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Keynes Hayek: The Clash that Defined Modern Economics Hardcover – October 11, 2011
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"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
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
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The book also gives a good look at the birth of modern macroeconomics, how quickly and suddenly Keynesian ideas caught fire--and how quickly Keynesians became more Keynesian than Keynes himself.
One also gets a sense of how lonely Hayek must have been for much of his life. During the early 1930s, he and Keynes were two of the world's best-known economists. Once Keynes' ideas became popular, Hayek became nearly anonymous overnight. Hayek's own students turned on him en masse, often with a surprising lack of tact (Nicholas Kaldor, despite his merits as a thinker, comes off as a thoroughly unpleasant person).
Despite the success of 1944's Road to Serfdom and his founding of the Mont Pelerin Society, Hayek was a lonely and depressed man until, at age 75, he won the economics Nobel and experienced something of a late-career renaissance.
The book's final chapters are about how both men's ideas continue to clash today, though by this point Wapshott treats them more as symbols of progressivism vs. classical liberalism than referring to the Kaynes and Hayek themselves.
I have one genuine complaint about the book. Wapshott often confuses Hayek's ideas with reactionary conservatism, even when acknowledging Hayek's famous essay, "Why I Am Not a Conservative." Conservatives want stasis; they want to conserve the old ways. Hayek wants ever-changing dynamism. It's the intelligent design vs. evolution debate in a different discipline. Many conservatives, with their emphasis on top-down law-and-order and deference to tradition, have little in common with Hayek's bottom-up, emergent order philosophy. Conservatives are objective; Hayek is subjective. They have little in common.
Interested readers should further pursue Robert Skidelsky's extensive biographies of Keynes, and Bruce Caldwell's Hayek's Challenge. And while not a dual biography like Wapshott's book, Lawrence White's Clash of Economic Ideas is an excellent comparative history of 20th century economic thought, written from a Hayekian/classical liberal perspective.
I read about half of the book and I stopped reading it. It felt like I was confused because of the constant switches between Hayek and Keynes and overwhelmed with the amount of information, which in my opinion, I did not retain. I felt like I had more questions than before I started reading, so i decided to downgrade the harness of books I read for the moment.
That's when my new semester was starting and I enrolled in an econ class. The professor would talk about lots of stuff, and topic after topic I could explain in detail what he was referring to, what are the possible solutions to it and give historical examples on when it has already happened. It was ALL knowledge from this book. It turned out I had no idea the immense amount of information I got from this book. I felt so...adequate! And yet, there is surely a lot that I missed.
Since then I read a few other highly recommended econ books, but this one is by far the most informative one. I am planning to reread it very soon.
I recommend it very strongly to both beginners like myself and more advanced economist. There is no way you don't learn SOMETHING new.
I lean more towards the Englishman, who is one of the top three economists ever, with Marx and Smith.
By including the Austrian, I was worried that Hayek's importance would be oversold.
Thankfully, Wapshott presents an even-handed look at the relative waning and waxing of both economist's influence in the western world in the time since their first encounters. I recommend this as a nice background read for people of all persuasions.