And Now a Few Words from a Dead Man

I am too busy to write anything of much interest here, so I thought I would just provide a few quotes from the late, great John Maynard Keynes. My outside work took me to The New Penguin Dictionary of Modern Quotations (by Robert Andrews) to find for a quotation from Keynes. It was probably his most famous:

Long run is a misleading guide to current affairs. In the long run we are all dead.

This is such a pithy antidote to the common economist’s bromide, “It will all work itself out in the long run.” One hears this sort of nonsense all the time and it is handy to know this quotation; one may respond sharply: “Is that right? Well, in the long run we are all dead, expletive!”

Many of Keynes quotations address the pretensions of economists and those who think them gods. I rather like the following, because it so nicely sums up many people I know—almost 75 years after Keynes wrote it:

The ideas of economists and political philosophers, both when they are right and when they are wrong, are more powerful than is commonly understood. Indeed the world is ruled by little else. Practical men, who believe themselves to be quite exempt from any intellectual influence, are usually the slaves of some defunct economist.

The emphasis is mine. It is hard to believe that Keynes was not writing this about the Chicago School of economic thought (e.g. Milton Friedman) and those very many politicians who follow it. Whenever I hear them speak about economics, I get the impression that they believe they have found The Truth. Even in the face of overwhelming evidence against their tenets, they are shocked: “But our models are perfect!”

And one more about roughly the same people:

A study of the history of opinion is a necessary preliminary to the emancipation of the mind. I do not know which makes a man more conservative—to know nothing but the present, or nothing but the past.

That’s all for now, folks. Next up will most likely be a discussion of Janis Bell’s fun and helpful, Clean, Well-Lighted Sentences. As good as it is, I have a few bones to pick.

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About Frank Moraes

Frank Moraes is a freelance writer and editor online and in print. He is educated as a scientist with a PhD in Atmospheric Physics. He has worked in climate science, remote sensing, throughout the computer industry, and as a college physics instructor. Find out more at About Frank Moraes.

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