Talk:John Maynard Keynes

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This is the talk page for discussing improvements to the John Maynard Keynes page.

"When the facts change, I change my mind. What do you do, sir?"[edit]

According to a recent Wall Street Journal article, there is no evidence that Keynes actually said this. The closest is a book from 1940 that quotes him as saying, "When my information changes, I alter my conclusions. What do you do, sir?" The book is called A Treatise of Melancholie by Timothie Bright. Hanxu9 (talk) 03:06, 12 August 2012 (UTC)Reply[reply]

The 1940 citation is wrong!!! I cannot fix the WikiQuote page for Keynes because I write a blog about quotations called and changing WikiQuote is a potential conflict of interest. The error was caused by the fact that the metadata in Google Books is wrong for the book Melancholie (1940)! Immediately below is a description of the problem. If a volunteer editor examined this issue and updated the WikiQuote page I think improvement would be possible. Thanks. Garson (talk) 05:32, 28 November 2012 (UTC)Reply[reply]

The citation for "When my information changes, I alter my conclusions. What do you do, sir?" to "Melancholie (1940) by Timothie Bright" is incorrect. It is based on faulty data in the Google Books database. To see the problem go to the book "Melancholie (1940)" in the GB database and search for "1980" and a snippet will appear that indicates the text was written after 1980. Here is a link. The snippet says the following: "The growth of real gross domestic product (GDP) of Latin America and the Caribbean was 211 percent from 1960 to 1980…" Garson (talk) 11:44, 30 August 2012 (UTC) Updated Garson (talk) 05:32, 28 November 2012 (UTC)Reply[reply]

I moved the "average opinion" quote out of "Attributed" and into the Quote section given that the quote comes directly from page 159 of the General Theory.-- 00:02, 28 Mar 2005 (UTC)

I did the same to the "specialists in mental disease" quote, which actually already appeared in context in the Quote section from "Economic Possibilities for our Grandchildren"; I bolded it there.

User garson has already pointed out that the attribution of the quote to Bright's "Melancholie" (1940) is wrong and that the misattribution appears to be caused by an error in the Google Books database, which has somehow conflated the text of two different books. I can provide the following additional information:
This search:
brings up two books. One is "A Treatise of Melancholie" by Timothie Bright which was published in London in 1586 and reprinted for the Facsimile Text Society by Columbia University Press in 1940. Catalog description here: . The other is "Understanding Political Development: an Analytic Study" by Myron Weiner, Samuel P. Huntington, Gabriel Abraham Almond, published by Little, Brown in 1987. The Keynes quote actually appears on page xxiv of this book. —This unsigned comment is by (talkcontribs) .
The quote had been removed based on some of the above discussion, but I have just restored it with the proper citation stated above. ~ Kalki·· 19:11, 7 February 2014 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Should go with 'attributed to' as "there is some evidence that Keynes made a remark similar to the one under investigation, but this evidence is weak and problematic."

According to Quoteinvestigator, one of his pupils who knew him well testified that he said this: In 1986 an article in “The Economic Journal” about the notable economist Joan Robinson claimed that she had a favorite anecdote about Keynes that included a version of the saying. Robinson was at Cambridge with Keynes and knew him well [MKJR]:

   Her favourite story about Keynes is that when someone remonstrated with him for being inconsistent, he responded: ‘When someone persuades me that I am wrong, I change my mind. What do you do?’

Given that she 'knew him well' and this was her *favourite* anecdote about him, why cannot we take this quote seriously? LastDodo (talk) 10:05, 19 December 2019 (UTC)Reply[reply]

"Publication date General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money"[edit]

I think the publication date is not 1935, but 1936: Sources: [1] [2]

"The government should pay people to dig holes in the ground and then fill them up."[edit]

Did he really say this? Fxm12 06:25, 14 February 2009 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Yes he did say this.. Read The Text!! Book 3, Chapter 10, Section 6 pg.129 "The General Theory.."--Oracleofottawa 02:23, 20 September 2009 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Here is what you are referring to, straight from the General Theory. Keynes was talking about the marginal utility of labor. This quote means nothing different than someone saying that war can have an economically stimulating effect.

"If the Treasury were to fill old bottles with banknotes, bury them at suitable depths in disused coalmines which are then filled up to the surface with town rubbish, and leave it to private enterprise on well-tried principles of laissez-faire to dig the notes up again (the right to do so being obtained, of course, by tendering for leases of the note-bearing territory), there need be no more unemployment and, with the help of the repercussions, the real income of the community, and its capital wealth also, would probably become a good deal greater than it actually is. It would, indeed, be more sensible to build houses and the like; but if there are political and practical difficulties in the way of this, the above would be better than nothing."

Book 3, Chapter 10, Section 6 pg.129 "The General Theory.."

—This unsigned comment is by (talkcontribs) .

"Capitalism is the astonishing belief ..."[edit]

Recently attributed to Keynes is this quote:

  • Capitalism is the astounding belief that the most wickedest of men will do the most wickedest of things for the greatest good of everyone.

This seems to have originated with Michael Albert's book Moving Forward: program for a participatory economy, p. 128. It is a corruption of an earlier and more grammatical quote attributed to Keynes:

  • Capitalism is the astonishing belief that the nastiest motives of the nastiest men somehow or other work for the best results in the best of all possible worlds.

This quote does not appear in any of Keynes' writing, as far as can be found online. Also, blogger Steve Cotler has surveyed several economists and none was able to verify the quote.

The earliest appearance yet found is in the 1951 book Christianity and human relations in industry by Sir George Schuster in a discussion of nineteenth century free enterprise doctrine:

  • This theory and practice were supported (to quote Canon Demant) 'by the doctrine of the invisible hand which behind the scenes of human will and intelligence made all things work together for good whether men loved God or not' or, as J M Keynes used to put it, 'the astonishing belief that the nastiest motives of the nastiest men somehow or other work for the best results in the best of all possible worlds.'

Note that the word capitalism does not appear in this incomplete quote. The complete quote is found, without citation, in J. A. C. Brown's 1954 book, The social psychology of industry; human relations in the factory., p. 305 Brown does refer to Schuster on other topics, so it is quite possible that he copied the quote from Schuster. This text was reprinted in various editions and translations for over thirty years, which may account for the proliferation of this quote.

—KHirsch 02:14, 4 April 2010 (UTC)

"Capitalism is the astounding belief that the most wickedest of men will do the most wickedest of things for the greatest good of everyone". This is how it is supposed to go. Im not sure what work it was from.
—This unsigned comment is by (talkcontribs) .


Albert, Michael (2000). Moving forward: program for a participatory economy. A K Press. ISBN 1902593413. OCLC 300924978. 

Brown, James Alexander Campbell (1954). The social psychology of industry: human relations in the factory. Penguin. OCLC 231786. 

Schuster, George (1951). Christianity and human relations in industry. Epworth Press. OCLC 2935627. 

"We destroyed Christianity" quote[edit]

I found a number of sources (e.g. this one) which record Keynes as saying, "We destroyed Christianity and yet had its benefits." I am highly suspicious of this quote, as it seems to be used by groups to say, "See! Keynes was an atheist, but even he saw that Christianity was beneficial!"

Anybody know anything about this? -- 16:26, 2 April 2010 (UTC)Reply[reply]

  • And J M [Keynes] said that he would be inclined not to demolish Christianity if it were proved that without it morality is impossible. “I begin to see that our generation—yours and mine, Virginia, owed a great deal to our fathers' religion. And the young, like Julian [Bell], who are brought up without it will never get so much out of life. They're trivial: like dogs in their lusts. We had the best of both worlds. We destroyed Christianity and yet had its benefits.” Well the argument went something like that.
    • The Diary of Virginia Woolf, iv, 1931-5 ed. A.O.Bell (1982), 208 (19 Apr. 1934)

KHirsch 02:14, 4 April 2010 (UTC)Reply[reply]

An accurate quote? "not one man in a million will detect the theft".[edit]

is this an accurate quote?

“By this means government may secretly and unobserved, confiscate the wealth of the people, and not one man in a million will detect the theft.”

Claimed as Source: - John Maynard Keynes, The Economic Consequences of the Peace (1919)

The correct quote seems to be: "There is no subtler, no surer means of overturning the existing basis of society than to debauch the currency. The process engages all the hidden forces of economic law on the side of destruction, and does it in a manner which not one man in a million is able to diagnose."

The Economic Consequences of the Peace by John Maynard Keynes, on Project Gutenberg

Lenin is said to have declared that the best way to destroy the Capitalist System was to debauch the currency. By a continuing process of inflation, governments can confiscate, secretly and unobserved, an important part of the wealth of their citizens. By this method they not only confiscate, but they confiscate arbitrarily; and, while the process impoverishes many, it actually enriches some. The sight of this arbitrary rearrangement of riches strikes not only at security, but at confidence in the equity of the existing distribution of wealth. Those to whom the system brings windfalls, beyond their deserts and even beyond their expectations or desires, become “profiteers,” who are the object of the hatred of the bourgeoisie, whom the inflationism has impoverished, not less than of the proletariat. As the inflation proceeds and the real value of the currency fluctuates wildly from month to month, all permanent relations between debtors and creditors, which form the ultimate foundation of capitalism, become so utterly disordered as to be almost meaningless; and the process of wealth-getting degenerates into a gamble and a lottery. - John Maynard Keynes, The Economic Consequences of the Peace, 1920 printing, p235-236

Error Re: Carl Melchior[edit]

The following appears after a comment on Nazis: On the Nazis; written in October 1933 three months before the death of his friend Carl Melchior, murdered in an anti-semitic attack in December 1933; Skidelsky (1992:487) quoting Collected Writings volume xxviii pages 21-22 The link for Melchior says he died of a stroke. I don't have time now to research which one is correct, but perhaps someone can look into this and correct the article that is wrong.

Looking at the Skidelski quote, it says that Melchior was "subject to an anti-semitic attack" and that he subsequently died - see this. But I believe Skidelski simply meant a vicious verbal attack, not something physical. There's an apparently contemporary account here of what might been the attack in question.Thomas Peardew (talk) 07:53, 17 April 2017 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Chronological vs. Subjective subject headings[edit]

It has long been standard organizational practice here to avoid and remove subjective section headings, because these can promote bias, contentions, confusion and duplications. Many years ago it was decided by most people involved in increasing disputes on some pages that articles should be chronologically arranged by dates of quotes or works, and NOT have subjectively divided sections. These sometimes arise because of people unfamiliar with these policies, but should be reverted or adjusted as soon as possible. A similar thing occurred recently on the Friedrich Hayek page, and I marked it "inUSE" for revisions, before leaving from my home, but the complications of that one seem much more troublesome, and as I will have to attend to other matters soon, I am attending to this one first, and hope to be done with it relatively quickly, restoring standard arrangement of quotes, and retaining the new additions. ~ Kalki·· 02:42, 19 September 2014 (UTC)Reply[reply]

This page has now had its standard order restored, and I believe all the new additions were retained. Someone is now working on the Hayek page, in a cleanup effort, and as I have a few other things to do, I will probably not be active here for at least a couple hours, and will check on the Hayek page later. ~ Kalki·· 04:04, 19 September 2014 (UTC)Reply[reply]