The following is an elaboration of Jeremiah Dyke’s informative September 4, 2010 posting, “Keynes, The Intellectual Lightweight.”
I am certainly not qualified to assess Keynes’s overall learning and intellectual capabilities. However, his education in and knowledge of economics was rudimentary and insular, hence the collection of errors that comprise his General Theory and earlier Treatise on Money. As Ludwig von Mises observed, the great success of Keynes’s General Theory was due to it providing a pseudo-scientific justification for the policies that virtually all governments of major countries had been pursuing for several years prior to its publication in 1936.
As for what Keynes was like as an individual, Murray Rothbard’s essay “Keynes, the Man” is an illuminating and critical assessment. The following are the opening and concluding paragraphs of Rothbard’s essay:
“John Maynard Keynes, the man—his character, his writings, and his actions throughout life—was composed of three guiding and interacting elements. The first was his overweening egotism, which assured him that he could handle all intellectual problems quickly and accurately and led him to scorn any general principles that might curb his unbridled ego. The second was his strong sense that he was born into, and destined to be a leader of, Great Britain’s ruling elite. Both of these traits led Keynes to deal with people as well as nations from a self-perceived position of power and dominance. The third element was his deep hatred and contempt for the values and virtues of the bourgeoisie, for conventional morality, for savings and thrift, and for the basic institutions of family life.”
“Later economists continued to hew a revisionist line, maintaining absurdly that Keynes was merely a benign pioneer of uncertainty theory (Shackle and Lachmann), or that he was a prophet of the idea that search costs were highly important in the labor market (Clower and Leijonhufvud). None of this is true. That Keynes was a Keynesian—of that much derided Keynesian system provided by Hicks, Hansen, Samuelson, and Modigliani—is the only explanation that makes any sense of Keynesian economics. Yet Keynes was much more than a Keynesian. Above all, he was the extraordinarily pernicious and malignant figure that we have examined in this chapter: a charming but power-driven statist Machiavelli, who embodied some of the most malevolent trends and institutions of the twentieth century.”
Human betterment, civilization’s advancement, and scientific truth and progress are significantly hindered as a result of Keynes’s General Theory and its numerous fallacies continuing to occupy a dominant place in the economics profession and to form the foundation of government “macroeconomic” policy.