... [...] The... stories were written with a flat affect, describing cruelty and horror with the detachment of a soldier who's shut down his emotional responses completely in a war zone... as soldiers always do, because otherwise they wouldn't be able to survive. Showing soldiers behaving and thinking as they really do in war was... extremely disquieting to the civilians who were editing magazines...

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The very sharp Jeet Heer traces David Brooks's intellectual panic back to the John Birch Society: Jeet Heer: A Few Thoughts on "Cultural Marxism," Marcuse, John Wayne, the John Birch Society, and Anti-Semitism: "Goobers in the Trump administration are worried about 'Cultural Marxism' in the 'Deep State' opposing Trump.... 'Cultural Marxism' is a big boogeyman on the alt-right: it's the people who are supposedly responsible for creating PC, feminism, etc. The actual historical 'cultural Marxists' (or 'Western Marxists') were the Frankfurt School: Adorno, Benjamin, Marcuse etc... sought to supplant and update Marx's economic system with recognition of cultural forces...

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A Lazy New Year's Eve Morn on Twitter...

School of Athens

Brad DeLong: Gee, I Have Argued Myself From Half-Agreeing With @EconMarshall To 90% Agreeing With Him, Haven’t I?_:

Suresh Naidu: Sorry that came out wrong, deleted. Straightforward: a substantial amount of economic power and inefficiency is not eliminated by deconcentration/free entry. Not clear, lots of problems are made worse by free entry/competition. Low margins mean harder to unionize. Innovation is done by big firms. On simple efficiency grounds things can get worse in market with advantageous selection (eg loans) or with any negative ext. It depends!

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Mike Konczal: If we are worried about margins being too low, boy do I have exciting news for you:

Sure, but between that, Tobin's Q, "profit share", consistent rate of return under declining real rates, and the break of investment and profitability, something is broken. One can contest any of the individual methods, but together they paint a clear picture.

Suresh Naidu: The " always more competition" fix implies we want to expand output but it is not clear we do in every market (eg airline monopoly might be 10th best emissions regulation).

(((E. Glen Weyl))): 10th best reasoning is fine for policy technocrats, but I think a pretty poor basis for thinking about imaginaries for broad social change and democratic movement building. Imaginaries that move us beyond monopolistic corporate forms, but using market mechanisms, seem promising. I am talking about building coalitions and democratic discourse rather than just being technocratic experts.

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For the Weekend: John Donne

Bridge depicted in Hemingway s For Whom the Bell Tolls Picture of La Ciudad Ronda

John Donne: For Whom the Bell Tolls:

...No man is an island,
Entire of itself.
Each is a piece of the continent,
A part of the main.

If a clod be washed away by the sea,
Europe is the less.
As well as if a promontory were.
As well as if a manor of thine own
Or of thine friend's were.

Each man's death diminishes me,
For I am involved in mankind.
Therefore, send not to know
For whom the bell tolls,
It tolls for thee...

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