Sunday, May 5, 2013

Tracing the Gay Keynes Controversy Back to Schumpeter

As I pointed out yesterday, the idea that John Maynard Keynes was influenced in his thinking in economics, by the fact that he was gay, has reemerged as a result of comments made by Harvard University professor Niall Ferguson. This appears to not be a new thread of thinking at Harvard.

Council on Foreign Relations director of international economics, Benn Steil, in his new book, The Battle of Bretton Woods (p.62), links Joseph Schumpeter to the thinking. Steil writes:
It is a long standing matter of contention among Keynes's chroniclers the degree to which his personal life should be held to inform his development as a public intellectual, scholar and statesman. Famed economist Joseph Schumpeter, for example, cuttingly pronounced Keynes's famous aphorism "in the long run we are all dead" to be the natural perspective for a childless thinker.
Steil continues:
[...]to dismiss important elements of Keynes's thinking on the grounds that they were artifacts of hidden impulses is to fail to give his reasoning its due. 
To ignore elements of Keynes's private life, however, as does his first major biographer, Roy Harrod--particularly Keynes's homosexuality, despite its featuring in nearly two decades of passionate and poignant correspondence from the early 1990s--is to underplay the importance of Keynes's associations outside official college and government circles, in particular with members of the Cambridge "Apostles" male secret society and the iconoclastic Bloomsbury group of London intellectuals and aesthetes. 
It should  be noted that Schumpeter should not be one to talk about immediate desires versus the long run.

Geoffrey Hawthorn wrote during a review of Joseph Schumpeter: His Life and Work by Richard Swedberg:
His second [wife], Anna Reisinger, was much younger. She was the daughter of the caretaker of his mother’s house in Vienna. He started to see her in 1920. But he remained ostentatiously wild, and she resented his style. In the early Twenties, the board of the bank he chaired in Vienna asked him to be more discreet. He responded by hiring an open carriage and two prostitutes and trotting up and down the K√§rtnerstrasse with one on each knee. 
Curiously, I  can't find any reference to Schumpeter having children.

That said, the best analysis of Keynes's thinking can be found in Ralph Raico's article, Was Keynes a Liberal?. Raico, somehow, manages to slice and dice Keynes, without once having to reference who Keynes slept with.

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