Saturday, October 3, 2015

Keynes or Marx? Ask Hardcastle.


"[I]t was Keynes, not Marx, who cracked the code of crisis economics and explained how recessions and depressions can happen." (Paul Krugman)
Edgar Hardcastle. Source: MIA

Although Whack-a-Krugman (with or without reason) has become a popular past-time among the Internet experts, I'm not reproducing the quote above (from "Why Aren't We All Keynesians Yet"; Fortune, August 17, 1998: link) to pick on Paul Krugman, or any other notable in particular.

Instead, my intention is to give a clear example of an unjustified triumphalism common not only among the multitude of commentators of unknown and/or questionable credentials (to say nothing of intellectual honesty and ability to read) populating comment threads and the Twittersphere, but even among mainstream bona fide Keynesian scholars (like Krugman). [*]

In both cases, I suspect, the comment is nothing more than an uncritical/confused endorsement of some previous authority's pronouncements (btw, I could give at least one good example, as good as the quote above, including a high-profile academic's candid admission, but I rather avoid hurting feelings).

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Edgar Hardcastle (1900-1995) -- and many others after him -- have abundantly written about the largely unacknowledged debt Keynesian economics owes Marx. From his June 1971 article "Marx and Keynes on Unemployment" for the Socialist Standard:
"Keynes was given the credit of having demolished the theories of 19th century economists who had taught that, if left to its own devices, capitalism would always and of its own accord tend towards full employment. What was little noticed was that most of the ground covered by him had been treated in detail by Marx three-quarters of a century earlier. Keynes was quite contemptuous of Marx, describing Capital as "an obsolete textbook which I know to be not only scientifically erroneous but without interest or application to the modern world" (A Short View of Russia, 1925) and he never seems to have appreciated that his own criticisms of earlier economists were much like those of Marx."
Read the rest here.

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That's not to say that Marxism and Keynesianism are fully compatible. For my own critique of a particular aspect of Keynesianism, start here.

Note:
[*] Incidentally, at the drop of a hat, many of the feral commentators do not hesitate in turning their tantrum from Marx to -- ironically enough -- people like Krugman.

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