Financial History Issue 125 (Spring 2018) - Page 13

EDUCATORS’ PERSPECTIVE our gods for a little longer still. For only they can lead us out of the tunnel of eco- nomic necessity into the daylight.” In other words, only avarice and usury and precau- tion can lead to the end of capitalism. Paul Samuelson, whose seminal textbook Economics was used by millions of under- graduate students, agreed with Keynes. He even included two key paragraphs from “Economic Possibilities for Our Grandchil- dren” in later editions of Economics, noting sadly that the affluence of the 1990s had not brought about “the slackening of economic ambition in America.” Economist Robert Nelson argues that Keynes, Samuelson and other progressives believe God works “through economic forces and is planning a glorious ending to the world based on the workings of rapidly advancing material productivity.” How- ever, with the end of Keynes’s 100 years approaching quickly (World War II not withstanding), Nelson concludes “that the faith in the redeeming power of material progress is fading.” Instead of a new para- digm, the problems of greed, avarice and unbounded ambition are as severe as ever. Material prosperity as a path to salvation is nothing more than an illusion. The answers lie elsewhere, but not in capitalism. Philosopher Thomas Novak writes: British economist John Maynard Keynes espoused the belief that only avarice, usury and precaution could lead to the end of capitalism. pressing economic cares, how to occupy leisure, which science and compound inter- est will have won for him, to live wisely and agreeably and well.” Keynes longed for the day when the accumulation of wealth lost its luster. At that point, he hoped for “great changes in the code of morals” that would allow us to do away with “many of the pseudo- moral principles which have gag-ridden us for two hundred years, by which we have exalted the most distasteful of human qualities into the position of the highest virtues… The love of money as a pos- session — as distinguished from the love of money as a means to the enjoyments and realities of life — will be recognized for what it is, a somewhat disgusting morbidity, one of those semi-criminal, semi-pathological propensities which one hands over with a shudder to the special- ists in mental disease.” Keynes saw us returning to traditional religious principles where “avarice is a vice,” usury “a misdemeanor” and the love of money detestable. Yet he warned that that time had not yet arrived. “For at least a hundred years we must pretend to our- selves…that fair is foul and foul is fair… Avarice and usury and precaution must be The realist revolutionary does not believe that the overthrow of an evil system will guarantee a better to replace it. He does not glorify the revolutionary struggle or the revolu- tionary moment, for he does not con- ceive that the source of evil lies in the system to be overthrown. The realists do not imagine that there has been, is now, or ever will be a political econ- omy from which evil will be banished. Wherever there are human beings, there will be evil. Because they do not believe in a paradise on earth, or in an innocent system, the realists are often dismissed as mere ‘reformers.’ In fact, their vision is revolutionary precisely because they reject the moral pretenses both of ancient traditional orders and of contemporary utopian orders. The utopias of the modern age strike them as too like the theocracies and moral tyrannies of the past.  |  Spring 2018  |  FINANCIAL HISTORY  11