What I Wrote About Keynes

Enough about Niall Ferguson; let's talk about me. Twenty years ago, I wrote a critique/appreciation of JM Keynes for the New Criterion. The uproar over Ferguson's off-the-cuff quip sent me back to reread it. Parts stand up reasonably well; others not so much. Submitted for your inspection.

Keynes well understood the attractions of Communism to the affluent young. “When Cambridge undergraduates take their inevitable trip to Bolshiedom, are they disillusioned when they find it all dreadfully uncomfortable? Of course not. That is what they are looking for.” In his liberal way, however, he found the conversion to Marxism comical rather than horrifying.

As Keynes’s funny but deadly animadversions on Marxism suggest, much of the impact of his ideas originated in his remarkable personal charm. In a small society like that of interwar England, personality counted. And Keynes’s was evidently delightful. He treated his Bloomsbury friends with extraordinary generosity, generosity that was seldom returned. Cambridge followed his ideas at least in part because it liked him so much. It makes one wonder whether the course of modern economic life would have been different had Ludwig von Mises not been such a pedantic and irascible old man, or if Hayek had been quicker with a joke.