Mises on Keynes’ Sophistry

An excerpt:

In resorting to the method of innuendo and trying to make their adversaries suspect by referring to them in ambiguous terms allowing of various interpretations, the camp-followers of Lord Keynes are imitating their idol’s own procedures. For what many people have admiringly called Keynes’ “brilliance of style” and “mastery of language” were, in fact, cheap rhetorical tricks.

Ricardo, says Keynes, “conquered England as completely as the Holy Inquisition conquered Spain.” This is as vicious as any comparison could be. The Inquisition, aided by armed constables and executioners, beat the Spanish people into submission. Ricardo’s theories were accepted as correct by British intellectuals without any pressure or compulsion being exercised in their favor. But in comparing the two entirely different things, Keynes obliquely hints that there was something shameful in the success of Ricardo’s teachings and that those who disapprove of them are as heroic, noble and fearless champions of freedom as were those who fought the horrors of the Inquisition.

The most famous of Keynes’ aperçus is: “Two pyramids, two masses for the dead, are twice as good as one; but not so two railways from London to York.” It is obvious that this sally, worthy of a character in a play by Oscar Wilde or Bernard Shaw, does not in any way prove the thesis that digging holes in the ground and paying for them out of savings “will increase the real national dividend of useful goods and services.” But it puts the adversary in the awkward position of either leaving an apparent argument unanswered or of employing the tools of logic and discursive reasoning against sparkling wit.

Ludwig von Mises, here.

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