Saturday, 19 November 2016

Gandhi and Keynes

"Gandhi used to talk disparagingly of 'dreaming of systems so perfect that no-one will need to be good'. But is it not precisely this dream which we can now implement in reality with our marvellous powers of science and technology? Why ask for virtues, which man may never acquire, when scientific rationality and technical competence are all that is needed?

Instead of listening to Gandhi, are we not more inclined to listen to on of the most influential economists of our century, the great Lord Keynes? In 1930, during the world-wide economic depression, he felt moved to speculate on the ‘economic possibilities of our grandchildren’ and concluded that the day might not be far off when everybody would be rich. We shall then, he said, ‘once more value ends above means and prefer the good to the useful.’ 

“But beware!’ he continued. ‘The time for all this is not yet. For at least another hundred years we must pretend to ourselves and to every one that fair is foul and foul is fair,; for foul is useful and fair is not. Avarice and usury and precaution must be our gods for a little longer still. For only they can lead us out of the tunnel of economic necessity into daylight.’

This was written forty years ago and since then, of course, things have speeded up considerably. Maybe we do not even have to wait for another sixty years until universal plenty will, be attained. In any case, the Keynesian message is clear enough: Beware! Ethical considerations are not merely irrelevant, they are an actual hindrance, 'for foul is useful and fair is not'. The time for fairness is no; yet. The road to heaven is paved with bad intentions,"

- 'Small is Beautiful'

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