Cover art for podcast Open Source with Christopher Lydon

Open Source with Christopher Lydon

50 EpisodesProduced by Christopher LydonWebsite

Christopher Lydon in conversation on arts, ideas and politics

50:22

Moral Economics

This show first aired on May 28, 2020.

John Maynard Keynes was a philosophical giant in twentieth-century England. In his day job, he was a public economist; in America he was a political football for the very idea of “deficit spending” to charge up private investment in a recession. It made the name “Keynes” a cuss word until our politicians fell in love with deficits as a way to pay for tax cuts and wars. “We are all Keynesians now,” Richard Nixon said, in Vietnam time. It’s only much later, in long hindsight, that Keynes the philosopher returns as if in a dream: the social and moral thinker, a sprightly, prophetic, and humane writer who could see money, finance, employment, justice, peace, and security as a linked system to be studied and managed for common purposes.

46 Gordon Square in London—Bloomsbury home of Keynes.

The subject is John Maynard Keynes, thinker and writer of genius and consequence in England between the two world wars. He is back to life in a dazzling biography of the moral philosopher inside the famous economist. Zachary Carter is our guest; he has rewritten the life story—emphasis on the humanity of Keynes’s thinking and the artistic beauty of his prose. Keynes was an economist mostly without numbers, though he started out as a mathematician. He makes literary and moral connections with Edmund Burke, the Anglo-Irish conservative, and implies a sort of kinship with George Orwell, another radical but anti-revolutionary English socialist of Keynes’s period.

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