keynes as conservative

John Kenneth Galbraith, quoted in the new book ‘Keynes And Hayek, the Great Debate’:

“Keynes was exceedingly comfortable with the economic system he so brilliantly explored,” observed Galbraith. “So the broad thrust of his efforts, like that of Roosevelt, was conservative; it was to help ensure that the system would survive. But such conservatism in the English-speaking countries does not appeal to the truly committed conservative. . . . Better to accept the unemployment, idled plants, and mass despair of the Great Depression, with all the resulting damage to the reputation of the capitalist system, than to retreat on true principle. . . . When capitalism finally succumbs, it will be to the thunderous cheers of those who are celebrating their final victory over people like Keynes.”

(I found the quote here, in the last of four excerpts from the book.)

The phrase that jumps out at me is ‘truly committed conservative.’ Galbraith’s description is dead on, if you’re talking about Limbaugh et al. They say their prescriptions for the economy will work, but there’s always an undercurrent of ‘and even if doesn’t, it’s still the right thing to do.’

On the other hand, equally committed conservatives like David Frum see government intervention in this circumstance as exactly the right cure, and they see Keynes as conservative, in the sense that he would ‘conserve’ capitalism.

I’m obviously in the second camp, and every time I think about the way today’s conservatives define conservatism I come to the conclusion they should better be called right wing radicals – they would destroy before they would do something at odds with their world view. That’s not a new thought by any means, but the power of it continues to amaze me.


One thought on “keynes as conservative

  1. I completely agree. And it makes the job of fixing problems so much harder because you are trying to reason with people who would rather die (politically, not physically) than give in.

    Compromise is impossible in these situations. Our dear President has proven yet again the folly of appeasing a committed enemy.

    The only answer is to use brute political force against brute political force. May the stronger force win.

    I repeat my mantra: There is no center.

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