Friday, November 20, 2009

Who would like to see the real Keynes in the twenty-first century?

Thanks to Lewrockwell and Mises Institute for constantly reminding us to understand the real tragedy of Keynes’s German Language and his arrogance towards Mises’s book.

The following paragraphs are from Murray N. Rothbard’s classic article. Till now I have read at least twenty times!!
  • “One striking illustration of Maynard Keynes's unjustified arrogance and intellectual irresponsibility was his reaction to Ludwig von Mises's brilliant and pioneering Treatise on Money and Credit, published in German in 1912. Keynes had recently been made the editor of Britain's leading scholarly economic periodical, Cambridge University's Economic Journal. He reviewed Mises's book, giving it short shrift. The book, he wrote condescendingly, had "considerable merit" and was "enlightened," and its author was definitely "widely read," but Keynes expressed his disappointment that the book was neither "constructive" nor "original" (Keynes 1914). This brusque reaction managed to kill any interest in Mises's book in Great Britain, and Money and Credit remained untranslated for two fateful decades.
  • The peculiar point about Keynes's review is that Mises's book was highly constructive and systematic, as well as remarkably original. How could Keynes not have seen that? This puzzle was cleared up a decade and a half later, when, in a footnote to his own Treatise on Money, Keynes impishly admitted that "in German, I can only clearly understand what I already know – so that new ideas are apt to be veiled from me by the difficulties of the language" (Keynes 1930a: I, p. 199 n.2). Such unmitigated gall. This was Keynes to the hilt: to review a book in a language where he was incapable of grasping new ideas, and then to attack that book for not containing anything new, is the height of arrogance and irresponsibility.[4]
Notes No 4:
  • In view of his friendship with Keynes, Hayek's account of this episode characteristically misses Keynes's arrogance and gall, treating the story as if it were merely unfortunate that Keynes did not know German better: "The world might have been saved much suffering if Lord Keynes's German had been a little better" (Hayek [1956] 1984: 219; see also Rothbard 1988: 28).”

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