THE GENERAL THEORY OF EMPLOYMENT, INTEREST, AND MONEY
Keynes’ The General Theory of Employment, Interest, and Money remains, approaching a century after it first appeared, one of the most important documents on economics, along with Adam Smith’s The Wealth of Nations and Karl Marx’s Capital. Hugely important for much of the 20th century, the General Theory was seemingly overtaken by monetarists but won a new, enduring respect among a new generation of economists and politicians following the financial difficulties which began in 2007/8. John Maynard Keynes (1883-1946) promoted a middle way between the Marxist approach of total governmental control and those committed to, essentially, allowing markets to operate largely free of restraints. He saw the need for central intervention, especially at times of crisis, but always acknowledged the importance and the contribution of individual enterprise within a free market system. First published in 1936, Keynes’s ideas had evolved during the difficulties following World War 1 in Europe, and the US crash and the Depression of the 1920s/30s and the misery of mass unemployment. He deplored the situation where a few individuals or companies stored massive wealth while vast numbers experienced poverty and insecurity (his alarm bells ring today!) and sought to promote initiatives where governments could intervene with social projects to keep money fluctuating. As Mark G. Spencer writes in the fascinating introduction to this recording (Free Trade and Free Thought: J. M. Keynes and the Safeguarding of Individualism) Keynes argued, ‘Laissez-faire economics had it wrong. Full employment was not the natural outcome of private interest and a free market economy. Government spending and public works associated with fiscal stimulus were powerful forces that might limit unemployment and benefit most people in the long run, and much more immediately.’ The General Theory is a stimulating and challenging work. Keynes presents his case with minimum jargon and admirable clarity. He does use formulae to support and clarify his case, and in some cases these have been included in the narrative in a manner which can be absorbed. In the few more complicated cases, the formulae are available on pdfs which can be downloaded with this recording. In addition, Spencer’s introduction contains a fascinating outline of Keynes’s life – his study at Cambridge, his involvement with the Bloomsbury set, his public disavowal of the harsh conditions imposed on the defeated nations following World War 1 which he correctly predicted would have a painful outcome. But it is also intriguing to learn that Keynes made a fortune on Wall Street, lost it during the Wall Street Crash, and made it back again in the following years; that he had an enduring interest in the arts, being chairman of the Committee that led to the Arts Council; and helped found the Cambridge Arts Theatre. In short, Keynes – who also helped to create the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank – was a highly influential figure even after World War 2 when his health was in decline. As Spencer comments: ‘ Keynes’ impact on the practice of economics of the third quarter of the 20th century was massive.’ And despite the dip in the Keynesian reputation in following decades, Spencer comments: ‘Many find in [the current circumstances] a compelling case for saying the world needs to become more Keynesian, not less.’ This premiere recording of The General Theory, read with engagement by Jonathan Keeble, also contains all the key footnotes. Introduction by Mark G Spencer © 2017. Complete Recording © Ukemi Audiobooks 2018.