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The Keynesian Revolution

In the years after World War I, economists made great contribution to the analysis of the economic world of developed and developing regions. One enormous hole, however, still remained, for

neoclassical economics did not have a well-developed macroeconomics to match its microeconomics.

The neoclassical theories of money and the price level earlier developed by Alfred Marshall (1842-1924) and Yale's Irving Fisher (1867-1947) paved the way for the Keynesian concepts of the demand for money.

John Maynard Keynes (1883-1946) stands with Adam Smith and Karl Marx as one of the world’s most influential economists. The son of a noted British economist, Keynes made a fortune through speculation in Stock Exchanges. He served the British government as a financial adviser and was a key participant in the negotiations following both World Wars I and II.

Although Adam Smith had written The Wealth of Nations about the time of the American Revolution, by the 1930s little had changed in the thinking of mainstream economists. Most would have agreed with Smith, that the best thing government could do to help the economy would be to keep its hands off. They reasoned that as long as the economy was free to operate without interference, the forces of supply and demand would come into balance. Then, with total supply and demand in equilibrium, everyone looking for work could find a job at the prevailing wage, and every firm could sell its products at the market price.

But the 1930s was the period of the Great Depression. Despite the assurances (уверения) of the classical economists, the fact was that unemployment and bankruptcy had reached record proportions in the United States and the rest of the industrialized world. It was at this time (1936) that Keynes’ famous work was

published. The General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money transformed economic thinking in the 20th century, much the way that The Wealth of Nations had in the 18th century.

Keynes demonstrated that it was possible for total supply and demand to be at equilibrium at a point well under full employment. What is more, Keynes demonstrated that unemployment could persist indefinitely, unless someone stepped in to increase total demand. The ‘someone’ Keynes had in mind was government.

The suggestion that governments abandon ‘laissez-aire’f in favor of an active role in economic stabilization was regarded as revolutionary in the 1930s. Now, whenever a nation appears to be entering a period of recession or inflation, economists and others immediately think of steps the government might take to reverse the trend.

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