“Between the years of 1911 to 1915 John Maynard Keyes was the principal reviewer of German Books for Economic Journal (see footnote 12, here)” It was during this time frame that “Maynard”, as Rothbard often referred to him, reviewed Mises path breaking 1912 book Theory of Money and Credit to which his primary response was “it is critical rather than constructive, dialectical and not original”
Though it may sound quite odd that Keynes would utter such words about one of the most rigorous treatises on money to ever appear in print we would later read about how horrible Keynes’ German actually was.
In his book John Maynard Keynes: Critical Responses Robert McCann states “That he could not speak German with any fluency is well attested by those who heard him once open an English lecture to a German audience with a brief apology in German” and “He [Keynes] read German indeed, but not with any great facility, and he said on one occasion that he never comprehended through the medium of German an idea that was new to him”
Given the above accounts of Keynes we might say that he ranks at a level 2 on the ILR scale for language proficiency
- able to satisfy routine social demands and limited work requirements
- can handle with confidence most basic social situations including introductions and casual conversations about current events, work, family, and autobiographical information
- can handle limited work requirements, needing help in handling any complications or difficulties; can get the gist of most conversations on non-technical subjects (i.e. topics which require no specialized knowledge), and has a speaking vocabulary sufficient to respond simply with some circumlocutions
- has an accent which, though often quite faulty, is intelligible
- can usually handle elementary constructions quite accurately but does not have thorough or confident control of the grammar.
So why would an educated individual such as Keynes, who clearly lacked the command of the German language formally engage in offering critical responses for books in German? I will leave you with what McCann calls a “characteristic quotation” to display Keynes’ pretensions pursuit to truth.
“In writing a book of this kind the author must, if he is to put his point of view clearly, pretend sometimes to a little more conviction than he feels. He must give his own argument a chance, so to speak, nor be to ready to depress its vitality with a wet cloud of doubt”
Of all things you might consider this quote applied to, Keynes was actually speaking to his writings on probability.