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Keynes Hayek: The Clash That Defined Modern Economics [Hardcover]

Nicholas Wapshott
4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
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Book Description

2 Dec 2011
As the stock market crash of 1929 plunged the world into turmoil, two men emerged with competing claims on how to restore balance to economies gone awry. John Maynard Keynes, the mercurial Cambridge economist, believed that government had a duty to spend when others would not. He met his opposite in a little-known Austrian economics professor, Freidrich Hayek, who considered attempts to intervene both pointless and potentially dangerous. The battle lines thus drawn, Keynesian economics would dominate for decades and coincide with an era of unprecedented prosperity, but conservative economists and political leaders would eventually embrace and execute Hayek's contrary vision. From their first face-to-face encounter to the heated arguments between their ardent disciples, Nicholas Wapshott here unearths the contemporary relevance of Keynes and Hayek, as present-day arguments over the virtues of the free market and government intervention rage with the same ferocity as they did in the 1930s.

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 400 pages
  • Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company; 1 edition (2 Dec 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0393077489
  • ISBN-13: 978-0393077483
  • Product Dimensions: 23.6 x 16.5 x 3.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 204,350 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

I heartily recommend Nicholas Wapshott s new book, Keynes Hayek: The Clash that Defined Modern Economics.... Many books have been written about Keynes, but nobody else has told the story properly of his relationship with Hayek. Nick has filled the gap in splendid fashion, and I defy anybody Keynesian, Hayekian, or uncommitted to read his work and not learn something new. --John Cassidy, The New Yorker

Mr. Wapshott has written an important book. It is compelling not only as a history of two distinctive thinkers and their influence, but also as a narrative of political decision-making and its underlying priorities. Underlying Mr. Wapshott s analysis are vital questions for this moment in American history: What kind of society do we want? And what do we owe to our fellow citizens and our collective future? --Nancy F. Koehn - The New York Times

In Keynes Hayek, Nicholas Wapshott sets himself the formidable task of explaining important and abstruse ideas clearly, reliably and entertainingly. He succeeds well. --Oliver Kamm, The Times

Nicholas Wapshott s Keynes Hayek is a smart and absorbing account of one of the most fateful encounters in modern history, remarkably rendered as a taut intellectual drama. Wapshott brilliantly brings to life the human history of ideas that continue to mold our world. -- --Sean Wilentz, The Rise of American Democracy

Nicholas Wapshott s Keynes Hayek is a smart and absorbing account of one of the most fateful encounters in modern history, remarkably rendered as a taut intellectual drama. Wapshott brilliantly brings to life the human history of ideas that continue to mold our world. --Sean Wilentz, The Rise of American Democracy

In Keynes Hayek, Nicholas Wapshott sets himself the formidable task of explaining important and abstruse ideas clearly, reliably and entertainingly. He succeeds well. --Oliver Kamm, The Times

Here is one reason to welcome the close attention that Hayek receives in about half of Nicholas Wapshott's book. It harnesses the author's skills as a journalist in a lucid and accessible introduction to Hayek's work. --Peter Clarke, The Guardian

In Keynes Hayek, Nicholas Wapshott sets himself the formidable task of explaining important and abstruse ideas clearly, reliably and entertainingly. He succeeds well. --Oliver Kamm, The Times

Wapshott does a good job of explaining the duo's sometimes complex theories...Overall, it's well worth a read. --Money Week

In Keynes Hayek, Nicholas Wapshott sets himself the formidable task of explaining important and abstruse ideas clearly, reliably and entertainingly. He succeeds well. --Oliver Kamm, The Times

He [Wapshott] is an acomplished writer who drives his narrative at a pace and draws judiciously on a crowded shelf of studies of his protagonists and their work...fascinating reading... --The Literary Review

Nicholas Wapshott has written an exciting book and brought to astonishing life the economics advocated by these two sharply contrasting characters. --North South

About the Author

A former senior editor at The Times and The New York Sun, Nicholas Wapshott is a journalist and the author of Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher: A Political Marriage.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
Format:Hardcover
This fine book is easy to read and very well-written. It tells the gripping story of the conflict between Friedrich Hayek and John Maynard Keynes.

Hayek, who never worked in the private sector he idolised, started from the idealist assumption that "to explain any economic phenomenon it was convenient to assume that over time an economy would reach a state of equilibrium in which all resources would be fully employed." He did not have to prove it, since it was an assumption, but he then treated it as true of the real world.

By contrast, Keynes started from the real world, where "It is a complete mistake to believe that there is a dilemma between schemes for increasing employment and schemes for balancing the Budget - that we must go slowly and cautiously with the former for fear of injuring the latter. Quite the contrary. There is no possibility of balancing the Budget except by increasing the national income, which is much the same thing as increasing employment."

In their debate in the 1940s, Hayek admitted in The road to serfdom that "the case for the state's helping to organize a comprehensive system of social insurance is very strong." Keynes pounced, "as soon as you admit that the extreme is not possible, and that a line has to be drawn, you are, on your own argument, done for, since you are trying to persuade us that so soon as one moves an inch in the planned direction you are necessarily launched on the slippery path which will lead you in due course over the precipice." Wapshott comments, "Hayek did not attempt to answer the points raised in Keynes' letter ..."

Further, it is not undemocratic to plan if democratically-elected governments follow a people's desire for planning, as we do with our NHS.
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37 of 45 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Lacking depth and accuracy, but entertaining 22 Dec 2011
Format:Kindle Edition
The book tries to suggest that the whole of economic agrument on policy falls into two camps. Austrian and Keynesian. This is simplistic and misleading. However the idea of seeing the debate on policy from the two camps is interesting and entertaining.

The book lacks depth of explanation of either Keynes or Austrian theory. This means that anyone who does not already know them (and by this I mean what Keynes wrote, not what Keynesians wrote after his death) will find the significance of many of the comments reported from the debate difficult to understand properly.

The author also fails to consider the complexity of the various schools of economics. While he explains that Keynes successfully introduced the idea of looking at the economy from 'the top down' - macroeconomics - he does not clearly explain the reliance of Keynes on the demand side alone. Consequently he misses an important aspect of the criticism of Keynes in terms of markets and understates the important move to reconsider the supply side as a policy issue. Instead the author seems to think it is part of the monetarist counter-revolution, which it is not.

But perhaps the most disappointing aspect of the book is the sloppy mistakes. The author attributes views to people they never had in broad generalizations and makes mistakes on dates and people. For example, getting the date of Margaret Thatcher becoming Prime Minister wrong, which was not the same day as Hayek's birthday as he claims (a month and four days out respectively), and making Ben Bernanke Chairman of the Fed on Friedman's 90th birthday, over three years before he actually got the job! Such mistakes makes one wonder how many other inaccuracies got past the proof readers and has devalued the entire work.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Readable and timely 18 Feb 2013
By Steve Keen TOP 1000 REVIEWER
Format:Paperback
Despite some misgivings based on a review warning that Keynes's theories had been misrepresented, I finally decided the subject matter of this book was a little too compelling to overlook.

Having now read it, I have to say that, although I will not claim total familiarity with the theories, those I did have knowledge of seemed well presented, and much of the rest is given as direct quotations.

Which isn't to say that the original review was wrong, just that possibly any errors that may be in the text do not detract from the overall story.

And it is quite a story, of a battle of minds, and ideologies, that is still raging many years after the protagonists' death.

Both men are presented by Wapshott as extraordinary thinkers. But Keynes, in life and in death, is seen as overall the more influential, his ideas adopted by governments both obvious and surprising. It's no secret that successive Labour and Democratic governments have followed the Keynesian path. But that more-or-less Keynesian policies were adopted by Eisenhower, Reagan and Bush Junior carries a little more irony. Even one of the supposed cornerstones of conservative Reaganomics, the Laffer curve, transpires to be lifted from Keynes.

However, Reagan also professed a Hayekian belief in small government, and Thatcher was supposedly a true disciple, although both leaders' policies were effectively characterised by the man himself as "Hayek Lite". The only other regimes Wapshott associates with Hayekian principles are Pinochet's in Chile and the Conservative part of the current UK coalition government, shortly, it appears, to lead us into a triple-dip recession.
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