Readers Question: In an article on the BBC website http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/magazine/7682887.stm John Sloman quoted this: ‘The long run is a misleading guide to current affairs - in the long run we are all dead ‘ JM Keynes
I thought this was very interesting as it puts forward the idea that we shouldn’t bother to think beyond our own lifetime, our own generation. Which I think is a terrible mistake.
This quote came from Keynes' General Theory of Money. During the Great Depression, the prevailing economic orthodoxy was the Classical view. This stated that markets would adjust to disequilibrium without government intervention. Therefore, when the Great Depression occurred in 1930, the classical response was to do nothing - because in the long run the markets would solve the problem (real wages would fall, people would return to work and the economy would return to full employment)
However, Keynes said this was madness - In the depth of a recession, why not try to do something about it, rather than leave to 'market forces'. Yes in the long run, the recession may end, but, here the long run could be 10 years. Keynes wanted to try and solve the depression now rather than wait for 10 15 years or however, long the 'longrun' was.
In particular Keynes criticised the idea that falling real wages would solve unemployment. He argued falling real wages would just leave people with less money and therefore aggregate demand would fall more. Keynes argued for public works schemes, financed by government borrowing to inject money into the economy and get people back to work and spending. This was too radical for the UK Treasury, and generally the UK didn't follow Keynesian policies in the Great Depression. If we had injected government spending, the recession may have been less serious and ended sooner.
See also: Keynesian Economics back in fashion