Nonsense is nonsense

25 Jun, 2018 at 16:32 | Posted in Economics | 3 Comments

The Conservative belief that there is some law of nature which prevents men from being employed, that it is “rash” to employ men, and that it is financially ‘sound’ to maintain a tenth of the population in idleness for an indefinite period, is crazily improbable – the sort of thing which no man could believe who had not had his head fuddled with nonsense for years and years … 0616_ig-john-maynard-keynes_1024x576Our main task, therefore, will be to confirm the reader’s instinct that what seems sensible is sensible, and what seems nonsense is nonsense. We shall try to show him that the conclusion, that if new forms of employment are offered more men will be employed, is as obvious as it sounds and contains no hidden snags; that to set unemployed men to work on useful tasks does what it appears to do, namely, increases the national wealth; and that the notion, that we shall, for intricate reasons, ruin ourselves financially if we use this means to increase our well-being, is what it looks like – a bogy.

John Maynard Keynes (1929)

3 Comments

  1. It’s crazy that men should not be able to work but that’s a far cry from all men except the rich shall be wage slaves, including to government, in order to do so.

    Let’s never forget that self-employment was far more the norm before family farms, businesses, etc, AND THE COMMONS were legally stolen by means including government privileges for private credit creation.

  2. “it is financially ‘sound’ to maintain a tenth of the population in idleness”
    .
    I reject his definition of idleness.
    .
    Bertrand Russell’s “In Defense of Idleness” comes to mind.
    .
    Keynes defines idleness as doing anything that does not contribute to the “national wealth”. But I don’t want to sell my labor. Where do I fit into Keynes’s model? Am I to be ignored and if I kill myself, swept away as collateral damage? I feel Keynes does not understand my particular story, nor is he interested in how I will volunteer labor but not sell it. He simply excludes me from his story.
    .
    “to set unemployed men to work on useful tasks does what it appears to do, namely, increases the national wealth”
    .
    Why not give everyone a basic income, and hold challenges and encourage volunteers to figure out how to do “useful tasks” more efficiently? I would like to do a lot of the conservation work the Civilian Conservation Corps used to do, but I want to do it alone, checking out some public equipment to maintain trails, clean campsites, brush-cut forest roads …
    .
    You could have a job guarantee and a basic income. Some of us don’t want to sell our labor or produce. Keynes assumes everyone prefers to buy and sell.

    Keynes refers to C. H. Douglas briefly in one of his works. Keynes should have studied Douglas more. Douglas understood the credit nature of money and saw that basic income was better than a job guarantee.

  3. Why not give everyone a basic income, and hold challenges and encourage volunteers to figure out how to do “useful tasks” more efficiently?

    Because giving everyone a basic income is obviously extremely inflationary. This is has always been obvious to everyone, particularly the poorer and more “working class” they are. Ultimately, the value of money is based on labor. A UBI means that labor demand vastly, vastly outpaces labor supply. Massive inflation. The prominence of Basic Income indicates two things- how rich the world is, and how this has led to a greater than ever supply of rich airheads and their extremely foolish ideas. No nation has ever had a real, monetary UBI, and none ever will.

    Some of us don’t want to sell our labor or produce.
    But these “some” who want a UBI without laboring or producing (they’re too good for that) still want to have others labor and produce for them. They’re not above making other people work for their money; they’re just above doing any work themselves. There is a name for this: slavery. Basic income sounds so nice, but the real debate is whether “insane”,”stupid” or “evil” is the best word for it.

    I will volunteer labor but not sell it.

    If you expect that you will get any return, that this volunteer idea can be a part of a working, practical economy, then you are selling labor. So Keynes includes you in his story, I suspect you just don’t see how.


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