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Raising Keynes: An old economist finds new rock-star status

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This isn’t the first time an American president struggling to regain control of a spiraling economy has sought guidance from Keynes. In 1938, his ideas were embraced, albeit reluctantly, by Franklin D. Roosevelt, with the president announcing it was up to government to “create an economic upturn” by making “additions to the purchasing power of the nation.”

The notion was promoted by Keynes (pronounced “Cains”) in his 1936 magnum opus, “The General Theory of Employment, Interest, and Money,” which stated that government should borrow when the economy slows to keep people employed, because private sector investment won’t be enough. Another major legacy of Keynes was leading the British delegation to the Bretton Woods conference of 1944, where he played a key role in creating the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund.

In today’s Britain, as a debate rages over how to kick-start the faltering economy, few days pass without the economist’s name invoked in newspapers.

At Cambridge itself, a “Keynes Society” is now being established to promote new ideas from around the world on economics, the arts, science, and climate change. Nick Butler, chairman of the Cambridge Centre for Energy Studies, told fellow scholars that the society would not just pay tribute to Keynes, but “revive his sense of pragmatic creativity, which seems so lacking, and so necessary at the moment.”

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