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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Crash course in economics,
Essays in Persuasion are a collection of articles and public letters published by Keynes in the 1920s and 30s. They treat mostly of economic subjects, beginning with the Versailles reparations and moving on to monetary manners, especially the return to gold, though the last fifth of the book is dedicated to political discussion (Keynes's view of Communism, the Liberal Party, hopes for a new culture in a future world of abundance...). They are a pleasure to read, spelled out with elegance and common sense and filled with humorous quips and witticisms.
This compendium is for anyone who doesn't have the skills or patience to read Keynes's General Theory. It lays out the essentials of Keynesian economic thinking, in particular on inflation and unemployment, while in passing making clear a number of economic terms and issues - for example how the gold standard worked and why, and the difference with the gold `exchange' standard, something that had completely escaped me. The Essays do require a minimal understanding of economic factors (interest and exchange rates, state and trade budgets, and how they relate), but they are not technical in style and are told in plain words; Keynes's public, after all, was the average newsreader or politician. A basic historical baggage also helps: why reparations were a difficult issue, the American loans, deflation and the incipient depression; here a good introduction is perhaps lacking. Nevertheless, this is accessible to all with this minimum culture, and it is both excellent economic education and mental exercise.
Finally, Keynes was a humanist, as the Essays show. He was the antithesis of the dry and unfeeling economist, and this makes for a refreshing and uplifting work. He was also human: one senses the anxiety rising as he recommended a tariff in 1931, or the misplaced relief at Britain's abandonment of the gold standard (a devaluation, with a similar effects to tariffs). And his modern relevance does not need underlining, with boom and bust and urgent monetary issues back to the fore.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars More successful in prophecy than persuasion?,
In the introduction, Keynes humorously describes these writings as "croakings of a Cassandra more successful in prophesy than persuasion." And it is astonishing how right, with hindsight, he often was.
The books consists in the main of articles published in magazines and periodicals. The General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money may be more famous. It is more easily available. Yet it is not nearly as readable as this.
There are essays on the Treaty of Versailles additional to his famous Economic Consequences of Peace, The. There are his writings on the gold standard and why it needed to be abandoned. All these are of interest to those of us interested in economic history. Yet the general reader will probably enjoy most the essays at the end of the books on politics, Russia under the communists, the End of Laissez-Faire and one where he looks into the long term economic future. These latter are as timeless as it is possible for economic writings to be.
All of these, whether one agrees or not, provide fascinating insights into the issues. Here perhaps lies the greatest pleasure in reading this book. Keynes was one of the great minds of the twentieth century. Here one can encounters it at its most acute. Keynes has a reputation among economists for the beauty and elegance of his writing. In this book he lives up to it.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Cassandra still Speaks.,
This review is from: Essays In Persuasion (Paperback)
I have read the 'Essays in Biography' which are clever but too subtle for me - I am not being disingenuous, he is habitually so circumspect there that I found it hard to divine what he really thought. Here though I was fascinated from first to last. A Cassandra yes - it and his heart effectively killed him - but a writer of elegance and obvious brilliance. Of course it helps if you are in agreement with his ideas on economics (emphatically I am); if not, his exposition of economics and various aspects of early 20th century world affairs (properly they are Western ones) are still invaluable. I usually scoff at 100 Best Books and such 'awards'; this is undoubtedly one of the best I have read on any subject and one that helps bridge the Two Cultures that C.P. Snow correctly lamented. An ideal present for anyone with a brain. Buy two, then you have at least one Birthday/Xmas present sorted now. The recipient will be delighted. The best book of its type that it has been my pleasure to read.
29 of 34 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Exquisite mandarin prose and clear argument,
By A Customer
John Maynard Keynes at his most beguiling. A series of essays that have not lost their power despite the passage of 70 years or so. As a prose stylist Maynard Keynes could equal his friends Virginia Woolf and E.M. Forster, and he does so in this volume. Perhaps the apogee of essay writing of the Oxford/Cambridge type, this volume has a charm that is absent from his longer works (General Theory, Tract on Monetary Reform, even the Economic Consequences of the Peace). For those people interested in hard edged macro theory, read elsewhere. For admirers of logic and clarity and the British tradition of enlightened common sense, Eureka! You have found it in this book.
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Supping At The Table Of A Master,
Arguably, Keynes is the most consequential economist in the history of the profession and how he thought and argued is a lesson in logic. This is a collection of essays that Keynes wrote for various publications. They dealt with issues of the day and you may well think none of it can be relevant today. I mean, people don't read Shakespeare's Merchant of Venice today, do they? If that's your thinking you can skip this book. But if somewhere in your heart is the desire to rise above the oatmeal that passes for financial commentary in today's newspapers and the drivel in the readers' commentaries section, then you need to sup at the table of a master and see how it's done. This should be on your reading list.
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Essays in Persuasion by John Maynard Keynes (Paperback - 14 Nov. 2012)