Why is Robert Skidelsky speaking at Mont Pelerin??

I’m now mid-Pacific, about five miles high, on my way to the regional meeting of the Mont Pelerin Society in Palo Alto. It is a the meeting of the remnants of the last few remaining supporters of market economies not only as the means to prosperity, but also as a necessary element in the preservation of political freedom.

So imagine my astonishment to see this as one of the sessions being on offer:

1:15 pm – 2:30 pm Lessons Learned from History for the Future of Freedom
Gabriel Calzada, Universidad Francisco Marroquín (Chair)
Victor Davis Hanson, Hoover Institution
Amity Shlaes, Calvin Coolidge Presidential Foundation
Robert Skidelsky, Warwick University

This is from Robert Skidelsky’s Wikipedia page:

In September 2015, Skidelsky endorsed Jeremy Corbyn’s campaign in the Labour Party leadership election, writing in The Guardian: “Corbyn should be praised, not castigated, for bringing to public attention these serious issues concerning the role of the state and the best ways to finance its activities. The fact that he is dismissed for doing so illustrates the dangerous complacency of today’s political elites. Millions in Europe rightly feel that the current economic order fails to serve their interests. What will they do if their protests are simply ignored?”

As a minor matter next to this, but not minor to me, is that he is the most prominent defender of Keynesian economics, along with Paul Krugman, anywhere in the world. There is also a fact virtually unmentioned on his own Wikipedia page but mentioned here in relation to a disgraceful book he published at the start of the GFC: Keynes: The Return of the Master.

Keynes: The Return of the Master is a 2009 book by economic historian Robert Skidelsky. The work discusses the economic theories and philosophy of John Maynard Keynes, and argues about their relevance to the world following the Financial crisis of 2007–2010.

I’m not surprised he is reluctant to have the book mentioned. Want more? From the same source:

Chapter 8 sums up Keynes’s relevance to the current age as of 2009. The author suggests that Keynes would likely advise us to rethink macroeconomic policy, with a greater emphasis on balanced growth and with a somewhat large role for government in ensuring there is a smooth flow of investment to help protect the economy from unpredictable shocks. Macroeconomics should be reformed so that it again recognises the role of uncertainty and so it draws on other areas of knowledge such as history and International political economy, with a less central role for maths. The global savings glut needs to be addressed. Ethics should once again have a role in guiding capitalism, as should Keynes’s vision of harmony, where differences are cherished rather than pressured to conform, as can be the case with current concepts of “social cohesion” and “consensus”.

Mises must be turning in his grave. Why is such an out and out socialist being allowed to speak at Mont Pelerin? And on that minor matter of Keynes, this is the most recent cover description for my next book which I have just sent to the publisher.

Classical Economic Theory and the Modern Economy’

Steven Kates

Economic theory reached its highest level of analytical power and depth in the middle of the nineteenth century among John Stuart Mill and his contemporaries. This book explains classical economics when it was at its height, followed by an analysis of what took place as  a result of the ensuing Marginal and Keynesian Revolutions that have left economists less able to understand how economies operate.

Chapters explore the false mythology that has obscured the arguments of classical economists, clouding to the point of near invisibility the theories they had developed. Kates offers a thorough understanding of the operation of an economy within a classical framework, providing a new perspective for viewing modern economic theory from the outside. This provocative book not only explains the meaning of Say’s Law in an accessible way, but also the origins of the Keynesian revolution and Keynes’s pathway in writing The General Theory. It provides a new look at the classical theory of value at its height that was not based, as so many now wrongly believe, on the labour theory of value.

A crucial read for economic policy-makers seeking to understand the operation of a market economy, this book should also be of keen interest to economists generally as well as scholars in the history of economic thought.

Might mention it to Robert when we catch up.

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12 Responses to Why is Robert Skidelsky speaking at Mont Pelerin??

  1. Porter

    Maybe they will have a debate.
    I never knew VDH was an economist. VDH used to be a classicist, then became some political analyst (?) with a classical liberal bent. I remember reading an article of his years ago where he explained how classical liberals turned into lunatic lefties (=liberals in the American sense). Hopefully he pulls out some of those guns against the Corbynista. But still can’t recall him being an economist…interesting.

  2. Tom

    Why is Robert Skidelsky speaking at Mont Pelerin??

    It may have something to do with the fact that the conference venue, San Francisco, is the Silicon Valley-financed American anarcho-communist movement’s ground zero, where the streets are swimming in the faeces of homeless drug addicts and people risk being stuck with hypodermic syringes on their way to work — or catching typhoid or measles– because, in the warped world of the Marxist revolutionaries at City Hall, making the streets safe for residents is “racist” and discriminatory.

    What a disgraceful shithole one of America’s greatest cities has become under radical Democratic Party mis-rule.

  3. iain russell

    Tom, but they still have an excellent NFL team.

  4. Amity Shlaes, in the appearances I have seen, is weak tea. Not nearly the spirited defender of market that Mises, Hayek, or Kates would have been. I’m not familiar with Gabriel Calzada, but UFM is solidly in the Austrian school camp, and he is a Mises Institute fellow–maybe he will prove an effective antidote to Skidelsky.

  5. Entropy

    Fancy providing an opportunity for a diversity of views. What bastards.

  6. Iampeter

    It is a the meeting of the remnants of the last few remaining supporters of market economies not only as the means to prosperity, but also as a necessary element in the preservation of political freedom.

    So as a supporter of things like Tariffs and Trump, why are YOU going to this?

  7. Pyrmonter

    The same question shoudl be asked of Victor Davis Hanson, a man who has parlayed classics into a form of proto-National Conservatism that has all the disadvantages of One Nation Toryism, without any of its advantages.

    Shlaes is about as good as it gets – has written defending Coolidge (while the prohibition era US was hardly an anarcho-capitalist utopia, it could be mistaken for one by comparison with what followed). Skidelsky might serve to demonstrate that, in modern terms, Keynes was more a social liberal than a social democrat or socialist.

  8. bollux

    I should imagine after some hard line economic rationalism, Skidelsky should offer some light relief. Perhaps he thinks “shit street” is another name for Keynesian theory in practice. Hope you’re taking gumboots Steve.

  9. Roger W

    Most people seem to assume that “good things just happen” and don’t value or give credit to freedom, whether it is free market, freedom of thought/speech etc until it is not there, then are mystified about where it went. Add to this the wonderful idea of “government” doing everything for you, plus lots of “free” stuff that somehow no-one supposedly ever pays for because “they” pay for it, and you get today’s Western society, especially in academia.
    Don’t forget that Socialism/Communism has never worked anywhere at any time only because it has never been tried “properly”. It doesn’t matter how much poverty is created or how many millions die, it never discredits the concept.
    It seems we are doomed to Groundhog Day in this regard.
    Still, keep up the good fight, Steve.

  10. yarpos

    Why is he being “allowed” to speak? maybe the organisers are more open minded and are comfortable with alternate views being expressed. This “allowed” mentality is exactly what we criticise regressives for.

  11. John A

    somewhat large role for government in ensuring there is a smooth flow of investment to help protect the economy from unpredictable shocks.

    Sums up the problem precisely.

    Before Keynes, there was no mandate for government/s to do this. Government was there to protect private property and individual freedoms in the particular sense, not to protect “society” or “the economy” in the abstract, which is a very collectivist view.

    For those who have read Isaac Asimov’s Robot novels, the shift is the same as the introduction of the “Zero-eth” Law of Robotics, thus changing the famous Three Laws from the particulars of “humans” in the individual sense to the abstract generalization of “humanity,” which I see as derived from Humanist Manifesto I (1933) and signed by, among others, John Dewey, the great influencer of all things “education.”

    As if that was not enough, Manifesto 2.0 of 1973 specifically declared that “we must save ourselves” thus opening the door to all manner of interference with individual human rights and ushered in such things as the current religion of Gaia/AGW/Climate Change/Climate Emergency.

  12. Astrid van den Akker-Luttmer

    What type of economy is one after when the aim is to arrive at: https://tottnews.com/2019/05/12/australia-smart-city-infrastructure/?fbclid=IwAR19bbYjETtD18ZZjqcZ-dCyFzqJPUpfvru_TbBv9h25BKPbLQrDhfVftCE

    and see also: https://youtu.be/3PrY7nFbwAY

    These are world aims. So what economy do we need for this?? (If this is what one is after? NOT me!)

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