Keynes: Pragmatist. Hayek: Utopian. Who Sez?

…if you read about the tussle between the two great economists, you are struck by two things. First, how pragmatic a man John Maynard Keynes was. And second, how utopian the ideals of Friedrich Hayek are. This is odd, as each man attached himself to a polar opposite political philosophy: Keynes’s ideas were adopted by idealistic lefties, while Hayek’s thoughts were lapped up by conservatism, a philosophy that by definition rejects dogma. It is as if we have gone through the looking glass.

Who could have said such a thing?!

Keynes and Hayek: Adventures in Wonderland | The Economist.


Hayek was concerned with principles, not with the political reality of implementing them. It is noteworthy, too, that Hayek–unlike Keynes–spent most of his life as an academic. Hayek never campaigned for a political party or advised the government of the day. He had little time for men who did not share his view.

This is the antithesis of the conservative tradition. From Disraeli to Oakeshott, conservatism has been defined for its distrust of ideology, and a preference for pragmatism, compromise and what has gone before.

Cross-posted at Angry Bear.







One response to “Keynes: Pragmatist. Hayek: Utopian. Who Sez?”

  1. Olav Martin Kvern Avatar
    Olav Martin Kvern

    As usual these days, The Economist begins to catch on about thirty years after the fact. Next thing you know, it’ll be, “I say, these people calling themselves conservatives aren’t really conservatives at all…who knew?”

    I should say “conservatives as commonly defined.” In truth, the people calling themselves conservatives never have been true to the definition implied in the “From Disraeli to Oakeshott” line (which is itself a paraphrase of Oakeshott). They have always been authoritarian followers and authoritarian leaders, and their main interest is in maintaining status quo power relationships*. They’re happy to embrace empty ideologies (I mean, Ayn Rand, for crying out loud!**), eschew pragmatism, and break with the past–all as long as they still have their place in the hierarchy.



    * Or, for the leaders, fleecing the followers.

    ** Seriously. These people are supposed to be grown-ups.