I have fervently argued for quite some time now that one should read it all (or almost all) of an author to judge its opinions. Even more of those authors who, despite belonging to another century and another social paradigm, still generate admiration, for better or for worse. As the time has come to prove it, we never have come to fully understand that: i) they would have been forgotten once their arguments had been revealed as false, or ii) there would be consensus on their ideas if well understood, they had proven true.
Due to that reason, I consider cruel to judge without understanding, to those to whom time denies their most valuable asset, which is none other than defense capability. There is no doubt I cannot defend, even modestly, the ideas of the best economist we have ever known! His writings are his best defender.
I refer to John Maynard Keynes. We have treated him unfairly and mercilessly from long time ago. He would enjoy, no doubt, the attacks against his doctrine. Although unfortunately the use of critical thinking has been replaced, in most cases, by unfounded comments and empty arguments.
One of the most famous commentaries articulated by all his detractors, and even much of its advocates, is about the short-run vision of economic life. To all of them, I humbly say you didn’t understand him. We just need to go back to his time at Cambridge to understand that all his life, including his economy, gravitated around his philosophy, where Moore and Burke occupy the Olympus.
Maynard himself wrote: “Burke ever held, and held rightly, that it can seldom be right (. . .) to sacrifice a present benefit for a doubtful advantage in the future (. . .). It is not wise to look too far ahead; our powers of prediction are slight, our command over results infinitesimal. It is therefore the happiness of our own contemporaries that is our main concern; we should be very chary of sacrificing large numbers of people for the sake of a contingent end, however advantageous that may appear (…). We can never know enough to make the chance worth taking (. . .). There is this further consideration: it is not sufficient that the state of affairs which we seek to promote should be better than the state of affairs which preceded it; it must be sufficiently better to make up for the evils of the transition.”
These beliefs accompanied him for the rest of his life, also when he said: "In the long run we are all dead”. In all his writings are stated so inevitably his philosophy, his treatise on probability (where the uncertainty and expectations are the main protagonists) and his economic aspirations.
I firmly believe that he has been misinterpreted. What he meant was that policies, which are required to be effective, must be applied in order to improve the inherited social order. Of course it is important to consider a broad time horizon, but to sacrifice the present for an uncertain future is an incautious idea, an evil utopia. Especially when the role of uncertainty prevents us ensure the achievement of that for which sacrifices are imposed. And as is necessary, our duty is to brighten the lives of our generation (safeguarding subsequent generations), but in no case sacrifice for the benefit of others who, as it can not be otherwise, should be responsible for meeting their own needs in other time and society.
It seems clear that by aggregating optimal short terms (where most people is benefited), a long-term is built, ensuring social progress.
I would end with one of his thoughts (rightly made) about his writings. He refers to them as “croakings of a Cassandra who could never influence the course of events in time”.