Who was John Maynard Keynes?

Published by Thomas Herold in Economics

'John Maynard Keynes' is explained in detail and with examples in the Economics edition of the Herold Financial Dictionary, which you can get from Amazon in Ebook or Paperback edition.

John Maynard Keynes proved to be the English economist, professor, and journalist who also served in British government as a key economic advisor at the powerful British Treasury department. He has become best remembered for his at-the-time influential Keynesian economics. These theories had to do with the reasons for and solutions to long term unemployment.

Keynes was born to a middle class family of moderately successful prosperity on June 5th of 1883 in the famed university town of Cambridge, England. The man is best known for his economic theories that are still called after his name as “Keynesian economics.” He wrote a critically important work entitled, The General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money from 1935-1936. This treatise argued that government-pushed policies of full employment could cure economic recessions. It has been called among the most influential books in all human history.

John Maynard Keynes had an academic for a father that helped to propel his lifelong passion for learning, teaching, research, and public service. John Neville Keynes his father served as economist and eventually academic administrator at the world-renowned King’s College of Cambridge University. Even his mother could claim to be among the very first women graduates from Cambridge. Keynes attended the historic and prestigious university himself beginning in 1902. While studying there, Keynes came under the influence of economist Alfred Marshall. Marshall had such an impact on John that he switched from the classics and math studies to economics and politics.

In the 1920s, Keynes began to write pieces which were increasingly skeptical of the then-dominant laissez-faire style of economics that was very gently overseen by minor public policies. He stood against Britain returning back to the gold standard at a fixed rate in 1925 and demonstrated his concern about the long-term unemployment problems experienced by British textile workers, shipyard employees, and coal miners even before the Great Depression erupted.

Once Keynes wrote his internationally accepted greatest work The General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money, he became the most influential economist of his time. In this magnum opus, he argued for an economic solution utilizing programs of government-sponsored or -provided jobs to solve the persistent and sky-high unemployment. Some critics have argued that his book was unclear enough that no one is actually sure what Keynes was really trying to say. His arguments seemed to be that reducing the rates of wages would not help governments to lower unemployment. Instead, it would take government spending increases to lower unemployment. This would lead to a budget deficit, which he claimed would be a necessary evil in order to solve these terrible economic and social problems of the time. World governments were eager to find reasons to boost their spending. This explains why they adopted all of his principal views with enthusiasm. The majority of his academic peers also ascribed to his ideas in the 1930s and 1940s.

Yet weaknesses in Keynes theories would emerge as reality challenged it repeatedly. He himself argued that his policies would only work optimally in a society that was totalitarian. From the later 1940s through the later 1980s his economic model remained a central tenet of economics and such textbooks. Yet economists finally began to move away from unemployment problem fixation and on to economic growth issues. As they learned more about the links between inflation and unemployment, his once-widely touted model lost its importance.

John Maynard Keynes is well-remembered for two major services to Great Britain and the world just before he died. He was a prominent figure at the post World War II and international order-establishing Bretton Woods Conference held in 1944 in the United States. Though he was not the main force behind the World Bank and International Monetary Fund agencies, he definitely played a role in the financial architecture of the world this conference established. The final major public role he carried out lay in his successful negotiation for Britain of a multiple billion dollar loan from its war ally the United States in 1945. Keynes died the next year.

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The term 'John Maynard Keynes' is included in the Economics edition of the Herold Financial Dictionary, which you can get from Amazon in Ebook or Paperback edition.