[OPE-L:2855] Re: Rx Economics/Keynes

From: Gerald Levy (glevy@pratt.edu)
Date: Sat Apr 15 2000 - 07:59:21 EDT

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Re Riccardo's [OPE-L:2839]:

> was Keynes a disinterested inquirer? My answer is:
> no. The same answer I would give for Marx: he was not a disinterested
> inquirer.

I agree that Marx could not be said to be a "disinterested inquirer".

> >I would say that Keynes' standpoint was that of an *economic mechanic*
> >or a *pharmacist* writing prescriptions for the ailments of capital.
> The same could be said for Ricardo when endorsing the battle against rents
> (corn laws, etc.).

The *purpose* of Ricardian theory was not simply a theoretical
justification for the corn laws, etc. The purpose of Keynesian theory, I
believe, though *was* normative in nature.

> >By concentrating his analysis on the *short-run*, he did not even attempt
> >to comprehend the long-term processes of capital accumulation.
> Kalecki said that the long run is a series of short run. I agree. The long
> run as such does not exist.

This is not helpful -- nor was JMK's trite comment that "In the long-run,
we are all dead". I suppose it sounds good if you are at a cocktail party
making small talk (and it is tautologically true), but it is an evasion.

I will, however, assert that if it is the case that there is no LR, then
we should abandon Marx and (just about) all economic theories except that
of Keynes. Moreover, we should recognize that any attempt to make
Keynesian theory compatible with Sraffian theory is impossible and should
be abandoned.

Moreover, the above perspective is essentially a static and anti-dynamic
perspective. Thus any attempt to combine Keynes with Goodwin and/or Minsky
should be trashed.

> My answer would be: for prescribing the right medicins, Keynes had to
> discover the laws of capitalism in its own epoch, and in doing so he made
> authentic, scientific discoveries, unknown to earlier political economy
> (and critique of pol. ec.).

Traditional (e.g. herbal) medicines do not require that one comprehend the
nature of human anatomy. Rather, whatever the theological or cultural
reason cited, they are based on experimentation. That is, they are
observed "to work". Of course, Keynes couldn't know what would work until
or if it did work. Yet, there is *no reason* to believe that for his
policy proposals to work (temporarily and apparently) that he "had to
discover the laws of capitalism in its own epoch". Moreover, given the SR
character of his theory, such a observation on epochal laws is impossible.
It would be like trying to understand the "laws" of 20th Century
capitalism by observing conditions in Britain on the dates of April 12-23,
> Yes, if he is furthering the scientific comprehension of how capitalism
> work.

His standpoint was more one of how to make capitalism work better.

> BTW, there is a methodological issue here. I think that economics cannot be
> divorced from 'use', from 'practice'. The dimension of practice in Marx
> was, to be very very short, class struggle from the standpoint of the
> working class. The dimension of use for Keynes was to make both workers and
> capitalists better of.

I agree that "positive" and "normative" theory should not be rigidly

Keynes' standpoint was that of liberalism. Yet, the liberalism of the
early to mid-20th century had not the same meaning as the liberalism of
the 18th and early 19th centuries.

As for the alleged objective of making workers better off, I think we
could look through the _Collected Works_ and find evidence to the

btw, what was Keynes's perspective on the General Strike of 1926?
> P.S.: why didn't you said that Keynes was a *dentist*, but rather used the
> term pharmacist?

A dentist is focused on the micro level; Keynes was a macroeconomist.

In solidarity, Jerry

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