From Adam Smith to John Maynard Keynes and Back to Adam Smith: The Circle Closes. The Old Economic Thinking of Smith and Keynes Combined is Still Superior to Any 'New Economic Thinking'
48 Pages Posted: 1 Jun 2014
Date Written: May 30, 2014
Both J M Keynes and Adam Smith used very similar ethical, epistemological, philosophical, and economic approaches in their analysis of the conditions that are necessary to maintain a stable, full employment economic system over time. They also agreed upon the nature of the fundamental problem that can cause the economic system to fail over time-financial speculation in the stock, real estate and money markets.
The money, banking, and monetary policies of Smith and Keynes are practically identical because both agree that the fundamental problem confronting capitalist economies through time is financial speculation that, in Smith's terms, would "waste and destroy" the bank deposits of the "sober" people, who would best use bank loans to create new businesses and jobs, by diverting the loans into leveraging debt and away from the production of assets. This economic destruction, wrought by speculators who were aided and supported by the banking industry, is what leads to the involuntary unemployment of Keynes’s General Theory. Setting the Speculative Demand for Money category, M2 (L2), equal to 0 or minimizing the amount of speculative balances, will reduce the amount of involuntary unemployment to minimal levels.
Smith and Keynes are thus primarily concerned with who receives the bank loans and what the bank loans are used for and only secondarily with how the money is created.
Both Smith and Keynes are practitioners of Virtue Ethics. Each of them came to this position by different routes. Smith was the last in a line of practitioners of virtue ethics of one kind or another starting from the ancient Israelite Hebrew prophets through Plato, Socrates, Aristotle, Jesus Christ, Augustine, Aquinas and the Schoolmen. J M Keynes's version of Virtue Ethics came from G E Moore's version of Virtue ethics. Both are interested in maintaining economic systems which are fair and just. Both recognize that the pursuit of goodness, truth, and justice are the ultimate goals that need to be pursued in any society at any time.
Smith and Keynes share very similar approaches concerning the role and application of probability and decision making. Their concepts of uncertainty, ignorance, and risk are also very similar.
Keynes differs from Smith only in his theoretical approach to the special case of the occurrence of a depression, which involves massive government spending on public infrastructure, utilities, and public goods. This is a re-active approach.
Keywords: Adam Smith, J M Keynes, uncertainty, ignorance, risk, time, projectors, prodigals, imprudent risk takers
JEL Classification: B23, B30, B41, E12
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation