Keynes’ The General Theory of Employment, Interest, and Money remains, approaching a century after it first appeared, one of the most important documents on economics, along with Adam Smith’s The Wealth of Nations and Karl Marx’s Capital.
Hugely important for much of the 20th century, the General Theory was seemingly overtaken by monetarists but won a new, enduring respect among a new generation of economists and politicians following the financial difficulties which began in 2007-8.
John Maynard Keynes (1883-1946) promoted a middle way between the Marxist approach of total governmental control and those committed to, essentially, allowing markets to operate largely free of restraints. He saw the need for central intervention, especially at times of crisis, but always acknowledged the importance and the contribution of individual enterprise within a free market system.
First published in 1936, Keynes’ ideas had evolved during the difficulties following World War I in Europe, and the US crash and the Depression of the 1920s-'30s and the misery of mass unemployment. He deplored the situation where a few individuals or companies stored massive wealth while vast numbers experienced poverty and insecurity (his alarm bells ring today!) and sought to promote initiatives where governments could intervene with social projects to keep money fluctuating.
The General Theory is a stimulating and challenging work. Keynes presents his case with minimum jargon and admirable clarity. He does use formulae to support and clarify his case, and in some cases these have been included in the narrative in a manner which can be absorbed. In the few more complicated cases, the formulae are available on pdfs which can be downloaded with this recording.
Introduction by Mark G Spencer.