Archive for October 7th, 2012

Keynes and Hayek: A never ending controversy

A classic: what would have J. M. Keynes and F. A. Hayek said in the context of this major financial crisis were they alive? What would these “giants” of Economics suggest to tackle the problems arisen in the recent crisis?


Well, we know quite well what Hayek would have probably suggested. Firstly, in relation to the diagnosis of the crisis, his theoretical works on the boom and bust crises fit very well with the current crisis. Moreover, his (Austrian) interpretation of the business cycles is very well-established in his works, mostly written in the 20s and 30s, and they have indeed received much more attention recently. So I do firmly think that he would claim some credit for the Austrian theory of the business cycle. As to his policy measures to overcome the crisis, I am afraid that he would probably suggest that the painful adjustment of the economy (including the liquidation of the so-called mal-investments, those associated with excessive money growth in the expansionary years) would have to take place, one way or another. And he would also possibly claim, as he did in his excellent works on money, central banks and the monetary system, that we should finally reform the nature of the monetary system with the introduction of more competence in the money market; which would imply the abolition of the legal tender clause of the national money(ies). This is exactly what he proposed in his Institute of Economic Affairs excellent “Denationalisation of money” in 1976.


In relation to Keynes, we cannot be so positive about what he would have said. We know how pragmatic (and “case sensitive”) and even volatile Keynes could be, so we cannot really predict the policy solutions he would have proposed. This is exactly what Hayek claimed on the academic relation they maintained in the 30s. By the time Hayek was able to reply and contest a Keynes’ book or article, the latter had already launched another work with a different approach and even with a quite different perspective or theory. This was viewed by Hayek as a lack of consistency, something Hayek was not accustomed to and very much unusual for the very systematic Austrian theorist. Anyhow, if it were the Keynes of the General Theory, he would indeed ask the State to take firm steps in the running of the economy by the conduction of the aggregate (effective) demand. In essence, it would imply both (1) lowering nominal interest rates to the minimum and (2) then managing directly aggregate investment.

Another interpretation: some videos proposed

There is an excellent (and much funnier and entertaining) interpretation of their theories, and their application/adaptation to the current scenario, masterly made by John Papola and Russ Roberts in their very interesting and valuable “Econstories.tv” ‘s project. You will find below  several videos on the works and theories of these two economists, as well as interviews with excellent scholars on the works of this two excellent economists (see the interviews with Professor Lawrence White and Lord Robert Skidelsky).

– Video 1: “Fear the boom and bust”, at: http://econstories.tv/2010/06/22/fear-the-boom-and-bust/

– Video 2: “Fight of the century”, at: http://econstories.tv/2011/04/28/fight-of-the-century-music-video/

Enjoy them.

Juan Castañeda


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