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Posts Tagged ‘John Maynard Keynes’

EconomicPolicyJournal.com: Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Displays Total Keynesian Stupidity of a Special Sort

Posted by M. C. on February 9, 2020

Our future could rest in her hands.

Economics major and BU is proud of it.

https://www.economicpolicyjournal.com/2020/02/alexandria-ocasio-cortez-displays-total.html

Ok, now AOC is going way out of her way to prove she knows nothing of what she speaks.

In a video, she referred to John Maynard Keynes as the famous economist “Milton Keynes.”

Milton Keynes is actually a town 50 miles north of London.

She also pronounced Keynes wrong. When pronounced correctly it sounds like canes, she pronounced it keenz.

AOC has a degree in economics from Boston University. In the past, BU economics professors have told me they are very proud of her and the economics they have taught her.

She has since walked back her embarrassing flub by claiming she meant Milton Friedman but this explanation does not wipe out her error. She would never make the equivalent when referencing a communist. That is you are never going to hear AOC call Karl Marx, Groucho Max.

RW

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David Stockman on What an Audit of the Federal Reserve Could Reveal

Posted by M. C. on January 4, 2020

The point is, inflation targeting is one of the greatest efforts at misdirection that a government agency has ever concocted. This gives them a license to constantly intervene and meddle in the financial markets—pointlessly fiddling with the whole price structure of debt and equity assets.

There’s about $1.5 trillion of excess reserves in the banking system.

So, they’re paying out to the banks upwards of $23 billion a year in order to keep excess funds on deposit at the Fed, rather than putting it to work in the macroeconomy.

How stupid is that?

https://internationalman.com/articles/david-stockman-on-what-an-audit-of-the-federal-reserve-could-really-reveal/

by David Stockman

International Man: Trump is calling for a weaker dollar and negative interest rates. What does this tell you about Trump’s understanding of economics?

David Stockman: It tells you that he has no understanding of economics at all!

I think Trump is not even a primitive when it comes to economic comprehension. His views are just plain stupid when it comes to exchange rates. He seems to think it’s some grand game of global golf, where the strongest player gets the lowest score.

What sense does it make tweeting as he did recently in attacking the Fed?

According to Trump, the US economy is so much better than the rest of the world’s economies, and therefore we should have the lowest interest rate as a result. It has nothing to do with economic logic or with principles related to sound money. I think he’s just thrashing about trying to create a warning that if things go badly, it’s the Fed’s fault.

The whole narrative on the economy is wrong…

Even John Maynard Keynes himself said that you ought to try to balance the budget and even generate a surplus at the top of the cycle.

We’re right in the middle of the worst kind of economic policy in my lifetime, anyway—going back to the 1960s.

Trump is completely clueless about how we got here, how he got here, and where we’re going…

International Man: The Fed recently said it could increase its tolerance for inflation before it considers raising interest rates. It would be a major policy shift. What’s really going on here?

David Stockman: I think what’s going on is that they’re looking for another excuse to capitulate to Wall Street next time it has a hissy fit because it believes the Fed owes them another shot of stimulus and more liquidity.

Let’s address the underlying issue now. The 2% inflation target is absurd to begin with. There is no historical or theoretical evidence to suggest that inflation at 2% is better for growth and prosperity than inflation at 1.5%, 1%, or even -1%.

This is just made up, just like the money they created that’s been snatched from thin air, adopted as official policy in January 2012.

It becomes a rolling excuse for running the printing press and accommodating both the politicians in Washington, D.C., who want low interest rates so that debts are cheap to finance and the gamblers on Wall Street who want low interest rates because they result in higher asset values and cheaper costs for carry trade speculators.

The idea that we haven’t had enough inflation as it’s measured by one indicator—the Personal Consumption Expenditure (PCE) deflator—is kind of crazy for two reasons.

First, there’s a lot of other inflation measures that say we easily achieved 2% inflation.

The 16% trimmed-mean CPI is a very handy tool. It has the same CPI data at the product code level as that in the regular CPI, but in order to smooth out the monthly figure, it takes out the lowest and highest 16% of individual prices.

It’s probably more accurate than CPI because it removes the outliers but puts them back in as soon as they reach the center of the distribution.

The trimmed-mean CPI has averaged 2% since January 2012. During the last 12 months, it’s reached 2.34%, way over the Fed’s 2% target.

There are lots of issues here…

International Man: There are increasing calls for central banks to combat climate change. The IMF, the European Central Bank, and several others have chimed in. What does this mean, and why are central bankers suddenly so keen on this topic?

David Stockman: This is beyond stupid. What could the central banks possibly do to help the global economies adjust to climate change? Climate change may or may not be happening, and if it is, it’s due to planetary forces that central banks have absolutely no power to impact or counteract…

International Man: If Rand Paul finally gets his audit of the Federal Reserve, what do you think they’ll find?

David Stockman: What he’s going to find is just more detail on the absurdities of what they’re doing already.

I think one that you would look into is this policy called Interest on Excess Reserves (IOER). They targeted that number at 1.55% right now. There’s about $1.5 trillion of excess reserves in the banking system.

So, they’re paying out to the banks upwards of $23 billion a year in order to keep excess funds on deposit at the Fed, rather than putting it to work in the macroeconomy.

How stupid is that?…

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The Great Criticism of Keynes That Every Economist Should Read

Posted by M. C. on December 21, 2019

Almost no one has ever read the book. There is good reason for this. Keynes’ book is unreadable. Its arguments are incoherent. This is why we rarely see direct quotes from the book.

https://www.economicpolicyjournal.com/

By Gary North

In 1959, Henry Hazlitt’s book, The Failure of the “New Economics, was published by D. Van Nostrand Company, a reputable but midsized publishing company. The book was subtitled An Analysis of the Keynesian Fallacies.
This was Hazlitt’s magnum opus. That is to say, it was his great work. Yet it was narrowly focused. It was a monograph. In clear prose, he took apart John Maynard Keynes’s magnum opus, The General Theory of Employment, Interest, and Money (1936), the book that indirectly reshaped economic theory in the second half of the twentieth century.

The Book Almost Nobody Has Read

Almost no one has ever read the book. There is good reason for this. Keynes’ book is unreadable. Its arguments are incoherent. This is why we rarely see direct quotes from the book. Keynesianism did not become a major factor in the thinking of most economists until 1945. The Keynesian movement accelerated in 1948 because of the first edition of Paul Samuelson’s textbook Economics. I own a reprint of that original edition. Keynes is not quoted in the book. Samuelson mentioned him on pages 253 and 303. The book and its later editions have sold something in the range of four million copies. It was the most successful economics textbook of the twentieth century. It shaped the thinking, or rather the non-thinking, of millions of students for seventy years. Yet almost none of these students has ever read The General Theory cover to cover.
Samuelson in 1946 wrote a laudatory assessment of the impact of The General Theory. It was published in Econometrica, an academic journal not noted for its clarity.
In any case, it bears repeating that the General Theory is an obscure book, so that would be anti-Keynesians must assume their position largely on credit unless they are willing to put in a great deal of work and run the risk of seduction in the process. The General Theory seems the random notes over a period of years of a gifted man who in his youth gained the whip hand over his publishers by virtue of the acclaim and fortune resulting from the success of his Economic Consequences of the Peace.
A reprint of his article is here.
The General Theory was not well received at the time of this publication. Richard Ebeling, a Misesian economist, wrote in 2004,
Except for some of Keynes’s young protégés at Cambridge University, most of the reviewers of the book were highly critical of many of its theoretical “innovations,” as well as its inflationary prescriptions for unemployment. Even some economists who later became proponents of Keynes’s “new economics” were initially highly critical of his work. For example, Alvin Hansen, who was one of the leading advocates of Keynesian economics in the United States in the 1950’s and 1960’s, wrote in late 1936 that The General Theory “is not a landmark in the sense that it lays the foundation for a ‘new economics.’ … The book is more a symptom of economic trends than a foundation stone upon which a science can be built.”
Yet within a few years, and most certainly by the end of World War II, Keynes’s ideas had virtually pushed aside every other explanation of the causes and cures of economic depressions. Keynes’s book became the foundation stone for the new “macroeconomics.”
In contrast to Keynes’s book, Hazlitt’s book is readable, although not so readable as all of his other books. That is because he had to spend his time trying to make sense out of Keynes’s convoluted prose and shifting definitions. But the book is coherent, and his explanations are lucid, as long as he was not directly citing Keynes.
I read the book in the summer of 1963. I know this because I used to write the date on which I had bought a book on the front inside cover page. I did not read Economics in One Lesson until 1971, when I became a senior staff member at the Foundation for Economic Education (FEE). The first book spoiled me. It really is a tour de force. I realize that the second book was his bestseller and is a fine introductory book for people who know nothing about economic theory, but his book on Keynes outshines it. Unfortunately, almost nobody has read it. It remains an unread book that demolishes an equally unread book.
In 1960, Van Nostrand published a follow-up volume edited by Hazlitt, The Critics of Keynesian Economics. It is a compilation of scholarly articles written by critics of Keynes.
The Mises Institute has done yeoman service in making certain that both of these books remain in print, and both of them remain available in PDF format free of charge.

The Memory Hole

Hazlitt’s book was not the first full-length book to criticize Keynes or the longest. That honor belongs to Arthur Marget, who was the first economist to devote a book to critiquing a narrow aspect of Keynes’s General Theory. It is a two-volume behemoth of over fourteen hundred pages, The Theory of Prices. It also covered Keynes’s earlier book, Treatise on Money (1930). The first volume was published in 1938; the second volume was published in 1942. It was unknown when it was published, and it remained unknown after it was republished in 1966. It is not as incoherent as Keynes’s book, but it is turgid, prolic, and unread. Almost no economist has ever heard of Marget. That was true in his day, too. There is no Wikipedia entry on him. His book did not go down the memory hole. It was published at the bottom of the memory hole, and it remained there. John Egger wrote a detailed review of it in 1995, which gives you some indication of just how obscure it is. It took over half a century to get a detailed review. Egger concluded, “Labels aside, Marget’s work offers scholarship in the history of monetary doctrine that is unmatched, and an analysis of processes that is in some respects unmatched, in explicitly Austrian works. ‘Prolixity’ or not, it deserves to be recognized as an exciting and significant contribution to the tradition of the methodologically individualistic analysis of monetary processes.” The use of the adjective “exciting” to describe this book I regard as exaggerated. The Mises Institute has made a PDF available of each volume.
Hazlitt in 1959 was a well-known economist. He had a regular column in Newsweek from 1946 to 1966. The Mises Institute has reprinted those articles in a massive 800-page book, Business Tides. Yet despite his name identification, the economic guild successfully blacked out references to Hazlitt’s book on Keynes. I never recall seeing a footnote to the book in any academic economic article other than those published in Austrian school journals.
The economists’ academic guild never took Hazlitt seriously. After all, Hazlitt did not go to college. Keynes did go to college, but he did not major in economics. He majored in mathematics. That certainly did not in any way hamper his capture of the academic guild after 1945.

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Central Bankers Have Declared War on Your Savings | Mises Wire

Posted by M. C. on December 2, 2019

Recently, European Central Bank (ECB) President Christine Lagarde bemoaned their surpluses, complaining that they would be better off spending the money on infrastructure and education. Desperate for a modicum of growth, Lagarde is of the philosophy that the only way to grow an economy is through government intervention.

https://mises.org/wire/central-bankers-have-declared-war-your-savings?utm_source=Mises+Institute+Subscriptions&utm_campaign=adfd4f6c6d-EMAIL_CAMPAIGN_9_21_2018_9_59_COPY_01&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_8b52b2e1c0-adfd4f6c6d-228343965

…Lagarde is a proponent of the NIRPs , championing the unconventional mechanism to achieve growth. Since the eurozone has barely cracked 2% GDP, many are anticipating that Lagarde will deepen negative rates during her term as president. Anytime she has mused on the subject, Lagarde has usually dismissed concerns about the saver, noting that they are also consumers, borrowers, and workers.

Unfortunately, this contempt for savers is commonplace because it is antithetical to the Keynesian approach of spending. Disciples of John Maynard Keynes will contend that consumption over saving should only happen during the bust phase of the business cycle, but if you peruse any opinion pieces by individuals subscribing to this ideology, you will only come across spending prescriptions for every type of economy – boom or bust. They dismiss the fact that capital accumulation, not consumption, creates wealth.

This myth originates from Keynes’ The General Theory and Treatise on Money, in which he posits that a saver is reducing the income of another person because he or she is not consuming the goods or services extended by somebody else. Put simply, he considered saving a self-defeating act.

“Saving is the act of the individual consumer and consists in the negative act of refraining from spending the whole of his current income on consumption,” he wrote.

The crusade against savers has been prevalent in the Democratic primary. The likes of Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) have grieved about hoarders , particularly those who are the top 0.1% (no longer just the 1% anymore; likely because these two people are the 1%, too). The presidential candidates are perturbed that the supposed capital hoarders are not putting their fortunes into the economy. This is nonsense talk to justify their wealth confiscation policies, since the affluent are saving and investing, not just stuffing their money under mattresses.

Negative rates, higher taxes, and inflation – the statists are employing every measure to gain access to the fruits of your labor…

If you don’t like it, then you are out of luck. You have nowhere to go. The globalists have declared war on mom and pop savers, pillaging bank accounts and conquering our lives. Is there a chance for victory? As long as the omnipotent and iniquitous institutions remain in charge, optimism over sound economics can only fade to black.

Originally published by Liberty Nation.

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Keynes on Eugenics, Race, and Population Control | Mises Wire

Posted by M. C. on November 16, 2019

Eugenics…it back.

In September 1925, he traveled with the SCR to the Soviet Union and he lectured to the Soviet Politburo. He said, “There is no more important object of deliberate state policy than to secure a balanced budget of population.”

https://mises.org/wire/keynes-eugenics-race-and-population-control?utm_source=Mises+Institute+Subscriptions&utm_campaign=a66cb00eae-EMAIL_CAMPAIGN_9_21_2018_9_59_COPY_01&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_8b52b2e1c0-a66cb00eae-228343965

The literature on John Maynard Keynes’s life and ideas is enormous. However, his defenders have neglected his views on population. Why? His ideas in this area are highly problematic. This article provides documentation that shows Keynes advocated extensive government controls on the size and quality of the population.

Keynes was interested in eugenics from the very beginning of his academic career. His first major academic project was his fellowship dissertation, submitted in December 1907. In the dissertation, he refers to Sir Francis Galton’s essay Probability: The Foundation of Eugenics. This shows that Keynes was already interested in eugenics by 1907.1

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Image published with permission from ProQuest. Further reproduction is prohibited without permission.

The famous British economist Alfred Marshall was extremely close to the Keynes family. Keynes’s biographers note that he and Marshall debated Karl Pearson in 1910, but they suppressed the debate’s relation to eugenics.2 Marshall wrote to Keynes on July 14, 1910, “I am keeping as clear as I can of your ground & urging every one interested in Eugenics to read your paper. It is splendid.”3 In 1911, Keynes became treasurer of the Cambridge University Eugenics Society. On May 18, Marshall sent Keynes payment for lifetime membership in the society.4

On May 2, 1914, Keynes gave a speech called “Population.” This is perhaps his most important work on population. Unfortunately, this inaccessible speech was not included in The Collected Writings of John Maynard Keynes. A full transcript of the speech is included in the appendix below. After praising Malthus, he declares,

That degree of populousness in the world, which is most to be desired, is not to be expected from the working of natural order. … The natural degree of populousness is likely to exceed the ideal. … In most places the material condition of mankind is inferior to what it might be if their populousness were to be diminished. … In many, if not in most, parts of the world there actually exists at the present time a denser population than is compatible with a high level of economic wellbeing.5

To Keynes’s mind, “there would be more happiness in the world if the population of it were to be diminished.”6 Thus, he advocated government violence to restrict the size of the population. He wanted government to “mould law and custom deliberately to bring about that density of population which there ought to be.”7

Keynes was especially concerned about overpopulation in the East: “India, Egypt and China are gravely overpopulated.”8 He thought his race was facing a “race struggle.”9 He advocated the use of imperialistic government violence against Eastern races to protect the “white population.”

Almost any measures seem to me to be justified in order to protect our standard of life from injury at the hands of more prolific races. Some definite parceling out of the world may well become necessary; and I suppose that this may not improbably provoke racial wars. At any rate such wars will be about a substantial issue.10

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Image published with permission from ProQuest. Further reproduction is prohibited without permission.

In the early 1920s, Keynes wrote an outline for a book called Essays on the Economic Future of the World. The fourth essay was on “Population” and the tenth essay was on “Education, Eugenics.” Interestingly, the eighth essay was on Keynes’s “Theoretical socialist framework.”

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Image published with permission from ProQuest. Further reproduction is prohibited without permission.

On January 4, 1923, Keynes wrote an article in the press called “The Underlying Principles.” He advocates restricting the number of births with government violence. But this may be insufficient. He imagines “positive policy” to reduce the population.

In the light of present knowledge I am unable to see any possible method of materially improving the average human lot which does not include a plan for restricting the increase in numbers [of population]. … It may prove sufficient to render the restriction of offspring safe and easy. … Perhaps a more positive policy may be required. … [I] would like to substitute [government] schemes conceived by the mind in place of the undesigned outcome of instinct and individual advantage playing within the pattern of existing institutions.11

On June 8, 1924, Keynes wrote an outline for a book called Prolegomena to a New Socialism. As shown below, he lists “Eugenics, Population” as “Chief Preoccupations of the State.” Clearly, government control over the quantity and quality of the population was key to his new socialism, or “rightly conceived socialism of the future.”12

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Image published with permission from ProQuest. Further reproduction is prohibited without permission.

In July 1924, Keynes was a founding vice president of the Society for Cultural Relations with the USSR (SCR for short). This socialist society was financed and controlled by VOKS, the Soviet government’s international propaganda agency. In September 1925, he traveled with the SCR to the Soviet Union and he lectured to the Soviet Politburo. He said, “There is no more important object of deliberate state policy than to secure a balanced budget of population.”13 He exclaimed,

I believe that there are many other matters, left hitherto to individuals or to chance, which must become in future the subject of deliberate state policy and centralised state control. Let me mention two — (1) the size and quality of the population and (2) the magnitude and direction of employment of the new national savings year by year [that is, socialization of investment].14

Leon Trotsky attended Keynes’s speech, and he observed: “Even the most progressive economist Keynes told us only the other day that the salvation of the British economy lies in Malthusianism! And for England, too, the road of overcoming the contradiction between city and country leads through Socialism.”15

Keynes was the chairman of the Malthusian League. He declared in his 1927 address to the league: “We of this society are neo-Malthusians,” and “I believe that for the future the problem of population will emerge in the much greater problem of Hereditary and Eugenics. Quality must become the preoccupation.”

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Image published with permission from ProQuest. Further reproduction is prohibited without permission.

Keynes was vice president of the British Eugenics Society from 1937 to 1944. Just 66 days before his death in 1946, he endorsed “the most important, significant and, I would add, genuine branch of sociology which exists, namely eugenics.”16

Keynes’s views on population are central to his politico-economic vision. No doubt, he viewed population as one of the most important problems facing humankind: “The question of population is the first and perhaps the most urgent and important of the problems facing those who seek to improve the material condition of mankind.”17 Keynes’s ideas on population must serve as a warning about Keynesian theory and policy. His Malthusianism indicates that he had a defective understanding of the division of labor and the law of returns. Beyond that, his population policies reveal the totalitarianism inherent in the Keynesian vision.

Appendix: “Population” by John Maynard Kenyes (1914)

Robert Malthus, the first of the Cambridge economists, came up to Jesus [College at Cambridge University] in 1784. He is said to have been fond of cricket and skating, obtained prizes for Latin and English Declamations, graduated as ninth wrangler in 1788 and was admitted Fellow of Jesus in 1793. He resided irregularly up to his marriage in 1804, and had the pleasure of signing an order to cut Coleridge off the kitchens for non-payment of his college bill, an indignity not unavenged afterwards by various members of the Lake School. The grandfather or great-grandfather, in his intellectual associations, of some of our own, Malthus was an original member of that Political Economy Club whose dinners still enliven the first Wednesday of every month, and of the Royal Statistical Society whose teas depress the first Tuesday.

In later life Malthus engaged in the controversy with Ricardo, out of which was hatched the Ricardian law of Rent; and the loss of his fellowship through marriage was the occasion of his becoming the first occupant of the first chair of Political Economy established in this country, the Professorship of History and Political Economy in the East-India College at Haileybury.

What we know of Malthus’s father Daniel must be added to these few details relating to Jesus and Haileybury, to complete a picture of ease, reflection, and gentleness. Daniel Malthus had been a friend and correspondent of Rousseau, and, it is alleged, one of his executors. He spent his life at the Rookery, ‘a small but beautiful estate’ between Guildford and Dorking, and is described as ‘a gentleman of good family and independent fortune attached to a country life, but much occupied in classical and philosophic pursuits, and with a strong bias towards foreign literature.’ Diffidence or idleness had prevented his bringing his powers to fruition; he was conscious of this; and anxious that his son should not suffer a like fate. He spent, therefore, peculiar pains on his son’s education, choosing for one of his instructors Gilbert Wakefield, and kept him under his own immediate supervision, until the time came for him to go to Wakefield’s college Jesus; — a course of action commented on thus by Malthus’s biographer Otter — ‘From some peculiar opinions which his father seems to have entertained respecting education, he was never sent to any public school; and in this respect, is one, amongst many other remarkable instances in the present time, of men who have risen into eminence under the disadvantage of an irregular and desultory education.’

A few letters, which have been preserved, written by Daniel Malthus to his son, when the latter was an undergraduate at Jesus, present the father’s character in a strong and amiable light. I will quote from a letter written by his father to Robert Malthus on his election to a fellowship: —

I heartily congratulate you upon your success; it gives me a sort of pleasure which arises from my own regrets. The things which I have missed in life, I should the more sensibly wish for you. Alas! my dear Bob, I have no right to talk to you of idleness, but when I wrote that letter to you with which you were displeased, I was deeply impressed with my own broken purposes and imperfect pursuits; I thought I foresaw in you, from the memory of my own youth, the same tendency to lose the steps you had gained, with the same disposition to self-reproach, and I wished to make my unfortunate experience of some use to you. It was, indeed, but little that you wanted it, which made me the more eager to give it you, and I wrote to you with more tenderness of heart than I would in general pretend to, and committed myself in a certain manner which made your answer a rough disappointment to me, and it drove me back into myself. You have, as you say, worn out that impression, and you have a good right to have done it; for I have seen in you the most unexceptionable character, the sweetest manners, the most sensible and the kindest conduct, always above throwing little stones into my garden, which you know I don’t easily forgive, and uniformly making everybody easy and amused about you. Nothing can have been wanting to what, if I were the most fretful and fastidious, I could have required in a companion; and nothing even to my wishes for your happiness, but where they were either whimsical, or unreasonable, or most likely mistaken. I have often been on the point of taking hold of your hand and bursting into tears at the time that I was refusing you my affections: my approbation I was precipitate to give you.

Write to me, if I could do anything about your church, and you want any thing to be done for you, such as I am, believe me, dear Bob, yours most affectionately,

Daniel Malthus

Malthus’s first essay in authorship, The Crisis, a View of the Recent Interesting State of Great Britain by a Friend to the Constitution, written in 1796, in his thirtieth year, in criticism of Pitt’s administration, failed to find a publisher. Extracts quoted by Otter and by Empson indicate that his interest was already aroused in the social problems of political economy, and even in the question of population itself:

On the subject of population [he wrote] I cannot agree with Archdeacon Paley; who says, that the quantity of happiness in any country is best measured by the number of people. Increasing population is the most certain possible sign of the happiness and prosperity of a state; but the actual population may be only a sign of the happiness that is past.

In 1798, when Malthus was thirty-two years old, there was published anonymously An Essay on the Principle of Population, as it affects the future improvement of Society: with remarks on the speculations of Mr Godwin, M. Condorcet, and other writers.

It was in conversation with Daniel Malthus that there occurred to Robert Malthus the generalization which has made him famous. The story is well known on the authority of Bishop Otter who had it from Malthus himself. In 1793 Godwin’s Political Justice had appeared. In frequent discussion the father defended, and the son attacked, the doctrine of a future age of perfect equality and happiness.

And when the question had been often the subject of animated discussion between them, and the son had rested his cause, principally upon the obstacles which the tendency of population, to increase faster than the means of subsistence, would always throw in the way; he was desired to put down in writing, for maturer consideration, the substance of his argument, the consequence of which was the Essay on Population. Whether the father was converted or not we do not know, but certain it is that he was strongly impressed with the importance of the views and the ingenuity of the argument contained in the MS., and recommended his son to submit his labours to the public.

The first edition, an octavo volume of about 50,000 words, is an almost completely different, and for posterity a superior book, to the second edition of five years later in quarto, which by the fifth edition had swollen to some 250,000 words in three volumes. 250,000 by an elaboration of proof and historical research, without any substantial improvement in the author’s clear and striking statement of the fundamental principles involved. Just as the fruitfulness and originality of Cambridge is largely preserved by the deficiencies of the University library, so the first edition of this book is not really the worse from having been written, as Malthus explains in the preface to the second edition, ‘on the impulse of the occasion, and from the few materials which were then within my reach in a country situation.’

Malthus’s Essay is a very great book. The author was deeply conscious of the bigness of the ideas he was elaborating. It is no case of a man of second-rate powers hitting, more by good fortune than desert, on an unexpectedly important generalisation. Indeed his leading idea had been largely anticipated in a clumsier way by other eighteenth century writers without attracting attention.

The high-spirited rhetoric of a young man writing in the last years of the Directory disappears from the late editions, which are quieter, more businesslike, more strictly attentive to the duties of a scientific pioneer in the study of sociological history.

This is how he begins —

the rest here

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