John Maynard Keynes and F.A. Hayek are two of the most controversial economic figures of the 20th century. Both made huge contributions to the field of economics and both stand in direct opposition to each other, which is one reason why they have presented such a fascinating juxtaposition over the last century.
For Keynes, the government’s involvement was integral to the field of macroeconomics, which treated the entire economy as one whole entity, rather than several individual moving parts. As has been discussed in The Road to Serfdom, this failure to understand the individual’s role in the economy is one of Hayek’s main concerns.
For Keynes to achieve his economic goals, which included such things as the idea of “full employment,” the government would have to commandeer the entire economy in order to direct it towards a given end. While some may not see this as being as terrifying as it truly is, Hayek reminds us of in Road to Serfdom that without economic freedom, there can be no freedom. And in Keynes’s ideal world, the government would be running the entire show. But the differences between the two men exceed far beyond this fact alone.
Over the course of a few essays, I will be diving into the differences between these two economists and why they both matter in our modern day. But before diving into the differences there are two videos that may help lay a foundation for understanding these two fascinating men.
In 2011, two parody rap videos were released in which two actors depicted the two economists debating their different stances on the economy. While economics is not usually the “hippest” topic to rap about, the videos made their way around the internet and suddenly everyone was talking about Hayek, Keynes, and Austrian economics.
The videos were released at the height of the Ron Paul movement when F.A. Hayek and his issues with Keynesian economics were suddenly being discussed as if it were celebrity gossip. And while the videos laid a strong foundation for the discrepancies between the two men, it is important to elaborate on a few of those differences, as I will be doing over the next few weeks.