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Keynes Hayek: The Clash that Defined Modern Economics Hardcover – October 11, 2011

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Editorial Reviews


Keynes Hayek: The Clash That Defined Modern Economics 

Nicholas Wapshott. Norton, $28.95 (352p) ISBN 978-0-393-07748-3
Wapshott masterfully recounts the clash between Hayek and Keynes. Wapshott offers a colorful look at the theories that epitomize the economic divide still shaping Anglo-American politics. Publishers Weekly.

 "Told brilliantly." Alan Caruba's Warning Signs.

"Mr. Wapshott has written an important book. It is compelling not only as a history of two distinctive thinkers and their influence, but as a narrative of political decision-making and its underlying priorities. Underlying Mr. Wapshott's analysis are vital questions for this moment in American history." Nancy F. Koehn, The New York Times

A long overdue and well-researched book that usefully gathers together much hitherto scattered information. --John Cassidy

I heartily recommend Nicholas Wapshott s new book, Keynes Hayek: The Clash that Defined Modern Economics.... Many books have been written about Keynes, but nobody else has told the story properly of his relationship with Hayek. Nick has filled the gap in splendid fashion, and I defy anybody Keynesian, Hayekian, or uncommitted to read his work and not learn something new. --John Cassidy"

Nicholas Wapshott s new book, Keynes Hayek, does an excellent job of setting out the broader history behind this revival of the old debates. Wapshott brings the personalities to life, provides more useful information on the debates than any other source, and miraculously manages to write for both the lay reader and the expert at the same time. Virtually every page is gripping, and yet even the professional economist will glean some insight... --Tyler Cowen"

Mr. Wapshott has written an important book. It is compelling not only as a history of two distinctive thinkers and their influence, but also as a narrative of political decision-making and its underlying priorities. Underlying Mr. Wapshott s analysis are vital questions for this moment in American history: What kind of society do we want? And what do we owe to our fellow citizens and our collective future? --Nancy F. Koehn"

Nicholas Wapshott s Keynes Hayek is a smart and absorbing account of one of the most fateful encounters in modern history, remarkably rendered as a taut intellectual drama. Wapshott brilliantly brings to life the human history of ideas that continue to mold our world. --Sean Wilentz, The Rise of American Democracy"

Nicholas Wapshott brings the Keynes-Hayek fight of the twentieth century back to life, making the clash both entertaining and highly relevant for understanding economic crises of the twenty-first century. --John B. Taylor, Stanford University, Getting Off Track"

In the fluency of his writing and his ability to make complex financial questions easily comprehensible, Nicholas Wapshott has done economics itself a great service, by opening the subject up to the general reader, as seen through the prism of one of the most important intellectual gladiatorial contests of modern times. --Andrew Roberts, The Storm of War: A New History of the Second World War"

From the Author

I reported the rise and reign of Margaret Thatcher at close quarters and wrote a great deal about her rejection of Keynes in favor of Hayek. Then I wrote a book about Reagan and Thatcher, whose political marriage was founded on a shared belief that Hayek was right. So the story of Keynes and Hayek is a subject that has been long on my mind. Nicholas Wapshott - interviewed in The New York Sun

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 400 pages
  • Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company; 1 edition (October 11, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0393077489
  • ISBN-13: 978-0393077483
  • Product Dimensions: 6.5 x 1.3 x 9.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (107 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #255,524 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Nicholas Wapshott is an author, journalist and biographer who is both British and American. Having worked on The Scotsman, The Times, The Observer and The Sunday Telegraph, he was the national and foreign editor of the New York Sun, was part of the launch team for The Daily Beast, was editorial director of Oprah Winfrey's website oprah.com and is now the International Editor of Newsweek.
Alongside his journalism he has always written biographies which display his dual interest in both the cinema and political economy. His first was a hugely entertaining and funny life of the rapscallion Peter O'Toole. His second was of another actor: Margaret Thatcher, whose rise, premiership and fall he reported at close quarters for The Times and The Observer.
His third life was of one of the masters of British cinema, Carol Reed, and it remains the definitive biography of the director of The Third Man. He was helped by, among others, Graham Greene, who wrote three screenplays for Reed, and an actor who worked with Reed before and after World War II, Rex Harrison, who became the subject of Wapshott's fourth biography.
There was a short withdrawal from writing books when he became first the editor of The Times's Saturday magazine, then overall editor of the Saturday edition. He moved to live in New York City just before the terrorist attacks of September 11 2001, eventually left The Times and joined the Sunday Telegraph as a business feature writer and news reporter.
At this time he wrote a joint lift of Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher, using his extensive background knowledge of Thatcher and revealing in detail for the first time, with the help of 20 years of recently opened public archives, the extent of their political and personal friendship. Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher: A Political Marriage, for Sentinel (Penguin), remains the key inside account of this fascinating and formidable political alliance.
Wapshott's next book, for W.W.Norton, considerably changed his reputation. Keynes Hayek: the clash that defined modern economics, became an instant classic, an essential requirement for budding students of economics and political economy as well as politicians taking part in the great debate over whether, in light of the Crash of 2008 and the Great Recession, governments should intervene in an attempt to restore growth or whether it was best to leave the market to cure the Slump. The account tells for the first time the personal and intellectual duel between the two standard bearers of Keynesian economics and the rearguard action of market economists which continues to rage among politicians and economists to this day.
November 2014 saw publication of The Sphinx: Franklin Roosevelt, the Isolationists and the Road to World War II, which again used an historical story to address a current political movement: the war weariness of Americans and a return to isolationism that emerged ten years after the US fought wars simultaneously in Afghanistan and Iraq. The book tells for the first time how FDR used all his political wiles to turn around public opinion in favor of helping Britain against the dictators against fierce opposition from some of the most influential Americans of the time: William Randolph Hearst, Charles Lindbergh, Joseph Kennedy Sr., Henry Ford and Walt Disney.

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Anyone who wants to know how the United States and Europe got into the financial mess that we're all in should read this book. It tells the story of the 1930s debates between two great economists: John Maynard Keynes ('Maynard' to his friends) and Friedrich August Hayek (called 'Fritz' by friends and family). These two giants of economics had diametrically opposed views of how things worked. They debated, argued, and took pot shots at one another in academic journals and through proteges, colleagues, and graduate students. That we in the U.S. have had to contend with the top-down hand of Keynesian economics for most of the last seventy-five years is due in no small part to telling differences in the personal styles of the two protagonists. Keynes was tall (6'6"), urbane, gregarious, and articulate. Hayek was short, bookish, introverted, and, shall I say, English-challenged - he spoke English with an accent so thick that listeners found him almost unintelligible. Except for his classic, "The Road to Serfdom," his writing is also tough going, even for those with a high tolerance for abstract turgidity. Author Nicholas Wapshott does his readers a favor by not citing chapter and verse from Hayek's literary pantheon.

Keynes's ideas prevailed, at least until the "stagflation" of 1973-74. They came out on top not only because of Keynes's winning persona but also because Hayek's prescription for curing the Great Depression--a "bottom up" approach for government to do nothing and to let the market work its will, find bottoms, and regain an upward path--were politically untenable. Doing nothing is often perceived as not caring. However, it beats doing the wrong thing. As some sage once said, "Don't just do something. Stand there.
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Format: Hardcover
Having considered each of the nine (9) previous reviews, I am frankly very impressed with the points that every reviewer makes concerning this book. All too often, political economy brutally divides emotions and opinion, much like religion. Kudos to every previous reviewer for staying within the bounds of decency, for the most part, and providing very valuable insights!

My review is quite simple. I awarded five stars because the author takes a very difficult, yet critically important philosophical debate, and makes it intellectually available to just about everyone! This book is dream for the average reader unwilling to commit to wading through the difficult and deep waters of Keynes, Hayek, Smith, Friedman, etc. etc. And at the same time, Mr. Wapshott provides solid research and reasonably reliable scholarship. A grand accomplishment, indeed. I hope others will consider reading this very valuable introduction to the political economy philosophies espoused by both these two fascinating economists.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book is quite nicely written and has little trouble engaging the attention of the reader. The two eminent economists certainly had extremely divergent ideas, Keynes representing modern liberal interventionist social policy, and Hayek representing the classical laissez-faire position so characteristic of the Austrian school. The problem with the book is that the two figures really did not much interact, either in words or in real life, and each was preoccupied with a major battle that did not involve the other. Keynes' polemic was against the received wisdom in British and American economics, which held that economic downturns are self-correcting, provided the monetary authority maintained the value of the currency and did not run exorbitant deficits. Of course the Austrian school believed this too, but this school was practically unknown in Anglo-American circles. Hayek was concerned with business cycle theory, but his contributions were exceeding arcane and unpersuasive. Rather, Hayek was the dedicated enemy of central planning of the state socialist variety.

Hayek's major clash with the socialists occurred in the mid-1930's in the so-called economic calculation debates with the market socialists, most notably Oskar Lange. The market socialists clearly won this debate, in which all parties assumed the validity of neoclassical economic theory. Curiously, the great Josef Schumpeter concluded that socialism was inevitable (he develops this theme in Capitalism, Socialism, and Democracy, 1942), while Hayek concludes (correctly) that it is neoclassical theory that is wrong. Hayek spent the next decade developing his own extremely cogent critique of central planning, writing his most important article: F. A.
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Format: Hardcover
It must be difficult to write a book about economists without including any economics. Maybe economics content, like math, would detract from sales. Wapshott does do a good job of listing economic issues during the controversy between Keynes and Hayek and after. Use of florid similes such as "Pistols at Dawn" in the chapter titles detract from considering this a serious reference study. Wapshott credits Keynes with originating econometrics. I wish he would elaborate on that. Both Keynes and Hayek argued against over reliance on math modeling to predict human behavior.

It's not a bad job of covering the background of the principals, with interesting tidbits about Keynes' relationships with Strachey, Woolfe and other members of the Bloomsbury group. Wapshott calls Keynes an unabashed and promiscuous homosexual without particulars, citing only a relationship with artist Duncan Grant. There is minimal coverage of his marriage to ballerina Lydia Lopokova including letters with sexual content. Wapshott could have included an example or two to spice up a dry subject. Keynes' sense of humor is acknowledged as in calling himself "Barren Keynes".

Wapshott references Keynes' biographer Robert Sikorsky. Sikorsky does a better job of describing Keynes and his economic ideas as well as his many other attributes. Besides a treatise on probability, Keynes introduced uncertainty and attempted to reconcile ethical principles with economics. He was also involved in literature and art as well as finance. In describing Keynes' finances Wapshott doesn't point to his failures before achieving success investing for himself and his university. Keynes was much more than an economist, which Wapshott finally acknowledges on nearly the last page.
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