JILL ARLINGHAUS ON:JOHN MAYNARD KEYNES


JOHN MAYNARD KEYNES
EDP 380D, FALL, 1996
JILL ARLINGHAUS


"Today, we are all Keynsians" - Richard Nixon

John Maynard Keynes was born in 1883 which means he lived around the same time period as the seven creative individuals which Howard Gardner chose to focus on in his book Creating Minds. I chose to look at the life of Maynard Keynes because it is such a fascinating and diverse one. While entailing some of the same features found in the lives of those Gardner focused on, Maynard's life includes a lot of differences and adds some interesting twists as well. It can only be beneficial and interesting to see how this creative individual fits into Gardner's model. Keynes was one of the most influential economists of the twentieth century, and one of only a handful of social scientists who, through their writings, have significantly affected the course of history. His influence on economics was so great that the boom the Western industrial countries experienced between 1945 and 1975 has been termed the "Age of Keynes." When beginning to see how Keynes came to have such an impact and how he fits into Gardner's model, we must first introduce a little bit of his background and his life. The fifty or so years before the writing of The General Theory, which is perhaps Keynes most revolutionary book, plays a large role in how this work came about.

John Maynard Keynes was born in Cambridge, the oldest son of John Neville Keynes and Florance Ada Keynes. The lineage of these two people is very impressive, as are the people themselves. At the time of his son's birth, John Neville Keynes was a lecturer of political economy at Cambridge and eventually went on to become the university's chief administrative official. Florance Ada was a graduate of Newnham college in Cambridge and a pioneer of social work for the city. She was Cambridge's first woman councilor and later its mayor. Florance Ada was a woman ahead of her time. Through her willingness to depart from the traditional, she was one of the earliest influence on Keynes. She broke out of the traditional role placed on women during that period, thereby setting an example for Maynard who was very close to his mother.

Now we must take into the account the Keynes' colorful and distinguished ancestry. The early Keynes' were people of high standing whose influence can still be seen in the names of places in England such as Horstead-Keynes. Both the maternal and paternal side of Keynes ancestors were non conformists who remained steadfast Roman Catholics during a time of religious persecution. Maynard studied his ancestry extensivly and was very proud of it. As a student he drew up a family tree, and in later years wrote an introduction to one of his books based on it.

The Pride of ancestry has in great measure passed away, for the fast rising wave of democracy day by day obliterates the old land marks and traditions that were once held dear. Some, however, I trust there are, to whom the great names of the past remain in living memory, who shape their course in the world under a deep sense of responsibility of bearing them; and fill their appointed position and do their appointed work commanded by the gaze of all their ancestors. (Hession 363)

Some speculate that this was an introduction to an autobiography Keynes was writing at the time of his death. This passage shows how noteworthy his ancestry was to Maynard and how it provided yet another example for him to follow on his path to becoming a creative individual.

Not only were Maynard's parents and ancestors competent people, but his siblings were as well. Maynard's sister, Margaret, who was a year younger than he, went on to pursue social work like her mother. She later married Archibald Hill, a famous physiologist who ended up winning a Nobel Prize. Geoffrey, who was four years younger than Maynard was knighted after holding several high positions during both world wars. He later married Margaret Darwin, granddaughter of the famous biologist, Charles Darwin. As we can see the Keynes family was filled with distinguished and influential individuals.

Contrary to many of the individuals Gardner looked at and contrary to many of those in the Bloomsbury Group, Maynard enjoyed a close relationship with both of his parents which proved to be beneficial in his development as a creative genius. He had great respect for his father and extolled him as being "one of the best administrators there ever was... He became a perfect, lovable, dependable parent." (Hession 5) However, no matter how much he respected his father he was always closer to his mother. He often called her his best friend. Freud writes that "people who are closer to their mothers give evidence in their lives of a peculiar self-reliance and an unshakable optimism which often seem like heroic attributes and bring actual success to their possessors." Similarly J.C. Gowan, a specialist on creativity, adds, "Boys who are affectionately close to their mothers... tend to become more creative than those of similar abilities." (Hession 11) The child responds to the mothers affections and is encouraged to produce ideas and show them off intellectually. Both Maynard's mother and father were supportive of his work from his earliest childhood years to the end of his life. He was his parents favorite child, and they actively advocated any spontaneous interests he had. His father who was an avid reader would read him books starting at an early age. He maintained this close relationship with his parents throughout his entire life, even visiting them weekly while away at college. His family was an escape for him during particularly strenuous times, and he often took vacations with them when he was in need of a relaxation. Maynard gained many connections to the university through his parents who were also friends with many prominent people at the time. This includes Alfred Marshall, the proponent of what was regarded as a revolutionary approach to economics during this period. As a result Maynard was able to enjoy extended conversations with the most famous and capable academicians in Cambridge which aided him in cultivating his own ideas.

Maynard was raised and educated in a way that both nurtured his imagination and reason. He eventually ended up attending Eaton where some believe the development of his homosexuality was encouraged for two reasons: because of he was at the right age and it was an all male school. Keynes began attending Eaton at a time that was very important in his personal development. According to Erik Erickson, it was the stage in Maynard's life cycle where the young must relate themselves in loyalty and fidelity to their peers. When he entered this stage, all Maynard's peers were other boys who also attended Eaton.

Keynes' homosexuality played a large if not controversial role in his development to becoming a creative genius. Freud believed that homosexuals are more creative, and states that "homosexuals often possessed unusual intelligence, spiritual insight, or artistic gifts, and that homosexuals of both sexes often have such strong constitutions that they are able to sublimate frustrated sexuality into artistic expression." (Hession 105) Although this statement is controversial, there is little doubt that his sexual orientation played a large role in Maynard's life. He was a known homosexual in a time when homosexuals were being persecuted. He was willing to take the risk of pursuing unconventional relationships which perhaps made him more willing to pursue his unconventional ideas. Maynard's homosexuality is one form of marginality in Keynes' life. He was always considered to be on the outside or different. However, taking risks, whether it be in his non-conformist relationships or in ideas was never an issue for Keynes. He had been a risk taker since his childhood. It was a characteristic that he developed very early on and retained through adulthood as his illicit liaisons prove.

Keynes' homosexuality was not his only form of marginality; Attending Eaton was as well. It gave him a view of a larger, freer, wealthier world than the one he had known at home. It was a separate culture in itself. The public school had a great influence because it had the effect of being a total society for its inhabitants, meeting all their needs while they were cut off from the rest of society for an extended period of time. We have seen how education is an important aspect of Gardner's model. Eaton was an elite school that was a privilege to attend. It educated the sons of some of the most prosperous in all professions. Here, Keynes furthered his contacts from just family friends and Cambridge academicians. Here is where Keynes' interests began to grow. As we can see, Eaton had a huge impact on Maynard. It developed his homosexual tendencies and satisfied his need for marginality while allowing him to begin forming his own connections. So his education at Eaton, although not the first step in his creative life, was perhaps one of the biggest.

Keynes' interests had begun to be developed at Eaton, and these interests were enormous. He spent a lot of time on his studies winning numerous awards. However, he found time to get involved in a wide range of other activities as well. One of the student activities he was involved in was debating resulting in his development of strong oratorical skills which would aid him in administrative jobs later on. He enjoyed a variety of sports while in college also. Rowing being the one in which he excelled the most and was his greatest love. His great passion for literature, perhaps in part begun with the books his father read to him as a young boy, led him to take part in the Shakespeare Society. It is interesting that his love of poetry was combined with his love of math, which shows continuous cultivation of both sides of the brain during his first years of schooling.

Keynes left Eaton a more developed and mature individual, but at Cambridge, the next step in his education, he found men and ideas which challenged him even further. Since Maynard was a Kings Scholar when he entered the university he was put with rather remarkable neighbors. Maynard's principle study was math but because of his numerous other interests he refused to devote all his time to it. What occupied most of his time were his numerous societies, which included two debating societies and two different literary societies, as well as many other diverse ones. His induction into one of his many groups known as the Apostles was a very significant event during his time at Cambridge. This was a secret society that was very elite, containing only twelve members. It was a secret brotherhood of carefully selected individuals who sought truth and self development through absolute candor with each other. Bertrand Russel was a member of this group as was G.E. Moore, who played the role of mentor for Maynard. Moore's philosophy and book Principia Ethica were justifications for breaking away from social and sexual codes dictated by the culture at the time. This society gave Maynard the support he needed at this stage in his life. It meant a lot to Maynard and he remained loyal to it for the rest of his life. Many of these Apostles went on to form the infamous group of friends later known as the Bloomsbury Group.

Near the end of his time at Cambridge, Maynard had studied Alfred Marshall's Principle of Economics. He did a lot of work for the famous economist who thought that some of Maynard's ideas were brilliant. Alfred Marshall could be considered Maynard's second and more influential mentor. Many of Keynes friends began to leave the university at this time and Maynard became increasingly dissatisfied with university life. He wrote to his good friend Lytton, "Marshall is continually pestering me to turn professional economist... I could probably get employment here if I wanted to. But prolonging my existence in this place [Cambridge] would be, I feel sure, death. The only question is whether a government office in London is not death equally. I suppose I shall drift." (Hession 53) This statement shows Maynard's need for further marginality. The closed culture of the university was starting to stifle him.

He took an examination for the civil service department where he placed second. This did not entitle him the Treasury position he so desired, but instead he got his second choice, the Indian Office. He began his work here in 1906 where he learned how a government department worked, gained an interest in Indian affairs, especially the currency issue, and most importantly for his future he made the acquaintance of many government officials who became aware of his unusual abilities. It was a very valuable experience for him and it gave him a chance to work on his treatise on probability. In 1908 Maynard became an economics teacher at Cambridge at the continued urging of Marshall who was retiring and concerned at the lack of good economic teachers. Maynard accepted this position of teacher because he had become frustrated with the slow-moving bureaucracy of the Indian Office, and was in need of another move. He had reached his tentative occupational identity of economist at the age of twenty five.

During his time teaching he was also able to write. He composed a paper on "Recent Economic Events in India" from which he drew on the experience of his job in the Indian office. This was his first major article to appear in print. It dealt with the foreign exchange fluctuations of the Rupee, and took a stand in favor of currency management rather than relying on automatic forces. This was the basis of his revolutionary economic ideas. He also developed the Political Economics club for undergraduates and took on some administrative work for the university, becoming more involved in the finances of the college. In 1911 he was appointed editor of the Economic Journal, a signal of honor for a man not yet thirty, and with relatively few publications accredited to his name.

The Bloomsbury Circle had its origins here at Cambridge. The Bloomsberries were his reference group, his sounding board. Even a creative genius needs cultural feedback if he is to realize his full capacity. It is clear that Keynes had such a need and desired praise. This group partly accounts for Keynes emphasis on originality. This alliance of talented friends shared such values as clarity in reasoning, personal affection, candor in expressing ones feelings, and being different then others. It was comprised of many other creative geniuses including such people as Bertrand Russel, Lytton Stacy who introduced a new type of biography, and Virginia Woolf who brought new ways to writing novels. Keynes was close both physically and intellectually to this group of people, even living with some of them. It was the Bloomsbury group who played a significant part in motivating him to write The Economic Consequences of Peace.

Keynes played a large role during WW1 due to his high intelligence in matters relating to financing the war . By the end of the war, he had won an estimable position for himself in the Treasury by brilliantly handling the external finance of the war. Since he and his Divisions had done most of the preliminary work on reparations and war debts he was asked to be the Treasury's chief representative at the peace conference. His pacifist friends in the Bloomsbury group had been against Maynard's involvement in the Treasury since the start of the war, however Maynard had felt that the country needed his help. He was not unreceptive to his friends and his own feelings toward wanting peace though. He published The Economic Consequences of Peace, and eventually resigned from his position at the peace conference. He believed that the treaty's terms were too harsh. They were aimed to cripple Germany instead of punishing them. He put forth his ideas in this work which eventually put him up for the Nobel peace price. However, he did not win it because it was not given out that year. His book became an international best seller, and had profound effect on post war thinking. It made Keynes world-famous and allowed him to put economics on the map for the informed general public where it has remained ever since.

It was during this time of WW1 that Maynard's sexual behavior began to change. Some attribute this to the fact that there was a shortage of men available during the war. Maynard had always needed close intimacy, and his improvement in financial and social status made him an attractive eligible bachelor to women. Some were shocked when he married Lydia Lopokova, a prominent Russian ballerina. She gave his life the emotional stability it had lacked for many years, and which provided the necessary background to his sustained intellectual effort. Lydia was the perfect companion because she gave him a further connection to the artistic community. She was also a sensitive reader of literature as well as a poetic and witty writer as their numerous letters back and forth to each other prove. Keynes was very happy in his marriage, and despite their initial shock, Lydia eventually won over Keynes friends in the Bloomsbury group.

He was now a great man whose "writings caused currencies to tremble, whose counsel was sought by financiers, politicians, and public officials in all countries." (Skidelsky 21) He ended up returning to Cambridge though it was no longer the center of his life; London was. London was crucial to Keynes as a base of influence. He had direct access for much of the inter-war years to prime ministers and chancellors. It took the inter-war shocks to the capitalist system to crystallize the problems with the old-fashioned understanding of economic behavior. Economic theory during this period was in a constant state of flux and so Keynes choose this time to publish his most famous and revolutionary works, A Treatise on Money and The General Theory of Employment, Interest, and Money. These books were a sharp change from conventional economics at the time, and eventually their theories were excepted in the United States and across Europe. Basically, Keynes departed from the belief that supply always creates its own demand and advocated active government fiscal policies to increase money supply and deficit spending during times of depression.

In the years following the war Keynes attention focused on two things: the internal financial disorganization brought on by the war, which the peacemaking at Versailles had worsened, and the deterioration in the equilibrium terms of trade between Europe and America. Despite his resignation from the Treasury and the animosity that his Economic Consequences of the Peace aroused in some officials, he played a pivotal role is sorting out the mess left by the peacemakers. He contributed directly to the British Treasury plan for settling the reparation problem and acted as an unofficial advisor to the German Government. Keynes met Roosevelt and most of the other architects of the New Deal. The influence of his presence and writings on the first phase of the new Deal were substantial. Never one to be focusing on just one thing, during the time he was helping to sort out the mess left by the war, Keynes was also busy planning and supervising the building of the Cambridge Arts Theater, a fulfillment of a prewar dream of endowing Cambridge with a permanent center for dramatic arts.

The strain of the first world war and all his other activities began to take their toll on Maynard. He had never enjoyed robust health even as a young child. He was born sickly and often had to be taken out of school. As we can see, this never slowed him down and he went on to achieve great standing and to use this standing to intervene on a whole range of economic and social issues. In 1937 he suffered a coronary thrombosis from which he was slow to recover.

However, it is important to note that Maynard remained an active man his entire life up until the day he died. During his slow recovery he helped build the domestic and international foundations of managed capitalism which his theories supported. Two of his post war contributions deserve particular mention. The first is his part in establishing the Bretton Woods system. He was a part of this conference which established the basis of postwar international monetary system. His second act of statesmanship was to negotiate the American loan. He estimated that Britain's deficit on balance of payments would be close to 7 billion dollars so he went to Washington to solicit their help. He returned with a 2 million dollar loan. This last act of having to beg to the United States for help was probably the most humiliating one he was to perform his whole life. He never fully recovered from the strain of these loan negotiations. Two months later he died of a massive coronary thrombosis on April 21, 1946 surrounded by his family and friends.

We have seen some Maynard's mentors such as Marshall and Moore, his many support systems which include his family and the Bloomsbury Group, and his need for marginality shown in his schooling at Eaton and his homosexuality. I would now like to make some connections to Gardner's model that have not yet been brought out in the paper. These would be the concept of a Faustian Bargain and the Ten Year Rule. Gardner believes that for most creative geniuses it was necessary to have a Faustian Bargain, something they were forced to give up in their journey to achieving creative potential, but this did not hold true for Maynard. The seven individuals that Gardner focused on often sacrificed personal relationships or diversity of interests to achieve their potential. For Keynes neither was necessary. I have shown how he had a very loving relationship with his parents, siblings, friends, and wife. In fact, Keynes' relationships fostered his growth. Without them I am doubtful that he would have had the confidence to put forth such innovative ideas and would have lacked the motivation to continue his rigorous work. His interests were diverse and his range of activities were extensive. In addition to being an economist he was a high government official, an editor of an academic journal, a writer, a businessman, a teacher, a patron of the arts, a dedicated college athlete, and a member of the literary set called the Bloomsbury Group. These activities suggest that he had high intelligence not only in the logical mathematical area, but in the areas of verbal linguistic, spatial, and interpersonal and that he spent time cultivating them all. The only Faustian Bargain some could argue Maynard might have had was his health. The strain of the loan agreement was what finally killed him, but he had been sickly since birth. I do not think that he gave up his health to achieve the things he did, but rather achieved them despite his bad health.

Another aspect which Gardner refers to is The Ten Year Rule. This rule is hard to apply because it is totally arbitrary what works an individual will pick out as the most important or revolutionary. However, I definitely saw evidence that this rule existed in Maynard's life. His first major work to be published, Recent Economic Events in India, was written around 1911 at the same time he began teaching at Cambridge. Economic Consequences of Peace, in which he spelled out his strong objection to the treaty drafted at Versailles, and which eventually but him up for the Nobel Peace Prize, was published in 1919. Finally his two works for which he is best known, A Treatise on Money and the General Theory of Employment, Interest, and Money, were written in 1930 and 1936 repectively. As we can see, these works all fall about a decade apart with numerous smaller works appearing in-between. There is no question that he left substantial and lasting contributions to his field. The General Theory changed the way most economists understood the workings of economics. In that sense it was successfully revolutionary and it had a strong effect on policy. Not immediately, but after the second world war, Western governments committed themselves to maintaining high levels of employment. It was published at a time conducive to economic change, the inter-war period, when economic theory was in need of reform. Following its publication he became the most influential figure in British economic policy having a whole era bere his name for eternity.

From his secure middle class family and his elite education at Eaton and Cambridge, to his close friendship with the Bloomsbury circle, Keynes had confidence to depart from the normal to develop his full creative ability and change the way economists think. His heritage gave him a strong sense of responsibility which explains his dedication to matters of statsmanship. He became interested in perserving traditions of social life which sustained freedom of belief, of action, of individuality; he became a creative genius.