John Maynard Keynes, 1st Baron Keynes,(5 June 1883 – 21 April 1946) was a British economist whose ideas have fundamentally affected the theory and practice of modern macroeconomics, and informed the economic policies of governments. He built on and greatly refined earlier work on the causes of business cycles, and is widely considered to be one of the founders of modern macroeconomics and the most influential economist of the 20th century. His ideas are the basis for the school of thought known as Keynesian economics, and its various offshoots.
In the 1930s, Keynes spearheaded a revolution in economic thinking, overturning the older ideas of neoclassical economics that held that free markets would, in the short to medium term, automatically provide full employment, as long as workers were flexible in their wage demands. Keynes instead argued that aggregate demand determined the overall level of economic activity, and that inadequate aggregate demand could lead to prolonged periods of high unemployment. According to Keynesian economics, state intervention was necessary to moderate "boom and bust" cycles of economic activity. He advocated the use of fiscal and monetary measures to mitigate the adverse effects of economic recessions and depressions. Following the outbreak of World War II, Keynes's ideas concerning economic policy were adopted by leading Western economies. In 1942, Keynes was awarded a hereditary peerage as Baron Keynes of Tilton in the County of Sussex. Keynes died in 1946, but during the 1950s and 1960s the success of Keynesian economics resulted in almost all capitalist governments adopting its policy recommendations.
Keynes's influence waned in the 1970s, partly as a result of problems that began to afflict the Anglo-American economies from the start of the decade, and partly because of critiques from Milton Friedman and other economists who were pessimistic about the ability of governments to regulate the business cycle with fiscal policy. However, the advent of the global financial crisis of 2007–08 caused a resurgence in Keynesian thought. Keynesian economics provided the theoretical underpinning for economic policies undertaken in response to the crisis by President George W. Bush of the United States, Prime Minister Gordon Brown of the United Kingdom, and other heads of governments.
In 1999, Time magazine included Keynes in their list of the 100 most important and influential people of the 20th century, commenting that: "His radical idea that governments should spend money they don't have may have saved capitalism." He has been described by The Economist as "Britain's most famous 20th-century economist." In addition to being an economist, Keynes was also a civil servant, a director of the Bank of England, a part of the Bloomsbury Group of intellectuals, a patron of the arts and an art collector, a director of the British Eugenics Society, an advisor to several charitable trusts, a successful private investor, a writer, a philosopher, and a farmer.
John Maynard Keynes was born in Cambridge, Cambridgeshire, England, to an upper-middle-class family. His father, John Neville Keynes, was an economist and a lecturer in moral sciences at the University of Cambridge and his mother Florence Ada Keynes a local social reformer. Keynes was the first born, and was followed by two more children – Margaret Neville Keynes in 1885 and Geoffrey Keynes in 1887. Geoffrey became a surgeon and Margaret married the Nobel Prize-winning physiologist Archibald Hill. At the age of five and a half, in January 1889, Keynes started at the Kindergarten of the Perse School for Girls for five mornings a week. He quickly showed a talent for arithmetic, but his health was poor leading to several long absences. He was tutored at home by a governess, Beatrice Mackintosh, and his mother. At eight and a half, in January 1892, he started as a day pupil at St Faith's preparatory school. By 1894 Keynes was top of his class and excelling at mathematics. In 1896 St Faith's headmaster, Ralph Goodchild, wrote that Keynes was "head and shoulders above all the other boys in the school" and was confident that Keynes could get a scholarship to Eton.
Keynes won a scholarship to Eton College in 1897, where he displayed talent in a wide range of subjects, particularly mathematics, classics and history. At Eton, Keynes experienced the first "love of his life" in Dan Macmillan, older brother of the future Prime Minister Harold Macmillan. Despite his middle-class background, Keynes mixed easily with upper-class pupils. In 1902 Keynes left Eton for King's College, Cambridge after receiving a scholarship for this also to study mathematics. Alfred Marshall begged Keynes to become an economist, although Keynes's own inclinations drew him towards philosophy – especially the ethical system of G. E. Moore. Keynes joined the Pitt Club and was an active member of the semi-secretive Cambridge Apostles society, a debating club largely reserved for the brightest students. Like many members, Keynes retained a bond to the club after graduating and continued to attend occasional meetings throughout his life. Before leaving Cambridge, Keynes became the President of the Cambridge Union Society and Cambridge University Liberal Club. In May 1904 he received a first class B.A. in mathematics. Aside from a few months spent on holidays with family and friends, Keynes continued to involve himself with the university over the next two years. He took part in debates, further studied philosophy and attended economics lectures informally as a graduate student. He also studied for his 1905 Tripos and 1906 civil service exams.
Keynes's Civil Service career began in October 1906, as a clerk in the India Office. He enjoyed his work at first, but by 1908 had become bored and resigned his position to return to Cambridge and work on probability theory, at first privately funded only by two dons at the university – his father and the economist Arthur Pigou. In 1909 Keynes published his first professional economics article in the Economics Journal, about the effect of a recent global economic downturn on India. Also in 1909, Keynes accepted a lectureship in economics funded personally by Alfred Marshall. Keynes's earnings rose further as he began to take on pupils for private tuition, and on being elected a fellow. In 1911 Keynes was made editor of The Economic Journal. By 1913 he had published his first book, Indian Currency and Finance. He was then appointed to the Royal Commission on Indian Currency and Finance – the same topic as his book – where Keynes showed considerable talent at applying economic theory to practical problems.
His written work was published under the name "J M Keynes", though to his family and friends he was known as Maynard. (His father, John Neville Keynes, was also always known by his middle name).
- 1913 Indian Currency and Finance
- 1914 Ludwig von Mises's Theorie des Geldes (EJ)
- 1915 The Economics of War in Germany (EJ)
- 1919 The Economic Consequences of the Peace
- 1921 A Treatise on Probability
- 1922 The Inflation of Currency as a Method of Taxation (MGCRE)
- 1922 Revision of the Treaty
- 1923 A Tract on Monetary Reform
- 1925 Am I a Liberal? (N&A)
- 1926 The End of Laissez-Faire
- 1926 Laissez-Faire and Communism
- 1930 A Treatise on Money
- 1930 Economic Possibilities for our Grandchildren
- 1931 The End of the Gold Standard (Sunday Express)
- 1931 Essays in Persuasion
- 1931 The Great Slump of 1930
- 1933 The Means to Prosperity
- 1933 An Open Letter to President Roosevelt (New York Times)
- 1936 The General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money
- 1940 How to Pay for the War: A radical plan for the Chancellor of the Exchequer
Throughout his life Keynes worked energetically for the benefit both of the public and his friends—even when his health was poor he laboured to sort out the finances of his old college, and at Bretton Woods, he worked to institute an international monetary system that would be beneficial for the world economy. Keynes suffered a series of heart attacks, which ultimately proved fatal, beginning during negotiations for an Anglo-American loan in Savannah, Georgia, where he was trying to secure favourable terms for the United Kingdom from the United States, a process he described as "absolute hell."A few weeks after returning from the United States, Keynes died of a heart attack at Tilton, his farmhouse home near Firle, East Sussex, England, on 21 April 1946 at the age of 62. Both of Keynes's parents outlived him: father John Neville Keynes (1852–1949) by three years, and mother Florence Ada Keynes (1861–1958) by twelve. Keynes's brother Sir Geoffrey Keynes (1887–1982) was a distinguished surgeon, scholar and bibliophile. His nephews include Richard Keynes (1919–2010) a physiologist; and Quentin Keynes (1921–2003), an adventurer and bibliophile. His widow, Lydia Lopokova, died in 1981.The Keynesian Revolution was associated with the rise of modern liberalism in the West during the post-war period. Keynesian ideas became so popular that some scholars point to Keynes as representing the ideals of modern liberalism, as Adam Smith represented the ideals of classical liberalism. After the war Winston Churchill attempted to check the rise of Keynesian policy-making in the United Kingdom, and used rhetoric critical of the mixed economy in his 1945 election campaign. Despite his popularity as a war hero Churchill suffered a landslide defeat to Clement Attlee whose government's economic policy continued to be influenced by Keynes's ideas. By the 1950s, Keynesian policies were adopted by almost the entire developed world and similar measures for a mixed economy were used by many developing nations. By then, Keynes's views on the economy had become mainstream in the world's universities. Throughout the 1950s and 1960s, the developed and emerging free capitalist economies enjoyed exceptionally high growth and low unemployment. Professor Gordon Fletcher has written that the 1950s and 1960s, when Keynes's influence was at its peak, appear in retrospect as a Golden Age of Capitalism.[ Much of the recent discussion reflected Keynes's advocacy of international coordination of fiscal or monetary stimulus, and of international economic institutions such as the IMF and the World Bank, which many had argued should be reformed as a "new Bretton Woods" even before the crises broke out. IMF and United Nations economists advocated a coordinated international approach to fiscal stimulus. Donald Markwel argued that in the absence of such an international approach, there would be a risk of worsening international relations and possibly even world war arising from similar economic factors to those present during the depression of the 1930s. Among professional economists the revival of Keynesian economics has been even more divisive. Although many economists, such as George Akerlof, Paul Krugman, Robert Shiller, and Joseph Stiglitz, support Keynesian stimulus, others do not believe higher government spending will help the United States economy recover from the Great Recession. Some economists, such as Robert Lucas, questioned the theoretical basis for stimulus packages. Others, like Robert Barro and Gary Becker, say that the empirical evidence for beneficial effects from Keynesian stimulus does not exist. However, there is a growing academic literature that shows that fiscal expansion helps an economy grow in the near term, and that certain types of fiscal stimulus are particularly effective.