Monday, 2 May 2011

Roberts on Rosser on Keynes

In an earlier post I noted that Barkley Rosser claimed that John Papola and Russ Roberts have accused Keynes of having “a central plan” in their latest rap video. Russ Robert now responds to Rosser,
There’s only one problem with all this and that’s that the accusation against us is something of a straw man. Here’s the line that Rosser is referring to, but in context:
Creating employment’s a straightforward craft
When the nation’s at war, and there’s a draft
If every worker was staffed in the army and fleet
We’d have full employment and nothing to eat


Jobs are a means, not the ends in themselves
People work to live better, to put food on the shelves
Real growth means production of what people demand
That’s entrepreneurship not your central plan
Hayek isn’t saying Keynes is a socialist or wants to centrally plan the entire economy. He is singing about Keynes’s plan to create jobs via government spending. Surely having the government spend, say, $800 billion in stimulus is a central plan of sorts. Maybe we should have said “centralized plan” but it wouldn’t scan as well.
Tyler Cowan at Marginal Revolution also has a say. He asks if Keynes favoured central planning:
Barkley Rosser and Brad DeLong say no, but it depends on definition and context. Barkley tries to talk his way out of it, but Keynes in the General Theory did advocate “a somewhat comprehensive socialisation of investment.” “somewhat” — that’s my kind of weasel word! In any case this was not the same as classical central planning circa 1920, but in a rap video I consider that acceptable license. By my count “central plan” comes up once in a ten-minute video and most importantly Keynes does not accept the characterization but rather responds that the debate is about spending. The video is not suggesting that each and every rapped point is true at face value, and if the two characters seem to debate past one another that too reflects the reality at the time.
Brad DeLong's comment are here. Paul Krugman just thinks the whole thing is stupid.

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