The Attacks on the General Theory: How Keynes's Theory Was Lost

14 Pages Posted: 13 Oct 2016

See all articles by G.C. Harcourt

G.C. Harcourt

UNSW Australia Business School, School of Economics

Peter Kriesler

UNSW Australia Business School, School of Economics

John Nevile

UNSW Australia Business School, School of Economics

Date Written: July 10, 2014

Abstract

The General Theory showed that the main determinant of the level of output and of employment at any point of time was the level of effective demand. It did so in an environment of uncertainty using analysis in historical time. Unfortunately, most of Keynes’s insights were soon lost to the profession. This paper considers why this occurred. The most concerted and sustained attack on Keynes’s position was by Milton Friedman. Friedman argued that his work on permanent income as the major determinant of consumption invalidated Keynes use of the consumption function in The General Theory, with important implications for the multiplier and the efficacy of fiscal policy. The attack by the conservative right wing in America on Lorie Tarshis’s excellent 1947 Keynesian textbook, also played an important part in the dilution of the Keynesian message as did the resultant rise to dominance of Samuelson’s Economics: An Introductory Analysis. Given the great influence of Samuelson and the increasing tendency of American economics to dominate English language economics this contributed decisively to the undermining of Keynes’s theory and policy.

Keywords: Macroeconomics, Keynes, Effective Demand, Consumption

JEL Classification: E60, E21, E12, B22, A20

Suggested Citation

Harcourt, G.C. and Kriesler, Peter and Nevile, John, The Attacks on the General Theory: How Keynes's Theory Was Lost (July 10, 2014). UNSW Business School Research Paper No. 14, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2850798 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2850798

G.C. Harcourt (Contact Author)

UNSW Australia Business School, School of Economics ( email )

High Street
Sydney, NSW 2052
Australia

Peter Kriesler

UNSW Australia Business School, School of Economics ( email )

High Street
Sydney, NSW 2052
Australia

John Nevile

UNSW Australia Business School, School of Economics ( email )

High Street
Sydney, NSW 2052
Australia

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