Thursday, March 26, 2015

A Short View of "A Short View". (ii)

(From Part i)

Why Keynes -- reputedly one of 20th century's greatest economic minds -- did not provide any economic figure, any fact, or analysis, in support of his allegations, and, instead, was happy to pen a piece of bullying, worthy of a Jeremy Clarkson?

A careful reading of the essay suggests an answer: unlike Clarkson, Keynes had no reason to fear a backlash.

Expressing himself for public consumption, the appearances-conscious Keynes wasn’t entirely forthcoming on the causes of his evident displeasure, but there was a deep personal grievance behind Keynes’ essay, a grievance he shared with members of the Western bourgeoisie.

Understandably so: an intellectual and patron of the arts, a prominent eugenicist (Keynes would serve from 1937 to 1944 as head of the Eugenics Society), and aspiring member of the British bourgeoisie, the future 1st Baron Keynes (made hereditary peer in 1942) could not have enjoyed what he witnessed in “Russia”.

Judging by his own words, repeated 3 times for emphasis, this is what irked Lord Keynes the most:
  1. How can I adopt a creed which, preferring the mud to the fish, exalts the boorish proletariat above the bourgeois and the intelligentsia who, with whatever faults, are the quality in life and surely carry the seeds of all human advancement?
  2. In one respect Communism but follows other famous religions. It exalts the common man and makes him everything.
  3. The exaltation of the common man is a dogma which has caught the multitude before now. Any religion and the bond which unites co-religionists have power against the egotistic atomism of the irreligious.
Speaking in the first person, Keynes declares the deepest cause of his outrage: “Leninism” exalts the “mud, the “boorish proletariat”, the “common man” (synonymous, for Keynes). Not him. Keynes -- and presumably his peers -- the “fish”, the member of the “intelligentsia” and aspiring “bourgeois” (“the quality in life and surely carry the seeds of all human advancement”) is no longer the navel of the universe. The rabble daring to challenge the Olympian men (in Nietzsche's admiring description).

That was his deep, personal grievance: the loss of social standing and control.

He wasn't the first to fear the day of reckoning. Before the Russian Revolution, others felt the same; the economist Knut Wicksell (who influenced Keynes personally), among them. How could Keynes, seeing the beast up close, have felt differently? 

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Over 30 years later, a member of the now extinct petty provincial aristocracy from Central Europe would write this praise:
“You have the courage to tell the masses what no politician told them: you are inferior and all the improvements in your condition which you simply take for granted you owe to the effort of men who are better than you.”
Those words, echoing Keynes, could have been addressed to him … but they weren't.

The starry-eyed fan behind them was not one of Keynes’ devotees; in fact, he radically disagreed with him on economic doctrine (e.g. “What he really did was to write an apology for the prevailing policies of governments”).

Baron Keynes ("I do not mean that Russian Communism alters, or even seeks to alter, human nature, that it makes Jews less avaricious or Russians less extravagant") did not live to witness the unintended  (?) snub, but in those lines Ludwig Heinrich, Edler (Baronet) von Mises was complimenting  Russian-born Alisa Zinov'yevna Rosenbaum -- Ayn Rand -- on the publication of “Atlas Shrugged”.

Both Mises and Rand, like Keynes himself, were unconditional in their support for "the bourgeois and the intelligentsia who, with whatever faults, are the quality in life and surely carry the seeds of all human advancement"; both of them, non-religious Jews.

(To be continued)

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