We now move back to the UK, back to Cambridge, and to economists who are inclined to bracket the social and the historical. To be sure, this is not the impression most of us have of Lord Keynes and his “interventionist” approach to macroeconomics. And, yet, as we read JM Keynes’ General Theory, we need to appreciate how deeply his own theory is dependent not only on Professor Pigou, but also, through Pigou, Alfred Marshall. His aim is evidently not to advance a political or social revolution, but rather to stifle and silence the same. He is not a radical democrat, but the opposite.
Extreme politics, by contrast, is deeply influenced by and eager to play to the short term, perhaps systemic, anomalies that are inevitable when we include human social and political action and history. And, yet, because extreme politics are situated in and respond to forces and processes composed by the dominant social form, we might reflect upon them as marginal social forms that, under conditions of social or economic crisis, move toward the center, but which, in the long run and when considered as elements within the total “political market” still represent statistical outliers.
The critical point that we need to grasp is that, in the short run, the crises prompted by economic policy and action that ran its course from, say, the mid-18th through the early 20th century (choose your favorite theory), what is some times called the “long nineteenth century,” left somewhere around 20M casualties in Stalin’s Russia and as many as 110M casualties in World Wars I and II. (We leave to one side the Korean, Algerian, and Vietnam conflicts.) And, although the trend line is flattened and moderated when we situate this crisis within “the long run,” it still makes the 20th century, per capita, the most morbid century since the beginning of the world.
Do economic theorists have an adequate response to these kinds of crises, which, after all, had a significant economic dimension, other than caeteris paribus?