David R. Henderson  

Kitty Galbraith on Keynes

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Kitty Galbraith makes Hayek's mistake (although check the big caveat below)

This is my next installment on Richard Parker's book on John Kenneth Galbraith: His Life, His Politics, His Economics.

From a footnote, a quote from Galbraith's wife Catherine (Kitty) Galbraith, about her miserable time in Cambridge, England in 1937, shortly after she and John (Ken) were married:

It was pretty awful because, before we got to Cambridge, England, I had never heard of John Maynard Keynes, and The General Theory had just been published, and all I met were his [Ken's] economist friends. So you know I was quite quiet and so I decided one day after we were talking about The General Theory, given I was supposed to be fairly intelligent, to pick it up. I started with the introduction, but early on in the book he explains that he hasn't quite thought through all his ideas. So I thought, I'll wait until he writes his next book, and that's where my economics rested. There was a lecture "Is There a Rate of Interest?" and I thought that if these people don't know there's a rate of interest, why do they talk about it? And forty years later that same lecture was on the bulletin board in Cambridge because in a lecture someone asked a lecturer "Is there a rate of interest?"

Of course, the "Hayek mistake" I'm referring to above is waiting for the next book in which Keynes will clarify his ideas. Hayek spent a lot of time on Keynes's earlier book, A Treatise on Money, only to be told by Keynes that he had changed his mind in important ways after the book came out. So, claimed Hayek retrospectively, when The General Theory came out, Hayek didn't respond, partly because he had been burned on the Treatise and partly because he was struggling with one of the chapters of his book.

BTW, if you want to see a careful distilling of the evidence that casts doubt on the idea that Hayek didn't review GT because Keynes so often changed his mind, see Bruce Caldwell, "Why Didn't Hayek Review Keynes's General Theory?", History of Political Economy, 30:4 (1998).



COMMENTS (2 to date)
Greg Ransom writes:

The Hayek-Keynes letters from the mid-1930s gives the game away -- Keynes is hounding Hayek with stupid questions meant to reveal that important issues lie outside of the restricted model Hayek is using for purposes Keynes never imagined or understood.

Finally, after taking Hayek in circles in long replies to Keynes, Keynes say to Hayek, something the gist of which is "that is what I thought you meant, you know what, it would be better for me to spend my time putting my own ideas in order rather than figure out what you are trying to do" -- and you can image Hayek saying to himself, you know, that is really good advice.

David R. Henderson writes:

@Greg Ransom,
Finally, after taking Hayek in circles in long replies to Keynes, Keynes say to Hayek, something the gist of which is "that is what I thought you meant, you know what, it would be better for me to spend my time putting my own ideas in order rather than figure out what you are trying to do" -- and you can image Hayek saying to himself, you know, that is really good advice.
Makes sense to me. Thanks, Greg. I put in the caveat because I know that there is controversy about the issue.

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