The philosophical foundations of Chapter 24 of TGT: Is mankind’s destiny the essence of Keynes’s evolutionary vision?

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It is difficult to advance a point beyond what Keynes himself commented about his own vision in The General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money in 1936 (hereafter TGT) in its Chapter 24. It is also difficult to express a deeper thought than what Skidelsky wrote about Chapter 24 of TGT (cf. Skidelsky, 1997). The purpose of this article is to identify whether Chapter 24 of TGT is the gist of Keynes’s legacy, having set the foundations of macroeconomics in the previous 23 Chapters. Relevant topics included in Chapter 24 are the consequences of full employment, the fate of income distribution, the future of overall wealth, the socialization of investment, saving, expectations, the role of the State in economies, the future of financial markets and the interaction between economics and other disciplines. Indeed this Chapter displays Keynes’s genius as a social philosopher, following the tradition of The Economics Possibilities for our Grandchildren (1930). In Chapter 24 he was taking a glance at his product as did Phillip II when he was observing the construction of his castle El Escorial in XVII Spain. Within his vision, is this piece of work a justification of capitalism? Keynes sees the State as both the spender and the employer of last resort, thereby proposing a new role for the government (Skidelsky, 1998). He also suggests a new role for the private sector and reconsiders the interrelation between the two sectors. He is fully optimistic about this issue, which he considers as evolutionary. In addition, Keynes blurs the distinction between economics and sociology, advancing new interdisciplinary hints in his thinking. Keynes is also concerned on the epistemological role of assumptions in order to obtain defensible conclusions. Thereafter the British economist proposes new methods. He was a neo-realist and was against the inductive method. In addition, it can be stated that TGT is grounded on new psychological laws and motivations, that is, on a new vision of humankind, especially the analyzed chapter. His topics are the bypassing of Classical Economics; the destiny of macroeconomics in both theoretical and policy terms, highlighting new roles for interest rates; savers and rentiers; and the relevance of the concepts of ideas, interests and power. In all these respects Keynes is once again far ahead of his time. Finally a debatable topic dealt with by Keynes in Chapter 24 of TGT is 1 PhD in Economics, Lancaster University, UK; Professor-researcher at ISEC Universidad de Negocios, Mexico City. socialisation of investment. This is in words of Skidelsky, a shift in the balance of social power. Keynes is thus in Chapter 24 of TGT a visionary and an idealist, a reformer, and certainly a trans-generational thinker. When he talks about the passion of thriftiness and the setting of reasonable financial rewards arising from financial instruments he is advancing explications for financial crises in terms of speculation. The open conclusion is that Chapter 24 contains the gist of Keynes’s mature philosophical thinking and legacy, confirming that for him attitudes are one of the most relevant issues in life. In addition, he considers that both social and psychological elements are necessary for a thorough understanding of economic issues and their consequences, such as peace and happiness. Section 1 is an introduction. Section 2 is both a literature review and a summary of Keynes’s general philosophical insights. Section 3 is an analysis of Chapter 24 of TGT in the specific fields of Epistemology, Ethics, Ontology, and Political and Social Philosophy. Section 4 is a conclusion. References are listed at the end of the article. Keywords: Keynes, philosophy of economics, social philosophy, epistemology, method, ethics, ontology, uncertainty, full employment, income distribution, wealth, euthanasia of the rentier, saving, socialization of investment, O’Donnell, Carabelli, Fitzgibbons, Skidelsky.
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