Tag: Keynes

An easy subject at which very few excel!

The study of economics does not seem to require any specialised gifts of an unusually high order. Is it not, intellectually regarded, a very easy subject compared with the higher branches of philosophy and pure science? Yet good, or even competent, economists are the rarest of birds. An easy subject, at which very few excel!  — John Maynard Keynes

I came across this gem at Brad Delong’s website, where he is having a dialog with Paul Krugman about the use of graphs in Econ 101, and specifically whether Production Possibilities and Edgeworth Boxes should be introduced at the introductory level.

This is certainly a conversation we are having on our floor.  I think we generally introduce PPFs, but not the Edgeworth Boxes in our introductory courses, and our Econ 300 students get the Ysidro Edgeworth treatment.  I guess I’m all ears if you have thoughts on the topic.

As for the more obnoxious point that economics is a seemingly lightweight subject that few are good at, huh.  Keynes continues:

The paradox finds its explanation, perhaps, in that the master-economist must possess a rare combination of gifts. He must reach a high standard in several different directions and must combine talents not often found together. He must be mathematician, historian, statesman, philosopher-in some degree. He must understand symbols and speak in words. He must contemplate the particular in terms of the general, and touch abstract and concrete in the same flight of thought. He must study the present in the light of the past for the purposes of the future.

That’s from his obituary for Alfred Marshall, author of the incredible Principles of Economics, the profession’s first textbook, and namesake of Marshallian Demand!  Truly a pioneer and an intellectual giant, regardless of what Keynes says here.

It’s nice to see someone say something nice about economists, even it if is an economist, and even if it was 90 years ago.




Keynes and the Crisis of the Welfare State — May 17 at 4:30 p.m.

John Maynard Keynes is the father of modern macroeconomics, and Keynesian economics and the welfare state have been inextricably linked in the public mind since the postwar era. Indeed, he is widely believed to have provided the analytical, economic underpinnings for the welfare state. Bradley Bateman, a recognized scholar of Keynsian thought, examines Keynes’s contributions with the backdrop of the recent financial calamities and the widespread fiscal crises of state and national governments.

Please join us for Professor Bateman’s talk, which is part of the Lawrence Senior Experience in the Department of Economics.

Wriston Auditorium
Thursday, May 17
4:30 p.m.

Bradley W. Bateman is the Provost and a Professor of Economics at Denison University. He is the author of Keynes’s Uncertain Revolution and co-author of Capitalist Revolutionary: John Maynard Keynes.


More at the Lawrence homepage.

Keynes, Hayek, and Other Dead Economists

This term’s economics read, DS 391 Keynes Hayek and Other Dead Economists, triumphantly kicks off this Thursday at 3:25 in Steitz 230.

You should pick up Wapshott and read the first six chapters (pp. 1- 94).  We will circulate discussion questions Wednesday.

Next week we will continue down the Keynes Hayek track, and also begin with the Buchholtz chapter on Keynes.

It’s not too late to join, and you can pick up sign up sheets from Professor Galambos or Gerard.

Here’s some deep background from


Keynes Hayek: Fight of the Century


For this term’s community read, we follow up on last term’s Keynes, Cowen, & Capitalism with two books.  The main course will be Nicholas Wapshott’s Keynes Hayek: The Clash that Defined Modern Economics, featuring the co-evolution of the legacies of John Maynard Keynes and F. A. Hayek.  Indeed, frequent readers of this blog or the economics blogospher generally are likely familiar with what I like to call “The Citizen Kane of macro battle rap videos.”

Here’s an excerpt of Tyler Cowen’s review.

Here’s Wapshott talking about his book with co-creator of the Keynes v. Hayek videos, Russ Roberts.

We will also read sections of Todd Buchholz’s now classic, New Ideas from Dead Economists, which should help us put some of this history in context.

As per usual, the course is one unit and requires you to read and to discuss. Please stop by and sign up this week with Professor Galambos or Professor Gerard.  We need to get a head count and set a meeting time.

UPDATE: 391 DS — Keynes, Hayek and Other Dead Economists.  Sign up sheets pinned on our bulletin boards.

We will meet Thursdays at 3:25.



DS 391 — Keynes, Cowen & Capitalism

The Economics Department once again proudly announces its community read for the term.   The formal title of the course is DS 391 – Keynes, Cowen & Capitalism, and sign up sheets are tacked to my bullitin board.   You can get instructor approval from either Professor Galambos or me (or both!).   We will see about arranging a time.

Here is the reading list:

Roger Backhouse and Brad Bateman’s Capitalist Revolutionary: John Maynard Keynes.

Tyler Cowen The Great Stagnation: How America Ate All the Low-Hanging Fruit of Modern History, Got Sick, and Will(Eventually) Feel Better .

Tyler Cowen “The Inequality that Matters,” from The American Interest online.

Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee, Race Against the Machine:  How the Digital Revolution is Accelerating Innovation, Driving Productivity, and Irreversibly Transforming Employment and the Economy.

The Backhouse and Bateman book is a quick read, and Professor Bateman is tentatively scheduled to visit as part of our Senior Experience.   Backhouse and Bateman have promoted their work with pieces in the the New York Times and more recently in The Guardian.

Tyler Cowen’s little ebook also talks about some of the problems and prospects of American capitalism, and should be interesting to set side-by-side with the Keynesian worldview.   As a bonus, the book has been heavily reviewed, and there is certainly no consensus view on whether he is right or wrong.  There have been a couple of recent reviews juxtaposing Cowen with Brynjolfsson and McAfee.  We should be able to do the same.

One of the key issues of capitalism moving forward seems to be the division of the proverbial pie, and Cowen’s piece in The American Interest is one of the more thoughtful pieces on inequality that I have come across.  I especially like the “betting against the Wizards” example of picking up pennies in front of the steamroller.

Once we have our enrollment, I will coordinate a schedule.

Students (and faculty) are required to read and respond thoughtfully.


Economics Department Read, Winter 2012

We have been sponsoring a reading group (DS-391) in the economics department over the past four terms, and we will continue that with two books during the winter term. If you have some spare time in the next five weeks, you might try getting a jump on these.

The first is Roger Backhouse and Brad Bateman’s Capitalist Revolutionary: John Maynard Keynes. The authors’ names might sound familiar from a couple of posts ago where I briefly discuss their op-ed in the New York Times about the need for economist as “worldly philosopher” rather than “dentists” (Keynes’ term) honing in on the intricacies of the little picture.  Indeed, the book portrays Keynes both as a deep thinker and an accomplished technical theorist.

The second is Tyler Cowen’s brief yet epic e-book, The Great Stagnation:  How America Ate All The Low-Hanging Fruit of Modern History, Got Sick, and Will (Eventually) Feel Better.   This is one of the most thoroughly reviewed pieces I have ever seen, with scholars and bloggers and otherwise lining up to weigh in.  There is plenty to talk about with this one.

Both books should be accessible to economics students at any level.