Tuesday, December 16th, 2008
Peter Foster, National Post
December 16, 2008
Keynesianism has been found fatally wanting in both theory and practice, so why is it back?
Zombie Keynesianism, with its promise of 10,000-volt stimulus, continues to lurch around the political scene, while John Maynard Keynes’ acolytes struggle to gussy up his policy Frankenstein for another prime time appearance.
Chief among Lord Keynes’ public proponents are economist Joseph Stiglitz and his biographer, Robert (Lord) Skidelsky.
Prof. Stiglitz recently wrote in Vanity Fair of the importance of understanding the roots of the present crisis. “The battle for the past will determine the battle for the present,” he wrote, reflecting communications strategy from Nineteen Eighty-Four. “So it’s crucial to get the history straight.”
It is indeed crucial to understand the past, but rather than clarifying Keynesian history, both Messrs. Skidelsky and Stiglitz seem intent on shoving inconvenient truths down the memory hole, and engaging in rhetoric rather than objective analysis.There is an old economic joke: “Sure, it fails in practice but does it work in theory?” The approach of Messrs. Stiglitz and Skidelsky is to bury the evidence of practice, demonize straw-man opposition and not so much establish the theory as simply assert its moral credentials.