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Letters from Keynes


 

This letter was sent to U.S. President Franklin D.  Roosevelt in 1933 by John Maynard Keynes.  Much of it (advice on ‘recovery and reform’) reads as if it could have been written last month. “Individuals must be induced to spend more out of their existing incomes; or the business world must be induced, either by increased confidence in the prospects or by a lower rate of interest, to create additional current incomes in the hands of their employees,” he urges. 

I enjoyed this curious passage, from a second private letter sent to Roosevelt in 1938. Some advice on handling businessmen: “Businessmen have a different set of delusions from politicians, and need, therefore, different handling. They are, however, much milder than politicians, at the same time allured and terrified by the glare of publicity, easily persuaded to be ‘patriots’, perplexed, bemused, indeed terrified, yet only too anxious to take a cheerful view, vain perhaps but very unsure of themselves, pathetically responsive to a kind word. You could do anything you liked with them, if you would treat them (even the big ones), not as wolves or tigers, but as domestic animals by nature, even though they have been badly brought up and not trained as you would wish.”

More of Keynes writing is online here.


 
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